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B-2 Spirit

The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.

Along with the B-52 and B-1B, the B-2 provides the penetrating flexibility and effectiveness inherent in manned bombers. Its low-observable, or "stealth," characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy's most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended, targets. Its capability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provide an effective deterrent and combat force well into the 21st century.

The blending of low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload gives the B-2 important advantages over existing bombers. Its low-observability provides it greater freedom of action at high altitudes, thus increasing its range and a better field of view for the aircraft's sensors. Its unrefueled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers).

The B-2's low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for the sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2's composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its "stealthiness."

The B-2 has a crew of two pilots, an aircraft commander in the left seat and mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B's crew of four and the B-52's crew of five.

The B-2 is intended to deliver gravity nuclear and conventional weapons, including precision-guided standoff weapons. An interim, precision-guided bomb capability called Global Positioning System (GPS) Aided Targeting System/GPS Aided Munition (GATS/GAM) is being tested and evaluated. Future configurations are planned for the B-2 to be capable of carrying and delivering the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.
B-2s, in a conventional role, staging from Whiteman AFB, MO; Diego Garcia; and Guam can cover the entire world with just one refueling. Six B-2s could execute an operation similar to the 1986 Libya raid but launch from the continental U.S. rather than Europe with a much smaller, more lethal, and more survivable force.

The B-2 development program was initiated in 1981, and the Air Force was granted approval in 1987 to begin procurement of 132 operational B-2 aircraft, principally for strategic bombing missions. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the emphasis of B-2 development was changed to conventional operations and the number was reduced to 20 operational aircraft, plus 1 test aircraft that was not planned to be upgraded to an operational configuration. Production of these aircraft has been concurrent with development and testing.

The first B-2 was publicly displayed on Nov. 22, 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, Calif. Its first flight was July 17, 1989.

Primary function: Multi-role heavy bomber.
Payload: 40,000 pounds (18,000 kilograms)
Crew: Two pilots
Unit cost: Approximately $2.1 billion [average]
Length : 20.9m
Wingspan : 52.4m
Height : 5.1m
Wing area : 477.5m2
Empty Weight : about 54500 kg
Operational Empty : 69705 kg
Normal T/O Weight : 152607 kg
Maximum T/O Weight : about 159000 kg
Max Payload : 22700 kg

Speed, 10800m : Mach 0.85 (900 km/hr)
Speed, sea level : Mach 0.8 (980 km/hr)
Range : Approx 9600 km, unrefulled
Ceiling : Above 15000m

The B-2 has four General Electric F118-GE-100 engines, each rated at 78.47 kN. The F118 is derived from the F101 used by the B-1
B-2 fuel capacity is about 81000 kg, and the aircraft can be refulled in flight by the boom method.

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