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Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit


Strategic Heavy Bomber / Stealth Bomber


United States | 1997



"For decades Northrop engineers sought to perfect the flying wing - finally realized in the advanced Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 04/24/2023 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Flag of Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.
Firepower
Performance
Survivability
Versatility
Impact
The Northrop Grumman B-2 "Spirit" (generically referred to as the "Stealth Bomber") became the pinnacle of tail-less flight design that began in the mind of Northrop founder, Jack Northrop. Not only was the B-2 groundbreaking in its use of a tail-less approach, but the aircraft was designed from the outset with radar-evading/absorbing "stealth" capabilities in mind, generating a small heat signature and slim profile that incorporated body-coating materials. This would allow the bomber to infiltrate enemy airspace, hit vital targets against an unsuspecting enemy with precision weapons, and leave the area undetected - forming the spearhead of an assault that was to lead the way for additional waves of "non-stealth" aircraft to finish the job. The first-strike capability had become an essential facet of warfare in the 21st century and - as shown in the war in Kosovo through Allied Force - the B-2 would not disappoint once in service.

Developed as early as the 1970's the B-2 was not unveiled until 1988. It would be 1989 before the aircraft would see its first flight and, from then on, the "Spirit" would be charged with succeeding the Rockwell B-1B "Lancer", a high-speed, low-altitude penetrator utilizing powerful engines and a "swing-wing" design approach to fulfill its bombing role. Armed with the potent APQ-181 series radar suite, the B-2 Spirit has become a capable delivery platform where pin-point strikes against hardened targets are the call of the day.

From above, the B-2's body showcases a "double-W" shape. Vertical tail surfaces are non-existent and the large delta wing planform provides basic lifting while maneuverability and control is made possible by advanced onboard computer processing systems that were hard to come by in Northrop's earlier "flying wing" attempts. This measure of ability is not to be underscored as the basic flying wing presents many stability issues that were to be ironed out before the flying wing concept could be largely realized in a viable form. To put the importance of this advancement into context, the previous flying wing attempts of Northrop had a deadly tendency to stall and - in some cases - resulted in death to the test crew. The onboard systems of the B-2 reportedly do not let the aircraft stall, thus eliminating any piloting mistakes that could lead to a disastrous loss of the aircraft, its sensitive flight technology, and life of the two pilots.

The wind-tunnel-friendly profile of the B-2 shows off a low-profile design. Engines are housed in blended nacelles on either side of the blended cockpit section. The crew benefits on longer missions by the installation of a lavatory and sleeping accommodations installed just behind the cockpit. The large wing area of flying wings serves many beneficial purposes to mission capabilities (though at the expense of drag) - additional fuel stores can be integrated and internal weapons bays can be used to conceal ordnance, the latter quality helping to reduce the radar signature of the aircraft.

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132 B-2 bombers were originally planned for procurement but ballooning program costs (the B-2 program cost well over $45 billion dollars to fund with a single B-2 costing about $1.2 billion dollars) and the end of the Cold War substantially reduced those figures to just 21. This end production total also included six developmental aircraft which were later all upgraded to full operational standard. The first B-2 bomber groups was formed in 1999 with the last aircraft delivered from the production lines in 1998. The series was to replace the B-52 Stratofortress line though both bombers have been retained in USAF service in addition to sixty or so of the Rockwell/Boeing B-1B Lancer series.

The B-2 saw its first taste of action in the war over Kosovo during 1999 and, later, over Afghanistan in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. The aircraft was successful with its pinpoint strikes using JDAMs and GPS-guided munitions. To showcase the aircraft's amazing endurance, missions to Europe and the Middle East originated from locations within the United States (Missouri is the home state of the B-2 flight group) and helped along by in-flight refueling. Before he passed, Northrop founder Jack Northrop himself was able to see the B-2 as it lay under development in its still-classified form - seeing the realization of his flying wing dream. Today the B-2 - though limited by available numbers - provides the United States with a lethal first-strike / first-kill capability unmatched throughout the world.

On February 22, 2008, the first reported accident of a stealth bomber was reported when a B-2 Spirit crashed shortly after takeoff in Guam while on support of western-Pacific operations. Both pilots ejected safely but the incident resulted in the grounding of the other three B-2's present at the airbase. Investigation revealed that humidity had built up on several of the B-2's sensors, distorting pre-flight checks leading to the accident.

The original B-2A was since been upgraded with Extremely High Frequency (EHF) SATellite COMmunications (SATCOM) equipment and broader support for more advanced precision drop ordnance. Communications and the aircraft's stealth body coating have also been addressed as has reducing maintenance times and cost.

Of the 21 B-2As procured, nineteen of these are operationally available to the USAF. A sole example is used in the research and development role to further other programs. The series is expected to remain in frontline service into the late 2050s.

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February 2018 - The B-2 Spirit fleet is set to be directly succeeded by the in-development B-21 stealth bomber by Northrop Grumman.

July 2018 - A B-2A bomber was used to test the viability of a B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb over the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

October 2019 - Northrop Grumman is to begin testing a single example of a modernized B-2 stealth bomber with the new Defensive Management System - Modernization (DMS-M) equipment in place. Upgrades include a new instrument panel in the cockpit, improved digital processing, new antenna fits, and a strengthened Electronic Support Measures (ESM) unit.

Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit Strategic Heavy Bomber / Stealth Bomber.
4 x General Electric F118-GE-110 non-afterburning turbofans developing 17,300 lb of thrust each.
Propulsion
628 mph
1,010 kph | 545 kts
Max Speed
49,869 ft
15,200 m | 9 miles
Service Ceiling
6,897 miles
11,100 km | 5,994 nm
Operational Range
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit Strategic Heavy Bomber / Stealth Bomber.
2
(MANNED)
Crew
69.0 ft
21.03 m
O/A Length
172.0 ft
(52.43 m)
O/A Width
17.0 ft
(5.18 m)
O/A Height
158,071 lb
(71,700 kg)
Empty Weight
376,109 lb
(170,600 kg)
MTOW
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
RANGE
ALT
SPEED
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit Strategic Heavy Bomber / Stealth Bomber .
Mission-specific ordnance can include any of the following held in two internal bomb bays (40,000 lb overall limit):

16 x AGM-129 Air-launched Cruise Missiles (ACMs).
16 x B61 strategic free-fall nuclear bomb.
16 x B83 strategic free-fall nuclear bomb.
80 x MK 82 conventional drop bombs.
16 x MK 84 conventional drop bombs.
16 x Joint Direct-Attack Munition (JDAM).
16 x GAM-enabled drop bombs.
EGBU-28 "Enhanced Guided Bomb Unit" drop bombs.
AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW).
AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile (JASSM).
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit family line.
B-2 "Spirit" - Base Series Designation
B-2A - Initial Production Model Designation; 21 aircraft produced.
B-2A Block 30 - Modernized standard for all existing B-2A production aircraft.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 21 Units

Contractor(s): Northrop Grumman - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (628mph).

Graph Average of 563 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
21
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
EarlyYrs
WWI
Interwar
WWII
ColdWar
Postwar
Modern
Future
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Image of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.
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Image of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.
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Image of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.
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Image of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.
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Image of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.
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Image of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.
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Image of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.
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Image of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.
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Image of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.
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Image of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
GROUND ATTACK
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Similar
Developments of similar form-and-function, or related, to the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit Strategic Heavy Bomber / Stealth Bomber.
Going Further...
The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit Strategic Heavy Bomber / Stealth Bomber appears in the following collections:
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