B-2 … The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. A dramatic leap forward in technology, the bomber represents a major milestone in the U.S. bomber modernization program. The B-2 brings massive firepower to bear, in a short time, anywhere on the globe through previously impenetrable defenses
Along with the B-52 and B-1B, the B-2 provides the penetrating flexibility and effectiveness inherent in manned bombers. Its low-observable, or “stealth,” characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most-valued, and heavily defended, targets. Its capability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provide a strong, effective deterrent and combat force 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 existing bombers. Its low-observability provides it greater freedom of action at high altitudes, thus increasing its range and a better field of view for the aircraft’s sensors. Its unrefueled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers). The B-2’s low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for the sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2’s composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its “stealthiness.”
The B-2 has a crew of two pilots, an aircraft commander 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.
The first B-2 was publicly displayed on Nov. 22, 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, Calif. Its first flight was July 17, 1989. The B-2 Combined Test Force, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, Calif., is responsible for flight testing the Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development aircraft as they are produced. Five of the six developmental aircraft delivered to Edwards are still involved in continuing flight testing. The first test aircraft is currently kept in flyable storage.
Whiteman AFB, Mo., is the B-2’s only operational base. The first aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered Dec. 17, 1993. Primary maintenance responsibility for the B-2 is divided between Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Okla. for avionics software (contractor); Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill AFB, Utah for landing gear and trainers (contractor); and the Northrop-Grumman facility at Air Force Plant 42 at Palmdale for periodic depot maintenance.
The prime contractor, responsible for overall system design and integration, is Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Division. Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Vought Aircraft Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, and General Electric Aircraft Engine Group are key members of the aircraft contractor team. Another major contractor, responsible for aircrew training devices (weapon system trainer and mission trainer) is Hughes Training Inc. (HTI) – Link Division, formerly known as C.A.E. – Link Flight Simulation Corp. Northrop-Grumman and its major subcontractor HTI, excluding Link Division, is responsible for developing and integrating all aircrew and maintenance training programs.