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B-2 Spirit Northrop Grumman
B-2 Spirit
Intercontinental Strategic Bomber

The prototype B-2 stealth bomber emerged in 1988 after a decade of top secret research by the US Air Force. The B-2 design made great strides over previous attempts at stealth aircraft, such as the B-1B and F-117, thanks to a more refined understanding of radar wave reflection and its aerodynamic flying wing shape.

The contoured wing of the B-2 Spirit contains the crew compartment, payload bays, and engines. This engine placement thereby buries the highly radar reflective fan and turbine blades within the bomber's interior. In addition to radar absorbant materials (RAM) covering its surface, the external lines of the B-2 are alligned in a parallel arrangement to scatter radar waves away from their point of origin. Also, the engine exhaust is vented through a long trough covered with heat-absorbing materials to reduce the B-2's infrared heat signature.

The Air Force originally planned to acquire 133 stealth bombers but have since cut that number to a mere 21 active duty aircraft. Though originally designed as a nuclear strike platform, the B-2 has also been equipped to carry conventional weapons like JDAM. The B-2 has made extensive use of its new conventional strike role during recent conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. None have been lost in combat though one B-2 was destroyed during a takeoff accident on Guam in 2008. The survivors include one used for flight testing at Edwards AFB and 20 currently in service based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri.

In 1995, Northrop proposed building 20 additional aircraft at a unit cost of $566 million, a significant price reduction made possible by production improvements. The offer was not accepted, but it is probable the Air Force's next B-3 bomber will be a derivative of the B-2 design.

Last modified 17 March 2012

First Flight 17 July 1989
Service Entry

April 1997


two: pilot, co-pilot/mission commander


$1.157 billion [1998$]

Wing Root unknown
Wing Tip unknown

Length 69.00 ft (21.03 m)
Wingspan 172.00 ft (52.43 m)
Height 17.00 ft (5.18 m)
Wing Area 5,000 ft (465.5 m)
Canard Area

not applicable

Empty 150,000 to 160,000 lb (68,040 to 72,575 kg)
Normal Takeoff 336,500 lb (152,635 kg)
Max Takeoff 376,000 lb (170,550 kg)
Fuel Capacity internal: 200,000 lb (90,720 kg)
external: none
Max Payload

40,000 lb (18,145 kg)

Powerplant four General Electric F118-110 turbofans

76,000 lb (338 kN)

Max Level Speed at altitude: 530 mph (850 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m), Mach 0.8
at sea level: 485 mph (780 km/h), Mach 0.65
cruise speed: 515 mph (830 km/h) at 37,000 ft (11,275 m), Mach 0.78
Initial Climb Rate 3,000 ft (915 m) / min
Service Ceiling 50,000 ft (15,240 m)
Range typical: 6,000 nm (11,110 km)
w/1 aerial refueling: 10,000 nm (18,520 km)
g-Limits +2.0

Gun none
Stations two internal bomb bays
Air-to-Surface Missile up to 16 AGM-69 SRAM II, up to 16 AGM-129 ACM, AGM-154 JSOW
Bomb up to 16 B61/B83 nuclear bombs, up to 80 Mk 82 500-lb GP, up to 16 Mk 84 2,000-lb GP, up to 36 M117 750-lb GP, up to 16 GBU-31 JDAM, up to 16 GBU-36, up to 8 GBU-37 (GAM-113), up to 36 CBU-87/89/97/98 cluster
Other up to 80 Mk 36 or Mk 62 500-lb sea mines

B-2A Production bomber model operating from Whitman AFB, Missiouri; 22 built

KNOWN COMBAT RECORD: Kosovo - Operation Allied Force (USAF, 1999)
Afghanistan - Operation Enduring Freedom (USAF, 2001)
Iraq - Operation Iraqi Freedom (USAF, 2003)
Libya - Operation Odyssey Dawn (USAF, 2011)

KNOWN OPERATORS: United States (US Air Force)


B-2 Spirit

  • Boeing B-2 site
  • Donald, David, ed. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1997, p. 707-708, Northrop B-2A.
  • Donald, David and Lake, Jon, ed. The Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 2000, p. 333-335, Northrop B-2 Spirit.
  • Gunston, Bill, ed. The Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1995, p. 217, Northrop-Grumman B-2 Spirit.
  • Laur, Timothy M. and Llanso, Steven L. Encyclopedia of Modern U.S. Military Weapons. NY: Berkley Books, 1995, p. 23-25, Stealth (B-2).
  • Miller, David, ed. The Illustrated Directory of Modern American Weapons. London: Salamander Books, 2002, p. 38-43, Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit.
  • Munro, Bob and Chant, Christopher. Jane's Combat Aircraft. Glasgow: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995, p. 188-189.
  • Spohrer, Jennifer and Frase, Tuesday. Jane's Combat Simulations: ATF Gold Users Manual. San Mateo, CA: Electronic Arts, 1997, p. 9.4-9.6.
  • Taylor, Michael. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1996/1997. London: Brassey's, 1996, p. 148-150, Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit.
  • Taylor, Michael J. H. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1999/2000. London: Brassey's, 1999, p. 126-128, Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit.
  • US Air Force B-2 Fact Sheet
  • Wilson, Jim. Combat: The Great American Warplane. NY: Hearst Books, 2001, p. 32-35, B-2 Spirit.

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