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Honolulu Star-Bulletin October 28, 2005

How B-2 works is known; how to build it is secret

By Craig Gima

Part of what allows the B-2 stealth bomber to avoid detection is its unique engine system, which hides the heat coming from the jet exhaust.

The technology also protects the plane from heat-seeking missiles.

That "infrared technology" is what Noshir Gowadia helped develop at the Northrop Corp. while working on the engine for the B-2 bomber and what he is accused of selling to foreigners.

The basic theory behind the stealth bomber's propulsion system is public knowledge. But the specifics of its design, construction and materials are still classified and, if revealed, could show other militaries how to detect the bomber, defense analysts said.

"Infrared detection technology is pretty widespread," said Philip Coyle, a senior advisor for the Center for Defense Information and a former assistant secretary of defense. "But if it's stealth that he gave away, that indeed could be highly secret."

The B-2's engines are above the wing and are insulated so that heat will not seep through the hull, said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a private defense policy group. A titanium plate prevents heat from the engine exhaust from damaging the plane, and surrounding cold air is mixed with the hot exhaust to further dilute the heat generated by the bomber.

Details beyond that basic description are classified, Pike said. "How you make it work, what sort of materials you use, how they have to be fabricated -- all of that is extremely classified."

Information on how to make a stealth engine could also be used to detect weaknesses in the B-2 bomber's technology, Pike added.

Pike and Coyle said it is difficult to know exactly what information Gowadia allegedly sold to foreigners, and how serious the alleged security breach is, because the government is not revealing many details.

 


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