Intercontinental Stealth Bomber
Using Service (US):
Air Force (USAF)
No more new aircraft planned. Focus is on upgrades, modifications and sustainment.
The Northrop Grumman
B–2A Spirit is an intercontinental bomber that employs
low-observable technology, so-called "stealth", to
achieve its mission. Since 1989, B-2 aircraft have flown
more than 14,000 sorties and accumulated more than
75,000 flight operating hours.
The B–2 Spirit is powered by four General Electric
F118-GE-100 turbofan engines, each providing 17,300 pounds of thrust.
The B-2 has a crew of just two pilots, a pilot in the left seat and a mission commander in the right,
compared to the B-1B Lancer's crew of four
and the B-52H Stratofortress' crew of five.
A dramatic leap forward in technology, the B–2 is an all-wing aircraft with no fuselage and no vertical tail. The design eliminates much of the surface area that would cause drag on a conventional aircraft. At the same time, it eliminates many of the surfaces and edges from which radar energy would normally reflect. Its stealthy features are also derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual, and radar signatures. The dramatically reduced sum of these signatures makes it difficult for even the most sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track, and engage the B–2. From its twin weapon bays, the B–2 Spirit is capable of delivering massive firepower in a short time, anywhere in the world and through high-threat defenses using both conventional and nuclear munitions.
The B-2 is equipped with the Raytheon AN/APQ-181 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar (upgraded version of the original radar), a low probability of intercept, all-weather radar system, which enables the aircraft to penetrate even the most sophisticated air defenses.
Boeing has supplied the primary structural components of the aircraft, including the outboard wing and aft-center sections, the fuel systems, weapons delivery system, and the landing gear. Vought Aircraft, now part of Triumph Group, designed and produced the intermediate wing section.
The U.S. Air Force B-2 inventory consists of a total of 20 aircraft, 19 of which are based at Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) in Missouri, the home of the 509th Bomb Wing. One aircraft is assigned to flight-testing at Edwards AFB in California to validate software and weapon systems upgrades. One aircraft, the Spirit of Kansas, was lost in 2008 in a crash that occurred during take-off from Andersen AFB in Guam.
As part of an Air Force contract for maintenance support, B-2 aircraft are periodically sent to Northrop Grumman's Palmdale California facility for depot-level maintenance. Northrop Grumman plans to change the way B-2 aircraft are brought in for programmed depot maintenance. Every seven years, B-2s have undergone refurbishment in particular to replace the radar-resistant coat, however, according to Northrop Grumman, this cycle can be extended to 10 years, if aircraft have certain minor part replacements done every five years. According to Northrop Grumman, if implemented, this will save the Air Force $31 million annually + make 1 additional aircraft available.
Currently, the DoD is funding the Extremely High Frequency (EHF) Satellite Communications (SATCOM) upgrade of the B-2 which will allow aircraft to connect to the USAF's highly secure Advanced-EHF (AEHF) satellites. Prior to this upgrade, aircraft are using the aging Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) system.
In September 1980, the Air Force issued a request for proposal for the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB), which was later renamed the B-2 Spirit.
Northrop's proposal for a low-observable, long-range bomber was judged to be superior to the competing design proposed by Lockheed and
Northrop was awarded the ATB contract in December 1981. The contract included the delivery of two structural-test airframes and six production aircraft,
which would be used for the flight test program. The original plan called for
the production of a total of 132 aircraft but only 21
were ever produced, mainly due to the end of the Cold War.
In 1988, the B-2 was unveiled to the public and the following year, it flew for the first time. In December 1993, the first operational B-2 named "The Spirit of Missouri" was delivered to Whiteman Air Force Base. In April 1997, the B-2 fleet achieved initial operational capability (IOC) and made its combat debut in 1999 in Kosovo/Serbia. The B-2 saw action again during Operational Allied Force (OAF) in Afghanistan in 2001, and in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
The B-2 Spirit has two internal weapon bays that can carry up to 30,000 pounds of ordnance each. The B-2 carries a wide range of nuclear and conventional weapons including B61 and B83 nuclear bombs, Mk 82 and Mk 84 General Purpose Bombs, AGM-154 JSOW, AGM-158 JASSM, and GBU-31/38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) as well as several other types of ordnance. The massive GBU-57 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) is currently being integrated on the B-2 for use against hardened, deeply buried targets. Future weapons that will/may be fielded on the B-2, include the AGM-158B JASSM-ER and GBU-53 SDB-II, For more details, see specifications below.
The primary mission of the B–2 is to enable any theater commander to hold at risk and, if necessary, attack an enemy's warmaking potential, especially time-critical targets that, if not destroyed in the first hours or days of a conflict, would allow unacceptable damage to be inflicted on the friendly side. The B–2 will also retain its potential as a nuclear bomber, reinforcing the deterrence of nuclear conflict.
The primary modification budgeted in FY 12 is the Extremely High Frequency (EHF) Satellite Communications (SATCOM) and computers modification. See FY 13 program below for more information.
The primary modification budgeted in FY 13 is the Extremely High Frequency (EHF) Satellite Communications (SATCOM) and computers modification. The aging Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Military Satellite Communications system is being phased out and replaced by the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) Satellite Communications (SATCOM) system. The B-2 Extremely High Frequency (EHF) SATCOM program supports the replacement of the present B-2 UHF Terminal Set with an EHF SATCOM system that will be compatible with the legacy MILSTAR I/II satellite constellation and the future AEHF satellite constellation. The B-2 EHF SATCOM system is one element of a system of systems that includes the AEHF satellites, multiple platforms, and the Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Site Terminals (FAB-T) or other equivalent terminals. For more information, click to see the FY 2013 B-2 Spirit DoD Budget.
Sources Used: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Northrop Grumman Corp.,
and Raytheon Co.
Last Update: February 18, 2013.
By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard (www.kostergaard.com)
B-2A U.S. Defense Budget Charts:
Primary Function: Multi-role heavy bomber