|Manufacturer||Northrop Corporation / Northrop Grumman|
|Cost||$727 million to $2.2 billion|
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 defences otherwise considered impenetrable by combat aircraft.
- General characteristics
- Crew: 2
- Length: 69 ft (21 m)
- Wingspan: 172 ft (52.4 m)
- Height: 17 ft (5.2 m)
- Maximum speed: 760 km/h, (470 mph)
- Range: 10,400 km, (6,400 mi)
- Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
In its internal bomb-bay, the B2 Spirit can carry either;
- 16 x AGM 129 ACM's
- 16 x B61 Strategic nuclear freefall bombs
- 16 x B63 Strategic nuclear freefall bombs
- 80 x Mk82 bombs
- 16 x Mk84 bombs
- 16 x JDAM's
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.
The success 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. It lasted for 33 hours.
On 23 February 2008, a B-2 named "Spirit of Kansas," crashed onto the runway shortly after takeoff from Andersen Air Force Base. The crash was the first ever for the B-2. Both pilots ejected before the crash and survived, but the aircraft was completely destroyed. The crash was the most expensive single aircraft crash in history.