B-2 Spirit

The B-2 is a stealthy, long-range, penetrating nuclear and conventional strike bomber. It is based on a flying wing design combining LO with high aerodynamic efficiency. The aircraft’s blended fuselage/wing holds two weapons bays capable of carrying nearly 60,000 lb in various combinations.

Spirit entered combat during Allied Force on March 24, 1999, striking Serbian targets. Production was completed in three blocks, and all aircraft were upgraded to Block 30 standard with AESA radar. Production was limited to 21 aircraft due to cost, and a single B-2 was subsequently lost in a crash at Andersen, Feb. 23, 2008.

Modernization is focused on safeguarding the B-2A’s penetrating strike capability in high-end threat environments and integrating advanced weapons.

The B-2 achieved a major milestone in 2022 with the integration of a Radar Aided Targeting System (RATS), enabling delivery of the modernized B61-12 precision-guided thermonuclear freefall weapon. RATS uses the aircraft’s radar to guide the weapon in GPS-denied conditions, while additional Flex Strike upgrades feed GPS data to weapons prerelease to thwart jamming. A B-2A successfully dropped an inert B61-12 using RATS on June 14, 2022, and successfully employed the longer-range JASSM-ER cruise missile in a test launch last December.

Ongoing upgrades include replacing the primary cockpit displays, the Adaptable Communications Suite (ACS) to provide Link 16-based jam-resistant in-flight retasking, advanced IFF, crash-survivable data recorders, and weapons integration. USAF is also working to enhance the fleet’s maintainability with LO signature improvements to coatings, materials, and radar-absorptive structures such as the radome and engine inlets/exhausts.

Two B-2s were damaged in separate landing accidents at Whiteman on Sept. 14, 2021, and Dec. 10, 2022, the latter prompting an indefinite fleetwide stand-down until May 18, 2023. USAF plans to retire the fleet once the B-21 Raider enters service in sufficient numbers around 2032.

Contractors: Northrop Grumman; Boeing; Vought.
First Flight: July 17, 1989.
Delivered: December 1993-December 1997.
IOC: April 1997, Whiteman AFB, Mo.
Production: 21.
Inventory: 20.
Operator: AFGSC, AFMC, ANG (associate).
Aircraft Location: Edwards AFB, Calif.; Whiteman AFB, Mo.
Active Variant: •B-2A. Production aircraft upgraded to Block 30 standards.
Dimensions: Span 172 ft, length 69 ft, height 17 ft.
Weight: Max T-O 336,500 lb.
Power Plant: Four GE Aviation F118-GE-100 turbofans, each 17,300 lb thrust.
Performance: Speed high subsonic, range 6,900 miles (further with air refueling).
Ceiling: 50,000 ft.
Armament: Nuclear: 16 B61-7, B61-12, B83, or eight B61-11 bombs (on rotary launchers). Conventional: 80 Mk 62 (500-lb) sea mines, 80 Mk 82 (500-lb) bombs, 80 GBU-38 JDAMs, or 34 CBU-87/89 munitions (on rack assemblies); or 16 GBU-31 JDAMs, 16 Mk 84 (2,000-lb) bombs, 16 AGM-154 JSOWs, 16 AGM-158 JASSMs, or eight GBU-28 LGBs.
Accommodation: Two pilots on ACES II zero/zero ejection seats.

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