The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber

The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit is a low-observable, strategic, long-range, heavy bomber capable of penetrating sophisticated and dense air-defence shields.Operated exclusively by the US Air Force, the B-2 Spirit is a second generation stealth aircraft, following the F-117A Nighthawk.

The first B-2 was publicly displayed on 22 November 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, where it was built. Its first public flight was on 17 July 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. 21 B-2s have been delivered to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, the first in December 1993.

The B-2 Spirit is a plane like no other. Tracing its roots back to the days when Jack Northrop created his flying wings, the YB-35 and the jet powered YB-49, in the 1940’s. In fact, the B-2 Spirit has the exact same wingspan as the YB-49: 172.0 ft or 52 m. It was back then that the flying wing design demonstrated the low radar signature, however the YB-49 was canceled in favor of the more conventional B-36 produced by Convair.

The B-2’s stealth comes from a combination of reduced acoustic, infrared, 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 uses radar absorbent material and coatings, that have required climate-controlled hangars for maintenance.

An assessment published by the USAF showed that two B-2s armed with precision weaponry can do the job of 75 conventional aircraft, and i think that kinda says it all.

Here are the 21 B-2s: designation, tail number and formal name

AV-1 82-1066 Spirit of America
AV-2 82-1067 Spirit of Arizona
AV-3 82-1068 Spirit of New York
AV-4 82-1069 Spirit of Indiana
AV-5 82-1070 Spirit of Ohio
AV-6 82-1071 Spirit of Mississippi
AV-7 88-0328 Spirit of Texas
AV-8 88-0329 Spirit of Missouri
AV-9 88-0330 Spirit of California
AV-10 88-0331 Spirit of South Carolina
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
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
AV-19 93-1086 Spirit of Kitty Hawk
AV-20 93-1087 Spirit of Pennsylvania
AV-21 93-1088 Spirit of Louisiana


Crew Normally two, pilot on left, commander or instructor on right with one additional crew member for specific mission requirement


Wingspan 172ft
Height 17ft
Length 69ft
Flying Wing Configuration Composite materials


Maximum Take-Off Weight 336,000lb
Payload 40,000lb


Engines 4 x General Electric F118-GE-100, each rated at 77kN


Maximum Speed High subsonic speed, 331m/sec
Altitude 50,000ft
Range 6,000nm
Range With one Refuelling 10,000nm


Weapons Conventional and nuclear weapons, precision guided munitions, gravity bombs, maritime weapons

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