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Northrop-Grumman B-2 Spirit

posted by Jiri Wagner

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 provide 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, an aircraft commander 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 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 AFB, Calif., is responsible for flight testing the Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development aircraft as they are produced. Five of the six developmental aircraft delivered to Edwards are still involved in continuing flight testing. The first test aircraft is currently kept in flyable storage. Whiteman AFB, Mo., is the B-2's only operational base.

The first aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered Dec. 17, 1993. Primary maintenance responsibility for the B-2 is divided between Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Okla. for avionics software (contractor); Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill AFB, Utah for landing gear and trainers (contractor); and the Northrop-Grumman facility at Air Force Plant 42 at Palmdale for periodic depot maintenance. The prime contractor, responsible for overall system design and integration, is Northrop Grumman's B-2 Division. Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Vought Aircraft Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group and General Electric Aircraft Engine Group 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 C.A.E. - Link Flight Simulation Corp. Northrop-Grumman and its major subcontractor HTI, excluding Link Division, is responsible for developing and integrating all aircrew and maintenance training programs.

Fantastic pictures of this aircraft are at B-2 Spirit at the 2005 Edwards AFB Airshow.

The crash of B-2 Spirit was reported on February 23 2008. Two B2 were taking off from Anderson's airbase located at Guam. The second B-2 crashed a few seconds after taking off. The crew survived.

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General characteristics

Primary function Multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions
Contractor Northrop-Grumman B-2 Division
Contractor team Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Vought Aircraft Co., General Electric Aircraft Engine Group, Hughes Training Inc.
Power plant Four General Electric F-118-GE-100 engines
Thrust 4x 18,996 lb 4x 84.5 kN
Length 69 ft 21.03 m
Height 17 ft 5.18 m
Wingspan 172 ft 52.43 m
Wingarea cca 5,005 sq ft 465 sq m
Max. speed 653-704 mph 1,050-1,133 km/h
Ceiling 50,000 ft 15,000 m
Weight empty 110,010 lb 49,900 kg
max. takeoff 400,000 lb 181,437 kg
Range 6 000 naut. miles 11 100 km
Armament In two weapons bays nuclear or conventional weapons
Crew Two - three
Unit cost About $1,3 mld
Date deployed December 1993
Air Force Inventory Active force: 20 planned (operational aircraft); ANG: 0; Reserve: 0


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