|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
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 provides 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
The B-2 has a crew of two pilots, a pilot 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 Air Force Base, Calif., is responsible for
flight testing the engineering, manufacturing and development aircraft
on the B-2.
Whiteman AFB, Mo., is the only operational base for the B-2. The first
aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered Dec. 17, 1993. Depot
maintenance responsibility for the B-2 is performed by Air Force
contractor support and is managed at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics
Center at Tinker AFB, Okla.
The combat effectiveness of the B-2 was proved in Operation Allied
Force, where it was responsible for destroying 33 percent of all
Serbian targets in the first eight weeks, by flying nonstop to Kosovo
from its home base in Missouri and back. In support of Operation
Enduring Freedom, the B-2 flew one of its longest missions to date from
Whiteman to Afghanistan and back. The B-2 completed its first-ever
combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying 22
sorties from a forward operating location as well as 27 sorties from
Whiteman AFB and releasing more than 1.5 million pounds of munitions.
The B-2's proven combat performance led to declaration of full
operational capability in December 2003.
The prime contractor, responsible for overall system design and
integration, is Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Sector. Boeing
Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, General Electric
Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc., are key
members of the aircraft contractor team.