"B-2" and "Stealth bomber" redirect here. For other uses, see B2 (disambiguation) and Stealth aircraft.
B-2 Spirit original.jpg
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit flying over the Pacific Ocean in May 2006.
Role Strategic stealthbomber
National origin United States
Manufacturer Northrop Corporation
First flight 17 July 1989
Introduction April 1997
Status In service
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 21
Program cost US$44.75 billion (through 2004)
$737 million (1997 approx. flyaway cost)
Northrop (later Northrop Grumman) B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth
Bomber, is an American heavy strategic bomber, featuring low observable
stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft
defenses; it is able to deploy both conventional and thermonuclear
weapons. The bomber has a crew of two and can drop up to eighty 500 lb
(230 kg)-class (Mk 82) JDAM Global Positioning System-guided bombs, or
sixteen 2,400 lb (1,100 kg) B83 nuclear bombs. The B-2 is the only known
aircraft that can carry large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a
originally started under the "Advanced Technology Bomber" (ATB) project
during the Carter administration, and its performance was one of his
reasons for the cancellation of the supersonic B-1A bomber. ATB
continued during the Reagan administration, but worries about delays in
its introduction led to the reinstatement of the B-1 program as well.
Program costs rose throughout development. Designed and manufactured by
Northrop Grumman, the cost of each aircraft averaged US$737 million (in
1997 dollars).Total procurement costs averaged $929 million per
aircraft, which includes spare parts, equipment, retrofitting, and
software support.The total program cost including development,
engineering and testing, averaged $2.1 billion per aircraft in 1997.
of its considerable capital and operating costs, the project was
controversial in the U.S. Congress and among the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The winding-down of the Cold War in the latter portion of the 1980s
dramatically reduced the need for the aircraft, which was designed with
the intention of penetrating Soviet airspace and attacking high-value
targets. During the late 1980s and 1990s, Congress slashed plans to
purchase 132 bombers to 21. In 2008, a B-2 was destroyed in a crash
shortly after takeoff, though the crew ejected safely. A total of 20
B-2s remain in service with the United States Air Force, which plans to
operate the B-2 until 2058.
B-2 is capable of all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000 feet
(15,000 m), with a range of more than 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km)
on internal fuel and over 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km) with one
midair refueling. Though originally designed primarily as a nuclear
bomber, it was first used in combat dropping conventional ordnance in
the Kosovo War in 1999 and saw further service in Iraq and Afghanistan.