Incredible Facts About the B-2 Spirit

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B-2-A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber takes off over Andersen Air Force Base
50.The B-2 stealth bomber was projected to have a unit cost of $737 million when originally designed in the 1980s. However, when research and development is added on, each aircraft was valued at $2.1 billion per unit. Northrop Grumman’s technological breakthrough is a fascinating aircraft with intimidating capabilities, but it is also the source of tension among taxpayers and Congress. Find out what makes the B-2 Spirit so polarizing with these 50 incredible B-2 Spirit facts.

B-2-A B-2 Spirit bomber soars Pacific Ocean
49.Northrop originally planned on producing 132 B-2 Spirit’s. However, once the Soviet Union collapsed and there wasn’t a need for large amounts of bombers, that number was drastically reduced to 21 aircraft.

B-2-A B-2 Spirit bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is silhouetted by a Pacific sunset
48.The Spirit was designed with “continuous curvature” in mind. Continuous curvature is a technique where the curved, exposed surfaces are designed to deflect radar.

B-2_Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the troops at Whiteman Air Force Base_B-2 in background
47.The B-2’s radar cross-section is a grand total of 1.1 square feet. That’s about the same size as a pigeon.

B-2_U.S. Airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing prepare B-2 Spirit stealth bombers for air operations
46.The B-2 costs an estimated $135,000 per hour to operate.

B-2_Multiple B-2 Spirits land for aircraft recovery as storm clouds gather
45.The B-2 also has a bed, a toilet and a hot plate for food. The bed is a folding cot placed behind the ejection seat area.

B-2_Maintainers and crew chiefs from the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepare B-2
44. The unique-looking YB-49 “Flying Wing” is a long-off ancestor of the B-2. The YB-49’s stealth design was taken to a different level with the “continuous curvature” of the B-2.

B-2_F-15E Strike Eagles and a B-2 Spirit bomber fly in formation over the base
43. The B-2 can carry 40,000 pounds of bombs. The B-52 bomber can carry much more (70,000 pounds), but the Spirit’s ability to get into enemy territory undetected combined with pinpoint accuracy mean the B-2’s 40,000 pounds of bombs are usually more effective.

B-2_B-2 makes a pass in front of the crowd at the 2011 Defenders of Liberty Air Show
42. The B-2 has a range of 6,900 miles. That means the B-2 can make it from New York to India without refueling.

B-2_Aircraft propulsion system specialist with the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron inspect the interior of a B-2 Spirit engine
41. In 1984, a Northrop employee named Thomas Cavanaugh was arrested for attempting to leak information of its design to the Soviet Union in exchange for $25,000.

B-2_A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit takes off at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for an integrated bomber operation
40. Noshir Gowadia, a design engineer who worked on the B-2’s propulsion system, was arrested in October of 2005. Gowadia sold B-2 related classified information to foreign countries and received 32 years in prison for his actions.

B-2_A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base
39. The B-2 was developed as a “Gray Project”, meaning that its development was a secret to the public but was known by certain government agencies and officials.

B-2_A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit aircraft deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base
38. The B-2 was, and still is, a dramatic leap forward in design technology. It is an all-wing aircraft with no fuselage and no vertical tail – reducing any surface that would cause drag on the plane.

B-2_A B-2 Spirit taxis down the flightline at Whiteman Air Force Base
37. The B-2 comes outfitted with the Raytheon AN/APQ-181 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. Therefore, not only is it nearly invisible to enemy radar, but it can see enemy aircraft using one of the most advanced radars in the world.

B-2_A B-2 Spirit taxis down the flightline April 25 at Andersen Air Force Base
36. 21 B-2s were built and 20 still exist today. 19 are held at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri and one stays in Edwards Air Force Base, California for testing and new development.

B-2_A B-2 Spirit is towed to a parking spot at Hickam Air Force Base
35. In 2008, the only B-2 – “The Spirit of Kansas” – to ever be destroyed was lost during takeoff in Anderson Air Force Base in Guam.

B-2_A B-2 Spirit bomber comes in Nellis Air Force Base
34. Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation was awarded a modernization contract in 2014 in an effort to update the B-2 fleet. The ceiling on the contract’s budget is $9.9 billion and will be completed by May 2019.

B-2_ B-2 opens the 104th Rose Bowl with a flyover in Pasadena, Calif
33. All B-2s have nicknames that begin with “Spirit of…”. The first B-2 is called the “Spirit of America”, and the 19th B-2 is called the “Spirit of Kitty Hawk”; all other B-2s are nicknamed after U.S. states’ names. Ex: “The Spirit of Georgia”.

B-2_ Aircraft Maintenance Squadron safety wires a brake bleed on a B-2 Spirit
32. The B-2 has the capability to drop 16 B83 nuclear bombs.

B-2- A B-2 Spirit flying over landscape
31. The secrecy during the production of the B-2 was so intense that many components were purchased using “front” companies, military officials visited production sites out of uniform and employees were routinely subjected to polygraph tests.

B-2_Northrop B-2A in flight
30. The bottom of the B-2 is painted with an anti-reflective paint which blends into the sky at high altitudes and is invisible to radar. This paint makes it invisible to the naked eye at a high enough altitude.

B-2-A B-2 and B-52 fly in formation
29. The leading wing of the B-2 Spirit is angled at 33 degrees.

B-2_U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber aircraft from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri
28. A United States Air Force assessment concluded that two B-2s armed with precision weaponry can do the job of 75 conventional aircraft.

B-2_Two F-22 Raptors and a B-2 Spirit bomber deployed to Andersen Air Force Base-Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald
27. A transportable hangar system allows the B-2s to receive maintenance in forward locations rather than traveling all the way back to Missouri. The hangars are 126ft long, 250ft wide and 55ft high.

B-2_The B-2 nicknamed Spirit of Missouri flown by Maj. Matthew Calhoun and Capt. Jared Kennish for a training mission
26. The B-2 is powered by four General Electric F118-GE-100 turbofan engines. These engines are mounted internally in the body of the wings and have an exhaust temperature control system to minimize thermal signature.

B-2_Tech. Sgt. Kevin Ponton examines the wing surface of a B-2
25. The B-2 is the only U.S. aircraft that combines stealth, large payload and long range in a single platform. The Spirit is combat effective up to 50,000 feet of altitude.

B-2_Staff Sgt. Michael Taylor and Senior Airman Joseph Nelson load a bomb on a B-2 Spirit bomber
24. In 1997, each hour of B-2 flight required 119 hours of maintenance. Comparatively, the B-52 and the B-1B require 53 and 60 hours respectively for each hour of flight.

B-2_Senior Airman Phillip Ruiz moves a bomb to be loaded onto a B-2 Spirit bomber
23. Maintenance costs run around $3.4 million per month for each aircraft. A large reason is because the “low-observable” skins require fully air-conditioned hangars that are also large enough to fit its 172 foot wingspan.


22. The B-2s do not run “stealthy” at all times. When apporaching enemy air defenses, pilot’s essentially turn on stealth mode – a series of manuevers that the public does not know.

B-2_Crew chiefs assigned to prepare to launch a B-2 Spirit at Andersen Air Force Base
21. If the B-2 needs to drop a payload of munitions, the stealth is compromised. The bomb bays are very susceptible to radar.

B-2_B-2 Stealth at Whiteman Air Force Base
20. A large majority of the B-2 consists of a carbon-graphite composite material that is lighter than aluminum, stronger than steel and absorbs radar energy.

B-2_B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions
19. In 2017 two B-2 pilots flew from Missouria to Libya and back without stopping once. That’s a 32-hour mission with multiple in-flight refuels.

B-2_B-2 Spirit conducts a fly-by during the Scott Air Force Base 2017 air show
18. The B-2 was one of the first planes ever to use the fly-by-wire system. Rather than using mechanical movements to control the flaps directly, the pilots operate a computer that controls the steering.

B-2_B-2 selected for 2012 Air Force Marathon
17. The B-2 was the first U.S. aircraft in action during Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011. The B-2 assisted in enforcing the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya.

B-2_Air Force officials have awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman Corporation to provide advanced state-of-the-art radar component
16. The B-2’s combat effectiveness was proved in Operation Allied Force in 1998 where it destroyed 33 percent of all Serbian targets in the first eight weeks. The B-2 flew nonstop to Kosovo from its home base in Missouri and back.

B-2_Air Force B-2 Spirit crew chiefs stand ready to perform maintenance on the plane
15. B-2’s operate on a two-man crew and the two crewman run around-the-clock missions sometimes. One crew member sleeps at a time and then they rotate.

B-2_A T-38 Talon flies in formation with the B-2 Spirit
14. The United States’ fleet of bombers, which consist of the B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, and B-52 Stratofortress are getting old. These aircraft are an average of 33 years old per plane.

B-2_A B-2 Stealth bomber flies over the St. Louis Arch
13. Since 1989, B-2 Spirits have flown more than 14,000 sorties and accumulated more than 75,000 flight operating hours.

B-2_A B-2 Spirit lands at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam
12.  The Spirit completed its first-ever combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying over 45 sorties in all and releasing more than 1.5 million pounds of munitions.

B-2_A B-2 Spirit drops Joint Direct Attack Munitions separation test
11. A B-2 airstrike was considered in the 2011 raid that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden. However, the potential for damage to surrounding civilians was too great to green light the airstrike.

B-2_A B-2 Spirit Bomber is scheduled to fly over Homestead Air Reserve Base
10. There are no operational B-2s on display. All aircraft are either in use or destroyed.

B-2_A B-2 Spirit bomber is followed by two F-117 Nighthawks during a mission
9. Two B-2s flew over 13,000 miles round trip from Missouri to South Korea in March of 2013 as a part of the annual United States – South Korea exercises. This was the first time a B-2 went over the Korean Peninsula.

B-2_ B-2 awaits a post-flight inspection
8. The B-2 has a maximum speed of 630 mph – about 140 miles an hour shy of Mach 1. With a takeoff load of 336,500 pounds, that’s impressive!

B-2_ A B-2 Spirit soars through the sky over Pacific Ocean
7.  There has been an out-of-court settlement between the U.S. government and Northrop Grumman regarding allegations of fraud and/or overcharging.

B-2_ a B-2 Spirit bomber during a mission at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam
6. In 1988 the B-2 was unveiled at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. Spectators weren’t allowed to get closer than 200 feet and no one was allowed to see the rear of the aircraft.

B-2_ A B-2 launches from the runway at Andersen Air Force Base
5. Northrop wasn’t alone in building the B-2. In 1991, the B-2 project employed more Boeing employees than anything Boeing was building themselves.

B-2- Northrop B-2 Spirit in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force
4. The B-21 Raider is being developed behind closed doors as we speak. The earliest estimations have the B-21 taking over for the B-2 as the United States’ predominant stealth-bomber by 2030.

B-2 Broncos cheerleaders check out B-2 cockpit during tour
3. The B-2 Spirit costs roughly three times its weight in gold.

A B-2_awaits clearance to taxi onto the flightline, at Andersen Air Force Base
2. The Department of Defense authorized Northrop Grumman to upgrade the B-2 Spirit to Extremely High Frequency (EHF) Satellite Communications. This is extremely rarefied air compared to the conventional UHF and VHF frequencies.

B-2- B-2 deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., sits on the parkway
1. The B-2 Spirit has an internal navigation system that relies on stars rather than GPS Satellites. The astro-inertial navigation can not be jammed electronically and maintains the aircraft’s low radar profile. Also see these additional B-2 Bomber Facts.

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