B-2 Spirit - Stealth Bomber

Product Type:

Intercontinental Stealth Bomber

Using Service (US):

Air Force (USAF)

Program Status:

Upgrades, modifications and sustainment.

Prime Contractor:

Northrop Grumman Corporation

Specifications Armament DoD Spending FY2016 Budget

The B-2A Spirit

About the B-2 Spirit:

The Northrop Grumman B–2A Spirit is an intercontinental bomber that employs low-observable technology, so-called "stealth", to achieve its mission. Since 1989, B-2 aircraft have flown more than 14,000 sorties and accumulated more than 75,000 flight operating hours. The B–2 Spirit is powered by four General Electric F118-GE-100 turbofan engines, each providing 17,300 pounds of thrust. The B-2 has a crew of just two pilots, a pilot in the left seat and a mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B Lancer's crew of four and the B-52H Stratofortress' crew of five.

A dramatic leap forward in technology, the B–2 is an all-wing aircraft with no fuselage and no vertical tail. The design eliminates much of the surface area that would cause drag on a conventional aircraft. At the same time, it eliminates many of the surfaces and edges from which radar energy would normally reflect. Its stealthy features are also derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual, and radar signatures. The dramatically reduced sum of these signatures makes it difficult for even the most sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track, and engage the B–2. From its twin weapon bays, the B–2 Spirit is capable of delivering massive firepower in a short time, anywhere in the world and through high-threat defenses using both conventional and nuclear munitions.

The B-2 is equipped with the Raytheon AN/APQ-181 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar (upgraded version of the original radar), a low probability of intercept, all-weather radar system, which enables the aircraft to penetrate even the most sophisticated air defenses.

Boeing has supplied the primary structural components of the aircraft, including the outboard wing and aft-center sections, the fuel systems, weapons delivery system, and the landing gear. Vought Aircraft, now part of Triumph Group, designed and produced the intermediate wing section.

The U.S. Air Force B-2 inventory consists of a total of 20 aircraft, 19 of which are based at Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) in Missouri, the home of the 509th Bomb Wing. One aircraft is assigned to flight-testing at Edwards AFB in California to validate software and weapon systems upgrades. One aircraft, the Spirit of Kansas, was lost in 2008 in a crash that occurred during take-off from Andersen AFB in Guam.

As part of an Air Force contract for maintenance support, B-2 aircraft are periodically sent to Northrop Grumman's Palmdale California facility for depot-level maintenance. On June 3, 2014, Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation was awarded a contract for B-2 modernization and sustainment with a a ceiling of $9.9 billion. The contract requires Northrop Grumman to provide B-2 enhancements, sustainment logistics elements including sustaining engineering, software maintenance and support equipment. Also included is programmed depot maintenance of the fleet and other interim contractor support. The work is to be completed by May 2019.

Currently, the DoD is funding the Extremely High Frequency (EHF) Satellite Communications (SATCOM) upgrade of the B-2, which will allow aircraft to connect to the USAF's highly secure Advanced-EHF (AEHF) satellites. Prior to this upgrade, aircraft are using the aging Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) system.


In September 1980, the Air Force issued a request for proposal for the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB), which was later renamed the B-2 Spirit. Northrop's proposal for a low-observable, long-range bomber was judged to be superior to the competing design proposed by Lockheed and Northrop was awarded the ATB contract in December 1981. The contract included the delivery of two structural-test airframes and six production aircraft, which would be used for the flight test program. The original plan called for the production of a total of 132 aircraft but only 21 were ever produced, mainly due to the end of the Cold War.

In 1988, the B-2 was unveiled to the public and the following year, it flew for the first time. In December 1993, the first operational B-2 named "The Spirit of Missouri" was delivered to Whiteman Air Force Base. In April 1997, the B-2 fleet achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) and made its combat debut during Operation Allied Force (OAF) in 1999 in Kosovo/Serbia. The B-2 saw action again during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001, in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya in 2011.


The B-2 Spirit has two internal weapon bays that can carry up to 30,000 pounds of ordnance each. The B-2 carries a wide range of nuclear and conventional weapons including B61 and B83 nuclear bombs, Mk 82 and Mk 84 General Purpose Bombs, AGM-154 JSOW, AGM-158 JASSM, and GBU-31/38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) as well as several other types of ordnance. The massive GBU-57 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) is currently being integrated on the B-2 for use against hardened, deeply buried targets.

Future weapons that will/may be fielded on the B-2, include the AGM-158B JASSM-ER and GBU-53 SDB-II. For more details, see specifications below.


The primary mission of the B–2 is to enable any theater commander to hold at risk and, if necessary, attack an enemy's warmaking potential, especially time-critical targets that, if not destroyed in the first hours or days of a conflict, would allow unacceptable damage to be inflicted on the friendly side. The B–2 will also retain its potential as a nuclear bomber, reinforcing the deterrence of nuclear conflict.

FY 2015 DoD Program:

The primary modification budgeted in FY 15 is the Extremely High Frequency (EHF) Satellite Communications (SATCOM) and Computers modification. The aging Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Military Satellite Communications system is being phased out and replaced by the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) Satellite Communications (SATCOM) system. The B-2 Extremely High Frequency (EHF) SATCOM program supports the replacement of the present B-2 UHF Terminal Set with an EHF SATCOM system that will be compatible with the legacy MILSTAR I/II satellite constellation and the future AEHF satellite constellation. The B-2 EHF SATCOM system is one element of a system of systems that includes the AEHF satellites, multiple platforms, and the Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Site Terminals (FAB-T) or other equivalent terminals. Also, FY 14 continues development of the B-2 Defensive Management System (DMS).

FY 2016 DoD Program:

The primary modifications budgeted in FY 16 are the Common Very Low Frequency Terminal (Capability Improvement), LOSSM Structures and the B-2 Trainer System Upgrade. Also, FY 16 continues development of the B-2 Defensive Management System (DMS).

For more information, click to see the FY 2016 B-2 Spirit DoD Budget.

Sources Used: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Northrop Grumman Corp.,
and Raytheon Co.

Last Update: May 26, 2015.

By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard Balle /// (jkasper@bga-aeroweb.com)

External Resources:

Northrop Grumman: B-2 Spirit

YouTube: The B-2 Spirit | YouTube Videos

Fact Sheet: B-2 Spirit | Fact Sheet
Data Sheet: B-2 Spirit | Data Sheet

B-2A U.S. Defense Budget Charts:

DoD Spending on the B-2 Spirit in FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014, FY 2015 and FY 2016
DoD Purchases of B-2 Spirit Aircraft in FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014, FY 2015 and FY 2016
B-2 Spirit taking off
Aerial refueling of B-2 bomber
B-2 at Whiteman Air Force Base
B-2 in the sky
Defense Budget Data

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DoD Spending, Procurement and RDT&E: FY 2012/13/14 + Budget for FYs 2015 + 2016

DoD Defense Spending, Procurement, Modifications, Spares, and RDT&E for the B-2 Spirit Defense Program

Download Official U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Data:

Modification of B-2A Aircraft (USAF) Spares and Repair Parts (USAF)
B-2 Squadrons RDT&E (USAF) B-2 DMS RDT&E (USAF)

Aircraft Specifications: B-2A Spirit

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Primary Function: Multi-role heavy bomber
Prime Contractor: Northrop Grumman Corp.
Power Plant: 4x General Electric F118-GE-100 turbofan engines
Thrust: 17,300 pounds (each engine)
Wingspan: 172 ft (52.1 m)
Length: 69 ft (20.9 m)
Height: 17 ft (5.1 m)
Weight (Empty): 160,000 lbs (72,575 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW): 336,500 lbs (152,634 kg)
Payload: 60,000 lbs (27,216 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 167,000 lbs (75,750 kg)
Speed: Cruise: Mach 0.85/487 kts/560 mph (902 km/h); Max: Mach 0.95/550 kts/633 mph (1,019 km/h)
Service Ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,240 m)
Range: 6,000 nm/6,905 miles (11,118 km)
Crew: Two pilots
Price/Unit Cost: Approximately $1.16 billion (FY1998 constant dollars)
First Flight: July 17, 1989 (AV-1 Spirit of America)
Initial Operational Capability (IOC): April 1997
Aircraft Inventory: Active: 19 + 1 for testing (as of September 2014)

Armament/Weapons: Carries conventional or nuclear weapons - 2 internal bays for up to 60,000 pounds (27,216 kg) of ordnance.
Nuclear weapons carried on rotary launcher assemblies (RLA) with one RLA per bay).
Conventional weapons carried on bomb rack assemblies (BRA) (two BRAs per bay).
Nuclear Weapons: Up to 16x B61-7; or 16x B83; or 8x B61-11 bombs.
Conventional Weapons: Up to 80x Mk 82 500-pound General Purpose Bombs; or 16x Mk 84 2,000-pound General Purpose Bombs;
or 34x CBU-87 1,000-pound Combined Effects Munition; or 34x CBU-89 GATOR Mine System;
or 34x CBU-97 1,000-pound Sensor Fuzed Weapon; or 34x CBU-103/104/105 Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers (WCMD);
or 80x GBU-38 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM); or 16x GBU-31 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM);
or 80x Mk 62 500-pound Quickstrike naval mines; or 8x GBU-28 5,000-pound Bunker Buster Bombs;
or 16x AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW); or 16x AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM).

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