The B-2 Spirit ("Stealth bomber") is an advanced, stealth aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman. The B-2 Spirit bomber has many benefits over other military bombers. Its main advantages are its, low-observable, strategic, long-range, and heavy bomber capable of penetrating sophisticated and dense air-defense shields. The B-2 can also carry up to 40,000lb of the most technological advanced weapons, including,conventional and nuclear weapons, precision-guided munitions, gravity bombs, a range of maritime weapons, and even nuclear bombs. It holds two separate weapons bays, both of which are equipped with a rotary launcher, and two bomb-rack assemblies. An assessment published by the USAF showed that two B-2s armed with precision weaponry can do the job of 75 conventional aircraft.
Originally 132 were to be built, but rising costs (a near certainty in military programs) caused the program to be cut to a mere 21. Twenty are still in operation (one was lost in a 2008 crash), of which 19 are located in Missouri and the 20th at Edwards Air Force Base in California which serves as a flight test vehicle. All 21 were given the name "Spirit of" followed by a state name (except the 1st, named Spirit of America, and the 19th which was named Spirit of Kitty Hawk), "Kansas" was the one lost in the crash.
The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. A dramatic leap forward in technology, the bomber represents a major milestone in the U.S. bomber modernization program. The B-2 brings massive firepower to bear, in a short time, anywhere on the globe through previously impenetrable defenses.
Along with the B-52 and B-1B, the B-2 provides the penetrating flexibility and effectiveness inherent in manned bombers. Its low-observable, or "stealth," characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy's most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended, targets. Its capability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provides a strong, effective deterrent and combat force well into the 21st century.
The revolutionary blending of low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload gives the B-2 important advantages over existing bombers. Its low-observability provides it greater freedom of action at high altitudes, thus increasing its range and a better field of view for the aircraft's sensors. Its unrefueled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers).
The B-2's low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for the sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2.
Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2's composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its "stealthiness."
The B-2 has a crew of two pilots, a pilot in the left seat and mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B's crew of four and the B-52's crew of five.
Despite its fabled stealth capabilities, shortly after its inception the B2 was tracked by an advanced British radar network throughout the duration of its transatlantic flight en route to an airshow at RAF Finningley Air Base in South Yorkshire, UK. The matter was quietly reported to the US Air Force who later modified the designs of the heat dissipation strips on the aircraft's exhausts.
The first B-2 was publicly displayed on Nov. 22, 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, Calif. Its first flight was July 17, 1989. The B-2 Combined Test Force, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is responsible for flight testing the engineering, manufacturing and development aircraft on the B-2.Whiteman AFB, Mo., is the only operational base for the B-2. The first aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered Dec. 17, 1993. Depot maintenance responsibility for the B-2 is performed by Air Force contractor support and is managed at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Okla.
The combat effectiveness of the B-2 was proved in Operation Allied Force, where it was responsible for destroying 33 percent of all Serbian targets in the first eight weeks, by flying nonstop to Kosovo from its home base in Missouri and back.
In support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the B-2 flew one of its longest missions to date from Whiteman to Afghanistan and back. The B-2 completed its first-ever combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying 22 sorties from the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean as well as 27 sorties from Whiteman AFB and releasing more than 1.5 million pounds of munitions. The B-2's proven combat performance led to declaration of full operational capability in December 2003.
The prime contractor, responsible for overall system design and integration, is Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Sector. Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc., are key members of the aircraft contractor team.
Much of the design for the B-2 Spirit came from Jack Northrop, the founder of what is now known as Northrup Grumman. In 1946 the United States military looked for a bomber to replace the aging, B-52 bomber. They wanted a plane that was more advanced and one with better range. The military awarded Jack Northrop with a 88 million contract to build a new bomber. Northrop began working on an idea for a plane which he called the "Flying Wing". But in 1947, the Air Force mysteriously ended his contract, and the project ended. The United States Air Force restarted it quest for a better bomber in 1970. In 1981, the first B-2 bomber was built. The new 172-foot wide flying wing was very similar to Jack Northrop's design, and much of the plane is attributed to him. The plane became fully operational in December 2003.
- The B-2 was forward-deployed for the first time during the Iraq War in March / April 2003.
- Jack Northrop, one of the leading designer of the B-2 bomber, also help design the Spirit of St. Louis.
- The B-2 bombers range and speed, make it capable of flying anywhere around the world in hours
- The bomber is equipped with a special radar system, developed by Northrop Grumman. This system is known as Alternate High-Frequency Material (AHFM).
- The B-2 Bomber is the largest stealth aircraft used by the military
- The B-2 has such radar sensitive materials that the planes must be kept in special dust-proof hangars at certain temperatures
In Popular Media
- B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, USA (English). airforce-technology.com. Retrieved on 2007-08-20.
- Tom Harris. How Stealth Bombers Work (English). HowStuffWorks. Retrieved on 2007-08-20.
- U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet, Accessed 02/23/2008
- Dr. Bud Baker. Clipped Wings: The Death of Jack Northrop's Flying Wing Bombers (English) (PDF). Retrieved on 2007-08-20.
- Judy Rumerman. Jack Northrop and the Northrop Corporation (English). U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission. Retrieved on 2007-08-20.
- B-2 SPIRIT Video
- B-2 Stealth Bomber Crashes in Guam; Pilots Eject Safely, Fox News, February 23, 2008
- Video of B-2 Bomber Crash Released With Investigation Findings, Fox News, June 6, 2008