B-2 Bomber

b200.jpgThe B-2 Spirit (also known as the Stealth Bomber) is an American heavy bomber with “low observable” stealth technology designed to penetrate dense anti-aircraft defenses and deploy both conventional and nuclear weapons. Because of its considerable capital and operational costs, the project was controversial in the U.S. Congress and among the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Congress slashed initial plans to purchase 132 bombers to just 21.

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The cost of each aircraft averaged US$737 million in 1997 dollars ($1.01 billion today).  Total procurement costs averaged US$929 million per aircraft ($1.27 billion today), which includes spare parts, equipment, retrofitting, and software support. The total program cost, which includes development, engineering, and testing, averaged US$2.1 billion per aircraft (in 1997 dollars, $2.87 billion today).

Twenty B-2s are operated by the U.S. Air Force. Though originally designed in the 1980s for the Cold War operations scenarios, B-2s were first used in combat to drop bombs on Serbia during the Kosovo War in 1999, and saw continued use during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One aircraft was lost in 2008 when it crashed just after takeoff; the crew ejected safely.

The bomber has a crew of two and can drop up to 80 x 500 lb (230 kg)-class JDAM GPS-guided bombs, or 16 x 2,400 lb (1,100 kg) B-83 nuclear bombs in a single pass through extremely dense anti-aircraft defenses. The B-2 is the only aircraft that can carry large air to surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration. The program has been the subject of espionage and counter-espionage activity and the B-2 has provided prominent public spectacles at air shows since the 1990s.

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General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 69 ft (21.0 m)
  • Wingspan: 172 ft (52.4 m)
  • Height: 17 ft (5.18 m)
  • Wing area: 5,140 ft² (478 m²)
  • Empty weight: 158,000 lb (71,700 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 336,500 lb (152,200 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 376,000 lb (170,600 kg)
  • Power plant: 4× General Electric F118-GE-100 non-afterburning turbofans, 17,300 lbf (77 kN) each

Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.95 (525 knots, 604 mph, 972 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: Mach 0.85 (470 knots, 541 mph, 870 km/h)
  • Range: 6,000 nmi (11,100 km (6,900 mi))
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,200 m)
  • Wing loading: 67.3 lb/ft² (329 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.205

Armament

  • 2 internal bays for 50,000 lb (23,000 kg) of ordnance
  • 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× B-61 or B-83 nuclear weapons on RLA

Later avionics and equipment improvements allow B-2A to carry JSOW, GBU-28, and GBU-57A/Bs as well. The Spirit is also designated as a delivery aircraft for the AGM-158 JASSM when the missile enters service.