The B-2 Spirit strategic bomber is an exceptional stealthy flying wing that left a mark in the history of military aerospace.
Interestingly, the cost of a single B-2 went from $737 million in 1989 to over $2.1 billion in 1997, making the stealth bomber one of the most expensive military aircraft ever created in aviation history.
Despite its impressive wingspan of 52 meters (170 feet), the B-2 stays stealthy and fast. What else hides behind one of the most sophisticated flying machines ever created?
The beginning of legendary aircraft
In a perfect example of serendipity, it is said that Northrop discovered the stealth capabilities of the flying wing during the flight tests of the XB-49. It went on to participate in the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB) program, which was supposed to provide a new generation bomber to penetrate Soviet Union air defenses as well as to attack high-value targets.
Flying for the first time in 1989, the B-2A Spirit strategic bomber was selected to become one of the backbones of the United States nuclear deterrence to this day.
Unique and invisible
The B-2 Spirit is not only unique because of its size, but also an extraordinary design for a military aircraft. First of all, the B-2 is a flying wing aircraft, so it has no fuselage or tail.
The trailing edge of the B-2 has a double-W shape. Also, the leading edges of the wings are angled at 33°.
The B-2 Spirit bomber can infiltrate complex and dense air-defense shields while being capable of all-altitude attack operations up to 50,000ft. Moreover, the B-2 has range from over 6,000 nautical miles on internal fuel and more than 10,000 nautical miles with one mid air refueling, weighing around 336,500 pounds.
The cabin of the B-2 is designed for the crew of two pilots. Since the B-2 is highly automated, one of the crew members can sleep in a camp bed while another pilot operates the aircraft.
Combat missions of the Stealth Bomber
The B-2 made its debut during the Kosovo War in 1999. Six B-2 flew 30 non-stop hours from the home base Missouri to Yugoslavia and back while dropping 11% of NATO bombs. The heavy stealth bomber became the first aircraft to deploy GPS satellite-guided JDAM ‘smart bombs’ in combat use in Kosovo.
In 2003, B-2 operated from Diego Garcia during the Iraq War, releasing over 1,500,000 pounds of munitions.
In 2011, B-2 became the first U.S aircraft involved in action in Operation Odyssey Dawn, the international military in support of the UN no-fly zone in Libya. Three of B-2s flew from the U.S mainland across the Atlantic Ocean and dropped 40 bombs on a Libyan airfield.
In 2017, two B-2s bombed an ISIS training camp, dropping 108 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bombs. Both of the B-2 round-trips from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri to Sirte, Libya took 34 hours with 15 refuelings during the trip.
The security for B-2
Through the development and service of the B-2, working staff had to maintain the security of technologies and design.
Not everyone could work with the B-2 project. All applied participants for the B-2 project had to gain a security clearance status first, meaning everyone, who successfully went through the extensive background checks, could take part in the B-2 project implementation. All the background checks were carried by the Air Force.
Even a movie star
Although the flying wing bomber was used only for combat missions of U.S, the B-2 had featured in multiple movies such as ‘Independence Day,’ ‘Armageddon,’ ‘Iron Man 2,’ ‘Cloverfield,’ ‘Airplanes,’ ‘Rampage’ and most recently, ‘Captain Marvel.’