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B-2 Spirit

United States Air Force B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit is an American multi-role stealth bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear weapons. A dramatic leap forward in technology, the bomber represented a major milestone in the U.S bomber modernization program, and is also the most expensive plane yet built at near $2 billion. As a result, only 21 B-2s have been produced. The B-2 brings massive firepower to bear, in a short time, anywhere on the globe through previously impenetrable defenses.

Table of contents
1 Features
2 History
3 Combat
4 General characteristics


Along with the B-52 Stratofortress 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 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 should provide a strong, effective deterrent and serious 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 pre-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.


The B-2 started life as a "black program" known as Project Senior C.J. and was later renamed the ATB (Advanced Technology Bomber). The development of the B-2 was one of the best kept secrets of all USAF programs. The first B-2 was publicly displayed on November 22, 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California. Its first flight was on 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.

The first aircraft, named Spirit of Missouri, was delivered on December 17, 1993. Depot maintenance responsibility for the B-2 is held by Air Force contractor support and is managed at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

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. Another major contractor, responsible for aircrew training devices (weapon system trainer and mission trainer) is Hughes Training Inc. (HTI). Link Division, formerly known as CAE - Link Flight Simulation Corp. Northrop Grumman and its major subcontractor HTI, are responsible for developing and integrating all aircrew and maintenance training programs.

Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri was the B-2's only operational base until early 2003, when facilities for the B-2 were constructed the joint U.S/U.K military base on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Facilities for the aircraft also appear to have been constructed at RAF Fairford in Gloucestorshire in the United Kingdom.


The B-2 was derided by many as being too exspensive to risk in combat. However, the aircraft has seen service in three separate campaigns.

Its first combat was during the Kosovo War in 1999. The aircraft performed well, and it introduced the satellite guided JDAM bomb to the world as well. Since then in the War on Terrorism, the aircraft has seen combat over Afghanistan and Iraq.

The missions to Afghanistan saw a first for the aicraft. After flying bombing missions over Afghanistan, the aicraft concerned landed at Diego Garcia, were refuelled and had a crew change. This marked the first time that the aircraft had even been seen operationally at a base away from Whitman. This was taken a step further during the Iraq campaign when B-2's were actually based at Diego Garcia.

General characteristics

Primary function:Multi-role heavy bomber
Prime Contractor:Northrop Grumman Corp.
Contractor Team:Boeing Military Airplanes Co.
General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Hughes Training Inc.
Link Division
Power Plant:Four General Electric F-118-GE-100 engines
Thrust:17,300 pounds each engine
Length:69 feet (20.9 meters)
Height:17 feet (5.1 meters)
Wingspan:172 feet (52.12 meters)
Speed:High subsonic
Ceiling:50,000 feet (15,152 meters)
Takeoff Weight (Typical):336,500 pounds (152,635 kilograms)
Range:Intercontinental, unrefueled
Armament:Conventional or nuclear weapons
Payload:40,000 pounds (18,144 kilograms)
Crew:Two pilots
Unit cost:Approximately $1.3 billion
Date Deployed:December 1993
Inventory:Active force: 21 (the first test article was converted to full combat status); ANG: 0; Reserve: 0