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.
Ongoing research and development aims to significantly modernize the B-2A to maintain its penetrating strike capability against advanced air defenses and improve fleet availability. Modernization includes avionics and comms, engines, stealth features, and advanced weapons. Adaptable Communications Suite (ACS) will provide time-sensitive mission updates and Link 16-based, jam-resistant, in-flight retasking, while FAB-T will add wideband nuclear C2, and airspace-compliant CNS/ATM.
The Defensive Management System upgrade was downsized cutting EW sensors to detect ground threats due to delays. DMS-M improves survivability in signal-dense, anti-access/area denial (A2/D2) environments, aids situational awareness, and enables real-time threat avoidance. RATS will add radar-aided nuclear precision guidance for GPS-denied strike.
Additional efforts include low-observable signature improvements to coatings, materials, and radar-absorptive structures such as the radome and engine inlets/exhausts. Flex Strike will feed GPS data to the bays pre-release to thwart jamming (required for B61-12) and a notional Phase 2 could allow simultaneous nuclear and conventional loadout. Other weapons efforts increase loadout, improve hardened/buried target strike, as well as testing and integrating B61-12 guided nuclear bomb, JASSM-ER, GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator, and eventually GBU-53 SDB II.
A total of 12 aircraft are considered deployed in the nuclear deterrent role under the New START agreement. The B-2 is slated for replacement by the B-21 Raider by 2032.
Contractors: Northrop Grumman; Boeing; Vought.
First Flight: July 17, 1989.
Delivered: December 1993-December 1997.
IOC: April 1997, Whiteman AFB, Mo.
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.