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B-2 Spirit

The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit is a multi-role stealth heavy bomber, capable of deploying both conventional and nuclear weapons. It is operated exclusively by the United States Air Force. Its development was a milestone in the modernization program of the U.S. Department of Defense. The B-2's stealth technology is intended to aid the aircraft's penetration role in order to survive extremely dense anti-aircraft defenses otherwise considered impenetrable by combat aircraft.

As with the B-52 Stratofortress and B-1 Lancer, the B-2 provides the versatility inherent in manned bombers. Like other bombers, its assigned targets can be canceled or changed while in flight, the particular weapon assigned to a target can be changed, and the timing of attack, or the route to the target can be changed while in flight. In addition, its low-observable, or "stealth," characteristics give it the ability to penetrate an enemy's most sophisticated defenses and attack its most heavily defended targets.

A close-up of a B-2The blending of low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload gives the B-2 significant advantages over previous bombers. Its range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 km) without refueling. Also, its low-observation ability provides the B-2 greater freedom of action at high altitudes, thus increasing its range and giving a better field of view for the aircraft's sensors. It combines GPS Aided Targeting System (GATS) with GPS-aided bombs such as Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). This uses its passive electronically scanned array APQ-181 radar to correct GPS errors of targets and gain much better than laser-guided weapon accuracy when "dumb" gravity bombs are equipped with a GPS-aided "smart" guidance tail kit. It can bomb 16 targets in a single pass when equipped with 1,000 or 2,000-pound bombs, or as many as 80 when carrying 500-lb bombs.

The B-2's stealth comes from a combination of reduced acoustic, infrared, visual and radar signatures, making it difficult for defenses to detect, track and engage. Many specific aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2 represents a further advancement of technology exploited for the F-117. Pyotr Ufimtsev, whose theoretical work made the F-117 and B-2 possible, was hired by Northrop at one time. Additionally, the B-2's composite materials, special coatings and flying wing design (which cuts down on the number of leading edges) contribute to its stealth abilities.[11] The B-2 uses radar absorbent material and coatings that require climate-controlled hangars for maintenance. The engines are buried within the wing to conceal the induction fans and hide their exhaust.

B-2 during aerial refueling over the Pacific Ocean. In-flight refueling capability gives the B-2 a range limited only by maintenance and crew endurance.The B-2 has a crew of two; a pilot in the left seat and mission commander in the right. The B-2 has a provision for a third crew member if required in the future.[15] For comparison, the B-1B has a crew of four and the B-52 has a crew of five. B-2 crews have been used to pioneer sleep cycle research to improve crew performance on long flights. The B-2 is highly automated, and unlike single-seat fighters, one crew member can sleep, use a flush toilet or prepare a hot meal while the other monitors the aircraft.

General characteristics

Crew: 2
Length: 69 ft (21 m)
Wingspan: 172 ft (52.4 m)
Height: 17 ft (5.2 m)
Wing area: 5,000 ft² (460 m²)
Empty weight: 158,000 lb (71.7 t)
Loaded weight: 336,500 lb (152.6 t)
Max takeoff weight: 376,000 lb (171.0 t)
Powerplant: 4× General Electric F118-GE-100 turbofans, 17,300 lbf (77 kN) each


Maximum speed: 410 knots (760 km/h, 470 mph)
Range: 5,600 nm (10,400 km, 6,400 mi)
Service ceiling 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
Wing loading: 67.3 lb/ft² (329 kg/m²)
Thrust/weight: 0.205


2 internal bays for 50,000 lb (22,700 kg) of ordnance.[43]
80× 500 lb class bombs (Mk-82) mounted on Bomb Rack Assembly (BRA)
36× 750 lb CBU class bombs on BRA
16× 2000 lb class weapons (Mk-84, JDAM-84, JDAM-102) mounted on Rotary Launcher Assembly (RLA)
16× B61 or B83 nuclear weapons on RLA
Later avionics and equipment improvements allow B-2A to carry JSOW and GBU-28s as well. The Spirit is also designated as a delivery aircraft for the AGM-158 JASSM when the missile enters service.