Northrop Grumman B-2 "Spirit"
Northrop Grumman B-2
(Stealth) Heavy Bomber
Unit Cost
US$727 mln - US$2.2 bn
Main Operator
United States Air Force
Click here for all pictures of the B-2 currently available

Northrop Grumman B-2 Program Milestones
Maiden Flight
July 17, 1989
Production Start
Mid 1990s
April, 1997
First User
United States Air Force

Northrop Grumman B-2 Aircraft Dimensions
Wing Span
172 feet (52.4 m)
69 feet (21 m)
17 feet (5.2 m)
Wing Area
5,000 square feet

Northrop Grumman B-2 Weights
Empty Weight
158,000 lb (71,700 kg)
336,500 lb (152,600 kg)
Maximum Take-off Weight
376,000 lb (171,000 kg)

Northrop Grumman B-2 Powerplants
4 x GE F118-GE-100
17,300 lbf

Northrop Grumman B-2 Radius & Performance
5,600 nautical miles
Service Ceiling
50,000 feet (15+ km)
Maximum Speed
470 mph
Maximum Rate of Climb
Thrust to Weight
Wing Loading
67.3 lb/square feet

Crash February 23, 2008 - Click here for the footage

Northrop Grumman B-2
The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit is a multi-role heavy bomber which is capable of deploying both conventional and nuclear weapons. Its development was a milestone in the modernization program of the U.S. Department of Defense while the aircraft itself is solely in operation with the United States Air Force. With its unique stealth capabilities, the B-2 is intended to aid the aircraft's penetration role in order to survive extremely dense anti-aircraft defenses otherwise considered to be impenetrable by combat aircraft. The B-2 Spirit program started as a black project known as High Altitude Penetrating Bomber (HAPB), after which it became the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB) and eventually ended up as the B-2 Spirit. In total, an estimated US$23 billion were secretly spent on the research and development of the aircraft in the 1980s. Additional expenses were made after slight changes in the design of the aircraft were made which altered the role of the B-2 into a low-altitude bomber instead of a high-altitude bomber.

The first B-2 was publicly presented on November 22, 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, where it was built. It took for the skies for the first time on July 17, 1989, and was being flight tested at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Initially, 135 aircraft were ordered but was later reduced to 75 in the late 1980s. In 1992, George H.W. Bush, former president of the United States, announced that the total B-2 production would be limited to 20 aircraft and was largely a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which effectively rendered void the Spirit's primary mission.

Total cost of a single B-2 stealth bomber is estimated at US$727 million. However, the total cost of the program with development, spares, and facilities averaged over $2.1 billion per plane as of 1997 according to the B-2 program office.

United States Air Force Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
United States Air Force Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
Click for a large image
Click for a large image

Northrop Grumman B-2 Design

The Northrop Grumman B-2 is operated by a crew of 2. Its cockpit is equipped with a colour, nine-tube, EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrumentation System), which shows vital information like flight, engine, and sensor data and specific information on avionics and weapons. Using a simple three-way switch, the pilot is able to activate the appropriate selection of flight and mission equipment for take-off mode, go-to-war mode and landing mode.

The B-2 Spirit is capable of carrying its entire weapon load internally and is fitted with two separate weapon bays in the centre of the aircraft. The aircraft has the capacity to carry up to 40,000 lb of weapons and includes the carriage of conventional and nuclear weapons, gravity bombs, precision-guided munitions and a range of maritime weapons. Each weapon bay is equipped with rotary launcher and two bomb-rack assemblies. During various experiments, the B-2 succesfully released B-61 and B-83 nuclear and Mk 84 conventional bombs from the rotary rocker launcher, and Mk-82 and CBU-87 conventional weapons from the bomb racks. Furthermore, the B-2 can carry 16 satellite-guided JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) missiles, while upgraded bomb racks are even capable of carrying a maximum of 80. The aircraft will also be fitted with the JSOW (Joint Stand-Off Weapon), JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missiles) and the WCMD (Wind Compensated Munitions Dispenser) and will be able to carry up to 80 115kg SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs).

A Lockheed Martin radar warning receiver is, together with a Northrop Grumman defensive aids system and Lockheed Martin AN/APR-50 Defensive Management System (DMS), carried by the B-2 spirit. Furthermore, the Raytheon AN/APQ-181 covert strike radar, operating at J-band is incorporated into the B-2. It is a multi-purpose radar with terrain following and terrain avoidance modes. In November 2002, Raytheon was contracted to develop a new Ku-band AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) antenna for the B-2 radar in order to avoid interference with commercial satellite systems after 2007. Installation of the new antenna on the entire B-2 fleet is expected to be completed by 2010.

The B-2 is equipped with a navigation suite which includes a Rockwell Collins TCN-250 Tactical Air Navigation system (TACAN) and a VIR-130A instrument landing system (ILS). Communications equipment is supplied by Rockwell Collins with a Milstar military strategic and tactical relay satellite communications system installed on all Block 30 aircraft.
United States Air Force Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit

The Northrop Grumman B-2 is powered by four General Electric F118-GE-100 turbofan engines which are internally mounted in the body of the wings. In order to minimise thermal signature the engines have an exhaust temperature control system. The engines provide approximately 77 kN of thrust and are capable of providing a high subsonic speed and a maximum gross take-off weight of 336,500 lb. Furthermore, the aircraft is equipped with an in-flight refuelling gear which is installed in the top of the centre line of the aircraft just behind the cockpit.


Northrop Grumman B-2 Variants

The United States Air Force accepted delivery of production B-2s in three configuration blocks, namely; blocks 10, 20, and 30.

Block 10 configured aircraft provide limited combat capability with no capability to launch conventional guided weapons. Block 10 model aircraft only carry Mk-84, 2,000 lb conventional bombs or gravity nuclear weapons. B-2s configured as Block 10 aircraft are solely used as training aircraft.

Block 20 configured aircraft have an interim capability to launch nuclear and conventional munitions, including the GAM guided munition. Aircraft configured like this have been tested with Mk-84, 2,000 lb bombs together with the CBU-87/B Combined Effects Munition cluster bombs.

Block 30 configured aircraft is the only B-2 version that is fully capable of meeting the essential employment capabilities defined by the Air Force. The first fully configured Block 30 aircraft, AV-20 Spirit of PENNSYLVANIA, was delivered to the United States Air Force on August 7, 1997. Compared to the Block 20 version, the Block 30s have almost double the radar modes along with enhanced terrain-following capability and the ability to deliver additional weapons, including the Joint Direct Attack Munition and the Joint Stand Off Weapon. Other features include incorporation of configuration changes needed to make B-2s conform to the approved radar signature; replacement of the aft decks; installation of remaining defensive avionics functions; and installation of a contrail management system.