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Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
A USAF B-2 Spirit in flight. Type Stealth bomber Manufacturer Northrop Grumman Maiden flight 1989-07-17 Introduced April 1997 Status Active service Primary user United States Air Force Number built 21 Unit cost US$1.157-$2.2 billion in 1998
The B-2 Spirit, made by Northrop Grumman, is an American multi-role stealth bomber able to drop conventional and nuclear weapons. The bomber was a milestone in the United States' bomber modernization program. The B-2 is the most expensive plane ever built. Estimates for the costs per plane range from US$1.157 billion USD  to $2.2 billion  . Its stealth technology is intended to help it penetrate defenses previously impenetrable by combat aircraft. The original procurement of 135 aircraft was later reduced to 75 in the late 1980s. Finally, President George H. W. Bush reduced the final buy quantity to the 21 already bought in his now famous "New World Order" State of the Union speech, January 1991.
This B-2 has just disengaged from aerial refueling over the Pacific Ocean. Inflight refueling capability gives the B-2 a range limited only by engine lubrication and crew endurance.
With the B-52 Stratofortress and B-1B, the U.S. military claims that the B-2 provides the versatility inherent in manned bombers. Its low-observable, or "stealth," characteristics give it the ability to penetrate an enemy's most sophisticated defenses and attack its most heavily defended targets. This should make it useful 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 previous bombers. Its traveling range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 km) without refueling. Also, its low-observation ability provides the B-2 greater freedom of action at high altitudes, thus increasing its range and a better field of view for the aircraft's sensors. With its GPS Aided Targeting System (GATS) combined with GPS-aided bombs such as Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), it can use its APQ-181 radar to correct GPS errors of targets and gain much better than laser-guided weapon accuracy with "dumb" gravity bombs with a GPS-aided "smart" guidance tail kit attached. It can bomb 16 targets in a single pass. The B-2's stealth comes from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures, making it difficult for defences to detect, track and engage. Many aspects of the lowobservability process remain classified; however, the B-2's composite materials, special coatings and flying wing design contribute to its stealth abilities 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 project" known as the High Altitude Penetrating Bomber (HAPB), then became the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB) and used the project code word Senior Cejay. It later became the B-2 Spirit. An estimated 23 billion dollars was secretly spent for research and development on the B-2 in the 1980s. An additional expense was caused by changing its role in 1985 from a highaltitude bomber to a low-altitude bomber, which required a major redesign. Because the development of the B-2 was one of the best kept secrets of all USAF programs, there was no opportunity for public criticism of its massive cost during development. 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, where it was built. Its first flight was on July 17, 1989. The B-2 Combined Test Force, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, 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 Integrated Defense Systems, Hughes Aircraft (now Raytheon), General Electric Aircraft Engines and Vought Aircraft Industries, are members of the aircraft contractor team. Another contractor, responsible for aircrew training devices (weapon system trainer and mission trainer) is Link Simulation & Training, a division of L-3 Communications formerly Hughes Training Inc. (HTI). Link Division, formerly known as CAE - Link Flight Simulation Corp. Link Simulation & Training is responsible for developing and integrating all aircrew and maintenance training programs. The military contractors for the B-2 engaged in massive lobbying campaigns to gain Congressional support for its funding. Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri was the B-2's operational base until early 2003, when facilities for the B-2 were built on the joint U.S./U.K. military base on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, followed by deployment to Guam in 2005. Facilities for the aircraft have also been built at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom. Questions remain over the rising cost of the program. Some writers have suggested that the huge cost may include costs for other black projects. The expense may also be partially explained by the small number of planes produced coupled with a large research overhead in the B-2 program. These bombers were originally designed to drop nuclear weapons during the Cold War and support for them dwindled as military spending declined. In May of 1995, in a study commissioned by Congress, the Institute For Defense Analysis concluded that after the demise of the Soviet Union, there was no need for more B-2s.
This Spirit was photographed in 2004 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
The B-2 was derided by many as being too expensive to risk in combat. However, the aircraft has seen service in three separate campaigns. Its debut was during the Kosovo War in 1999. The aircraft performed well and it introduced the satellite guided JDAM bomb to the world. Since then the aircraft has operated over Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The raids on Afghanistan saw a first for the aircraft. After flying bombing missions over Afghanistan, the aircraft landed at Diego Garcia, were refueled and had a crew change before another sortie. This was taken a step further during the Iraq campaign when B-2s were based at Diego Garcia. Later missions to Iraq came from Whiteman AFB in Missouri. This resulted in missions lasting over 30 hours and one mission of over 50 hours. B-2 crews have been used to pioneer sleep cycle research to improve crew performance on long flights. The Pentagon's Operational Test and Evaluation 2003 Annual Report noted that the B-2's serviceability for FY03 was still inadequate, mainly due to maintenance on the B-2's Low Observable materials. It also noted that the Defensive Avionics suite also had shortcomings in warning of pop-up threats. Despite these problems the B-2 maintained high serviceability for Operation Iraqi Freedom, dropping 583 JDAMs during the war.
B-2 on Display
B-2 Spirit display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force
Because of their cost it is unlikely any B-2 will be placed on display in the near future. In 2004 the static test mock-up for the B-2 was placed on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio. The mock-up had been used for structural testing, and at one point was tested to the point of destruction. The Museum's restoration team spent over a year reassembling the fractured airframe, and patches can clearly be seen on the exterior of the airframe when fractured sections were reattached. If this mock-up is eventually replaced with an actual B-2 it will likely represent the world's most expensive exhibit item.
Units using the B-2
United States Air Force
509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base o 13th Bomb Squadron o 393d Bomb Squadron o 394th Combat Training Squadron 53d Wing, Eglin Air Force Base o 72d Test and Evaluation Squadron, Whiteman Air Force Base 57th Wing, Nellis Air Force Base o 325th Weapons Squadron, Whiteman Air Force Base o 715th Weapons Squadron inactivated
Weighing 71,668 kg, each B-2 costs over $30/g which is just under double its value in gold. Most B-2s are named for states in the US, following the naming convention "Spirit of [state]." The two exceptions are "Spirit of America" (AV-1) and "Spirit of Kitty Hawk" (AV-19). The B-2, akin to the F-117, relies on very low observability and signature. This condition is compromised if the aircraft is flown in wet conditions. The skin of the aircraft is also very fragile and requires constant maintenance to preserve its minimal signature. For reasons not yet de-classified, the B-2 charges its leading edge to a very high electrical potential difference from its exhaust stream. It has been suggested (by Jane's Defence) that it augments the B-2's low thrust main engines. It is also a well known phenomenon that an ionised gas (plasma) will scatter a radar beam far more effectively than a solid surface of any conceivable shape. This could be the purpose of the high voltage leading edge. Another possibility is that it is for the purpose of reducing drag, since the leading edge of the B-2 might then move through a partial vacuum of ionised air which may be ionised and repelled by the high voltage. In any case, it is however true that Northrop engineers conducted wind tunnel tests using high voltage on a testbed wing leading edge to reduce supersonic drag as far back as 1968. These tests were with a view to breaking up the airflow ahead of the wing using electrical forces in order to soften a sonic boom. How this applies (if indeed it does at all) to the B-2 after an interval of many years is uncertain. The B-2 is (officially) a subsonic vehicle, so there would appear to be no immediate link, however tantalising the connection. Though intriguing, the true nature of this feature will probably not be known to the public for some very considerable time.
Specifications (B-2A block 30)
Crew: 2 Length: 69 ft (20.9 m) Wingspan: 172 ft (52.12 m) Height: 17 ft (5.1 m) Wing area: 5,000 ft² (460 m²) Empty weight: 158,000 lb (71,700 kg) Loaded weight: 336,500 lb (152,600 kg) Max takeoff weight: 376,000 lb (171,000 kg) Powerplant: 4× General Electric F118-GE-100 turbofans, 17,300 lbf (77 kN) each
Maximum speed: 410 knots (475 mph, 764 km/h) Range: 6,500 mi (5,600 nm, 12,000 km) Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m) Wing loading: 67.3 lb/ft² (329 kg/m²) Thrust/weight: 0.205
40,000 lb (18,000 kg) of Bomb Rack Assembly mounted 500 lb class bombs (Mk82) (total carriage quantity: 80) 27,000 lb (12,000 kg) of BRA mounted 750 lb CBU class bombs (total carriage quantity: 36) 16 Rotary Launcher Assembly (RLA) mounted 2000 lb class weapons (Mk84, JDAM-84, JDAM-102) 16 RLA mounted B61 or B83 nuclear weapons Later avionics and equipment improvements allow B-2A to carry JSOW and GBU-28s as well.
List of B-2 Bombers
Designation AV-1 AV-2 AV-3 AV-4 AV-5 AV-6 AV-7 AV-8 AV-9 AV-10 AV-11 AV-12 AV-13 AV-14 AV-15 AV-16 AV-17 AV-18 AV-19 AV-20 AV-21 AV-22 – AV165 Tail # 82-1066 82-1067 82-1068 82-1069 82-1070 Formal name Spirit of America Spirit of Arizona Spirit of New York Spirit of Indiana Spirit of Ohio Informal names Fatal Beauty Ship From Hell, Murphy's Law Navigator, Ghost, Afternoon Delight Christine, Armageddon Express Fire and Ice, Toad Black Widow, Penguin, Arnold the Pig Pirate Ship
82-1071 Spirit of Mississippi
88-0328 Spirit of Texas 88-0329 Spirit of Missouri 88-0330 Spirit of California Spirit of South 88-0331 Carolina 88-0332 Spirit of Washington 89-0127 Spirit of Kansas 89-0128 Spirit of Nebraska 89-0129 Spirit of Georgia The Dark Angel 90-0040 Spirit of Alaska 90-0041 Spirit of Hawaii 92-0700 Spirit of Florida 93-1085 Spirit of Oklahoma Spirit of San Francisco 93-1086 Spirit of Kitty Hawk 93-1087 Spirit of Pennsylvania Penny the Pig 93-1088 Spirit of Louisiana canceled