The B-2 Spirit

Built by Northrop Grumman, the B-2 Spirit is an all altitude attack stealth bomber, capable of flying missions from 50,000 feet, with a range of more than 6,000 miles. Using technology from the earlier and most successful SR-71 super sonic reconnaissance “Black Bird of the Skies”, the B-2 emerged. Developed in top secrecy in the 1980s, stealth technology took aircraft design to a new level of sophistication.  The top secret B-2 was made public on November 22, 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, Calif.

Watch as this bird of beauty takes over the skies at the McChord Air Show

In partner with its sister, the B-17 Nighthawk stealth fighter, these two sophisticated flying machines were partially responsible for the downfall of Communism. When development of these top secret projects were revealed to the public, it raised fear in the Soviet Union, as Mikhail Gorbachev felt there was no way for the Soviet military to be able to catch up to this type of technology. This, in conjunction with the failing Soviet economy, Gorbachev was preparing for a democratic republic; hence, in 1961, under then President Ronald Regan, the Berlin Wall fell and along with it Soviet Communism.

Though the B-2 was originally designed primarily as a nuclear bomber, but it was first used in combat, dropping conventional bombs during the Kosovo War and later in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is designated as ‘stealth’ due to its black covering, its dynamic shape and technology to reduce radar signatures, or more precisely, the Radar cross-section (RCS). RCS represents the measure of how detectable radar equipment can sense an object. The aircraft is designed to penetrate anti-aircraft defenses and is able to deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons.

The B-2 maintains a crew of two people and can drop up to eighty 500 lb class JDAM Global Positioning System guided bombs or sixteen 2,400 lb  B83 nuclear bombs. The B-2 is the only aircraft that can carry such large loads under the stealth designation.
There is talk of new stealth aircraft on the way. It only remains to be seen what new stealth technology is coming our way!

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