Incredible Facts About the B-2 Spirit
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.
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.
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.
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.
46.The B-2 costs an estimated $135,000 per hour to operate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
32. The B-2 has the capability to drop 16 B83 nuclear bombs.
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.
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.
29. The leading wing of the B-2 Spirit is angled at 33 degrees.
28. A United States Air Force assessment concluded that two B-2s armed with precision weaponry can do the job of 75 conventional aircraft.
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.
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.
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.
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.
21. If the B-2 needs to drop a payload of munitions, the stealth is compromised. The bomb bays are very susceptible to radar.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
13. Since 1989, B-2 Spirits have flown more than 14,000 sorties and accumulated more than 75,000 flight operating hours.
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.
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.
10. There are no operational B-2s on display. All aircraft are either in use or destroyed.
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.
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!
7. There has been an out-of-court settlement between the U.S. government and Northrop Grumman regarding allegations of fraud and/or overcharging.
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.
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.
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.
3. The B-2 Spirit costs roughly three times its weight in gold.
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.
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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