WHITEMAN AFB, Mo. — Air Force test pilots are trying out a new battery for the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The new unit is a lithium-ion cell that generates five times the energy output of the original nickel-cadmium battery, while maintaining the same weight and dimensions.
The new 38-pound battery fits into the original case, and plugs into the B-2's onboard power charger. Designers would have had to use a 108-pound battery to achieve the same power charge with a nickel-cadmium design, experts say.
Saving weight is crucial on the B-2, which relies on aerodynamic efficiency to deliver either conventional or nuclear bombs within an unrefueled range of 6,000 nautical miles.
A new 38-pound lithium-ion cell battery for the B-2 strategic bomber delivers five times the output power of the nickel-cadmium battery it replaces.
The new battery comes from Lithion Inc., a division of Yardney Technical Products, located in Pawcatuck, Conn.
Lithion engineers designed the battery in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and with Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector, El Segundo, Calif., is prime contractor for the aircraft.
As well as boosting power output, the improved design also boasts better high- and low-temperature performance, and needs less maintenance, Lithion officials say.
Pilots have been flight-testing the design since June at the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. They have logged more than 700 hours of test time.
Lithion batteries are also on Mars. Engineers at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Jet Propulsion Lab used a set of two 28-volt Lithium-ion batteries from Lithion on each of the Mars Explorer Rovers.