You are on page 1of 10

B-2 Spirit

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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 [1] to $2.2 billion [2] . 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 low-
observability 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.
Operational history
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 high-
altitude 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)

General characteristics

 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)

 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
List of B-2 Bombers
Designation Tail # Formal name Informal names
AV-1 82-1066 Spirit of America Fatal Beauty
AV-2 82-1067 Spirit of Arizona Ship From Hell, Murphy's Law
AV-3 82-1068 Spirit of New York Navigator, Ghost, Afternoon Delight
AV-4 82-1069 Spirit of Indiana Christine, Armageddon Express
AV-5 82-1070 Spirit of Ohio Fire and Ice, Toad
Black Widow, Penguin, Arnold the
AV-6 82-1071 Spirit of Mississippi
AV-7 88-0328 Spirit of Texas Pirate Ship
AV-8 88-0329 Spirit of Missouri
AV-9 88-0330 Spirit of California
Spirit of South
AV-10 88-0331
AV-11 88-0332 Spirit of Washington
AV-12 89-0127 Spirit of Kansas
AV-13 89-0128 Spirit of Nebraska
AV-14 89-0129 Spirit of Georgia The Dark Angel
AV-15 90-0040 Spirit of Alaska
AV-16 90-0041 Spirit of Hawaii
AV-17 92-0700 Spirit of Florida
AV-18 93-1085 Spirit of Oklahoma Spirit of San Francisco
AV-19 93-1086 Spirit of Kitty Hawk
AV-20 93-1087 Spirit of Pennsylvania Penny the Pig
AV-21 93-1088 Spirit of Louisiana
AV-22 – AV- canceled