The American company Northrop Grumman conducted the first tests of on-board systems, which will be installed on the prototype of the promising strategic bomber B-21 Raider. During testing, the onboard equipment ran containerized applications under Kubernetes control.
Kubernetes is open-source software developed by Google in the mid-2010s to automate the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Such applications are programs that run in an isolated virtual space without access to the kernel of the operating system and without affecting each other.
This technology was first tested on the F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft in 2019 as part of an experimental program to accelerate the development of new functional capabilities for combat aircraft and the operational update of their software. The concept involves the implementation of new functionality by separate new applications.
Currently, software for combat aircraft is written in a single package. Adding new features requires rewriting part of the software code, and then fully updating it on an airplane. For this reason, software updates on military aircraft are performed most often every two years.
According to the military, using Kubernetes to deploy and control applications on military aircraft will allow patches and updates to be released much faster, in some cases reducing the time between releases to several weeks. Other details about the tests conducted on-board systems B-21 are not disclosed.
Northrop Grumman received a contract for the development and production of B-21 bombers in 2015 and completed the outline design of the aircraft in 2019. The bomber is designed according to the “flying wing” scheme. Certification of aircraft for the transport and use of nuclear weapons will be carried out several years after the adoption of the B-21 for service.
The new strategic bomber is expected to go into service with the United States in the mid-2020s. In total, the Pentagon intends to purchase at least 100 new aircraft. Once adopted, the B-21 will have to gradually replace the aging B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit bombers.