B2 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 defences and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended, targets. Its capability to penetrate air defences and threaten effective retaliation provide an effective deterrent and combat force well into the 21st century.

By eliminating the standard fuselage and wing structure from the B-2, the entire plane becomes a lifting body. The aircraft is controlled by structures called elevons.

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 unrefuelled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometres).

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 engines of the B-2 Spirit are embedded in the wings, with intakes and exhausts both on the top surface

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 refuelling. 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. The B-2 Combined Test Force, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is responsible for flight testing the engineering, manufacturing and development aircraft as they are produced. Three of the six developmental aircraft delivered at Edwards are continuing flight testing.

Whiteman AFB, Mo., is the B-2's only operational base. The first aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered Dec. 17, 1993. Depot maintenance responsibility for the B-2 is performed by Air Force contractor support and is managed at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Centre at Tinker AFB, Okla.

The prime contractor, responsible for overall system design and integration, is Northrop Grumman's Military Aircraft Systems Division. Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group and General Electric Aircraft Engine Group are key members of the aircraft contractor team. Another major contractor, responsible for aircrew training devices (weapon system trainer and mission trainer) is Hughes Training Inc. (HTI) - Link Division, formerly known as C.A.E. - Link Flight Simulation Corp. Northrop Grumman and its major subcontractor HTI, are responsible for developing and integrating all aircrew and maintenance training programs.

The Air Force is accepting delivery of production B-2s in three configuration blocks--blocks 10, 20, and 30. Initial delivery will be 6 test aircraft, 10 aircraft in the block 10 configuration, 3 in the block 20 configuration, and 2 in the block 30 configuration.

Block 10 configured aircraft provide limited combat capability with no capability to launch conventional guided weapons. The Block 10 model carries only Mk-84 2,000-pound conventional bombs or gravity nuclear weapons. B-2s in this configuration are located at Whiteman Air Force Base and are used primarily for training.

Block 20 configured aircraft have an interim capability to launch nuclear and conventional munitions, including the GAM guided munition. The Block 20 has been tested with the Mk-84, 2,000-pound, general-purpose bombs and the CBU-87/B Combined Effects Munition cluster bombs (low-altitude, full-bay release).

Block 30 configured aircraft are fully capable and meet 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 Air Force on 07 August 1997. Compared to the Block 20, 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.

All block 10, 20, and test aircraft are to eventually be modified to the objective block 30 configuration. This modification process began in July 1995 and is scheduled to be completed in June 2000.

The B-2 fleet will have 16 combat-coded aircraft by the second quarter of FY00.

The B-2 Spirit has a crew of two, a pilot in the left seat and a mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B crew of four and the B-52 crew of five.

Link-16 Providing Line-of-Sight (LOS) data for aircraft-to-aircraft, aircraft-to-C2, and aircraft-to-sensor connectivity, Link-16 is a combat force multiplier that provides U.S. and other allied military services with fully interoperable capabilities and greatly enhances tactical Command, Control, Communication, and Intelligence mission effectiveness. Link-16 provides increased survivability, develops a real-time picture of the theatre battlespace, and enables the aircraft to quickly share information on short notice (target changes).

Connectivity DoD requires survivable communications media for command and control of nuclear forces. To satisfy the requirement, the Air Force plans to deploy an advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) satellite communications constellation. This constellation will provide a survivable, high capability communication system. Based on favourable results from a funded risk reduction study, the B-2 will integrate an EHF communication capability satisfying connectivity requirements.

Digital Engine Controller - The current analogue engine controllers are high failure items, and without funding, ACC will be forced to ground aircraft beginning approximately FY08. Replacement of the engine controllers will improve the B-2s performance and increase supportability, reliability, and maintainability. Computers/Processors - With advances in computer technology and increased demands on the system, the B-2s computers will need to be replaced with state-of-the-art processors. Although reliable, maintaining the present processors will become increasingly difficult and costly.

Signature Improvements - The B-2s signature meets operational requirements against todays threats. As advanced threats proliferate, it will be prudent to investigate advanced signature reduction concepts and determine if it is necessary to improve the B-2s low observable signature. CANDIDATE LONG TERM UPGRADES BEYOND FY 15 TOTAL The basis for the useful life of the B-2 includes data from initial Developmental Test and Evaluation analysis. Data indicates the aircraft should be structurally sound to approximately 40,000 flight hours using current mission profiles. Analysis further suggests that the rudder attachment points are the first structural failure item. The B-2 has not implemented an ASIP similar to the other bombers, and this makes it difficult to predict the economic service life and attrition rate. However, a notional projection, based on the B-52, predicts one aircraft will be lost each 10 years. This attrition rate, plus attrition due to service life, will erode the B-2 force below its requirement of 19 aircraft by 2027.

Tactical delivery tactics use patterns and techniques that minimize final flight path predictability, yet allows sufficient time for accurate weapons delivery. For conventional munitions. Bomb Rack Assembly (BRA) weapons delivery accuracies depend on delivery altitude. For a weapons pass made at 5,000 ft above ground level [AGL] or below, the hit criteria is less than or equal to 300 feet. For a weapons pass made above 5,000 feet AGL, the hit criteria is less than or equal to 500 feet. Similarly, Rotary Launcher Assembly (RLA) delivery of conventional or nuclear weapons (i.e. Mk-84, B-83, B-61) is altitude dependent. For a weapons pass made at 5,000 feet AGL or below, the hit criteria is less than or equal to 300 feet. For a weapons pass made above 5,000 ft AGL, the hit criteria is less than or equal to 500 feet. The hit criteria for a weapons pass made with GAM/ JDAM munitions is less than or equal to 50 feet.