B-2 Spirit

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.

A B-2 Spirit prepares to receive fuel from a KC-135 during a mission in the European Theater  supporting NATO Operation Allied Force  (U.S. Air Force  photo by SSgt Ken Bergmann)
A B-2 Spirit prepares to receive fuel from a KC-135 during a mission in the European Theater supporting NATO Operation Allied Force (U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt Ken Bergmann)

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 NM.

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, 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 November 22, 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California. Its first flight was July 17, 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 on the B-2.

Crew: 2 pilots, with provisions for a third crew member if future missions require it
Crew: 2 pilots, with provisions for a third crew member if future missions require it

Whiteman AFB, Missouri, is the only operational base for the B-2. The first aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered December 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, Oklahoma.

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/680,389 kg of munitions. The aircraft received full operational capability status in December 2003. On February 1, 2009, the Air Force’s newest command, Air Force Global Strike Command, assumed responsibility for the B-2 from Air Combat Command.

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.

The U.S. Air Force's B-2 stealth bomber is a key component of the nation’s long-range strike arsenal, and one of the most survivable aircraft in the world
The U.S. Air Force’s B-2 stealth bomber is a key component of the nation’s long-range strike arsenal, and one of the most survivable aircraft in the world

 

Modernization activities

A «smart bomb rack assembly» that gives the B-2 the ability to deliver 80 «smart» (GPS-guided) Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) weapons on a single pass, and increases its capacity to deliver precision guided weapons by a factor of five.

Integration of a Link 16 line-of-sight tactical communication system that significantly improves B-2 pilots’ ability to share critical targeting and threat information and maintain real-time awareness of the battle space.

A multi-year radar modernization program that will design and integrate a new Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar antenna on the aircraft. Raytheon Co., which provided the original B-2 radar, is the principal subcontractor on this program.

Aircraft in the operational fleet are sent periodically to Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, California, for Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) as part of an Air Force contract for overall B-2 support
Aircraft in the operational fleet are sent periodically to Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, California, for Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) as part of an Air Force contract for overall B-2 support

Development and integration of an EHF (Extremely High Frequency) satellite communications system that will allow the B-2 to send and receive battlefield information with joint commanders around the world up to 100 times faster than today.

Integration of a 30,000 lbs/13,608 kg-class penetrator weapon that will allow the B-2 to attack and destroy hardened, deeply buried targets.

Application of a specially formulated surface coating that has significantly reduced B-2 maintenance time and improved the fleet’s operational readiness.

 

General Characteristics

Primary function Multi-role heavy bomber
Contractor Northrop Grumman Corp.
Power Plant 4 General Electric F118-GE-100 engines
Thrust 19,000 lbs/8,618 kg/84,5 kN each engine
Wingspan 172 ft/52.12 m
Length 69 ft/20.9 m
Height 17 ft/5.1 m
Weight 160,000 lbs/72,575 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight 336,500 lbs/152,634 kg
Fuel Capacity 167,000 lbs/75,750 kg
Payload 40,000 lbs/18,144 kg
Speed High subsonic
Range 6,000 NM/11,112 km unrefueled; 10,000 NM/18,520 km with one refueling
Ceiling 50,000 ft/15,240 m
Armament Can deliver a variety of conventional and nuclear weapons, including precision-guided munitions, and gravity bombs
Crew Two pilots, with provisions for a third crew member if future missions require it
Unit cost Approximately $1.157 billion
Initial operating capability April 1997
Inventory Active force: 20 (1 test)
B-2 Spirit Bomber
B-2 Spirit Bomber

 

General Electric F118-GE-100

The F118 story starts with the F101 engine, which was originally developed for the Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft program, which became the B-1 bomber. Utilizing the same core design as the F101, the F110 and F118 derivative engines were created by developing new low-pressure systems to tailor engine performance to the desired aircraft application.

In 1988, the U.S. Air Force unveiled the Northrop B-2 stealth Bomber, powered by four F118-100 engines. The B-2 stealth aircraft flying wing design was very similar to an experimental aircraft that was developed by Northrop in the 1940s – the YB-49A – which had been powered by eight GE J35 engines.

The General Electric F118 is a non-afterburning turbofan engine produced by GE Aviation
The General Electric F118 is a non-afterburning turbofan engine produced by GE Aviation

Flight-testing of the F118 began in mid-1989 and in 1991 the B-2 was awarded the Collier Trophy for the greatest achievement in aeronautics and astronautics. The F118-100 produces 19,000 lbs of thrust, but has no afterburner to minimize the possibility of detection.

Another application of the F118 engine is the U-2S. The U-2S is the result of re-engining a U-2R aircraft with a F118-GE-101. The F118-101 produces 17,000 lbs of thrust and offers engine weight reduction, an improved hot section design that extends the interval between overhauls, added operational utilization and lower life cycle costs.

 

Aircraft Lineup

Air Vehicle № USAF S/N Formal name Time in service
AV-1 82-1066 Spirit of America 14 July 2000
AV-2 82-1067 Spirit of Arizona 4 December 1997
AV-3 82-1068 Spirit of New York 10 October 1997
AV-4 82-1069 Spirit of Indiana 22 May 1999
AV-5 82-1070 Spirit of Ohio 18 July 1997
AV-6 82-1071 Spirit of Mississippi 23 May 1997
AV-7 88-0328 Spirit of Texas 21 August 1994
AV-8 88-0329 Spirit of Missouri 31 March 1994
AV-9 88-0330 Spirit of California 17 August 1994
AV-10 88-0331 Spirit of South Carolina 30 December 1994
AV-11* 88-0332 Spirit of Washington 29 October 1994
AV-13 89-0128 Spirit of Nebraska 28 June 1995
AV-14 89-0129 Spirit of Georgia 14 November 1995
AV-15 90-0040 Spirit of Alaska 24 January 1996
AV-16 90-0041 Spirit of Hawaii 10 January 1996
AV-17 92-0700 Spirit of Florida 3 July 1996
AV-18** 93-1085 Spirit of Oklahoma 15 May 1996
AV-19 93-1086 Spirit of Kitty Hawk 30 August 1996
AV-20 93-1087 Spirit of Pennsylvania 5 August 1997
AV-21 93-1088 Spirit of Louisiana 10 November 1997

* AV-12 (89-0127) Spirit of Kansas crashed 23 February 2008

** AV-18 (93-1085) Spirit of Oklahoma is assigned to flight-testing at Edwards AFB, California to validate software and weapon systems upgrades

 

 

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