History Of The Stealth Bomber

Learn about the development of the b-2 bomber, the history of the program, and specifications of the plane.

The B-2 "Stealth' bomber program was, at the time it was launched, a unique event in the history of aircraft building in the United States. It was a "╦ťblack program' shrouded in secrecy. The main reason for the stealth classification of the program was to keep technological developments away from the Soviet Union. Even more uniquely the United States Air Force succeeded in keeping the plane secret through all the stages of its development.

At the time the B-2 was conceived in the late 1970's an assessment of the country's military might had revealed the one thing missing from the American military arsenal was an updated long range bomber to replace the B-52. With the forward strides made in Soviet radar technology it was imperative that whatever the United States developed it would have to incorporate new cloaking technology to avoid radar and ensure the possibility of a nuclear first strike. The B-52 was too ponderous and antiquated to achieve this feat.

The basic feat of the stealth technology developed during B-2 research was to use radar absorbent black matte body covering , structural design and other technologies to reduce the radar signature from the 172 wingspan of the plane to a few meters. To radar systems the incoming plane would look like something innocuous, like a swarm of bees, instead of a billion dollar bomber.

The primary contractor assigned to build the B-2 was the Northrop Grumman Corporation. Secondary contracts were assigned to Boeing, General Electric Aircraft Engine Corporation and Hughes Training link division.

The first B-2 was completed in a Palmdale, Ca. assembly facility in November, 1988. it was rolled out for public display on November 22nd, 1988. The first lift off of the B-2 bomber took place on July 17th, 1989. The plane was deployed for fulltime Air Force use on December of 1993.

The plane at the time had many cutting edge capabilities. In addition to its radar avoiding specifications, the plane had a flight ceiling of 50,000 feet. Its crew of two could deliver a payload intercontinentally(approximately 6000 miles) without refueling, and if refueling was needed this could be done in mid-air. The plane is capable of carrying conventional or nuclear weapons. The B-2 carries four General Electric F-118-GE-100-engines. The plan handles well, many pilots say it is more like piloting a fighter than a bulky bomber.

The B-2 has been one of the most controversial weapons in America's arsenal ever since its inception. The secrecy which it was built caused public outcry in the post Watergate, post Vietnam atmosphere it was originally built in. At a cost of approximately 1.3 billion dollars per plane it was also conceived to be woefully over priced by many Americans. And the fact that only 21 of the planes have ever been commissioned for action attest to the fact that the price will prevent the plane from ever being mass produced. The plane however has lived up to its potential in the air, operating flawlessly in the military theatres of Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia.

While the steep financial cost of the B-2 may doom it in the long run, the technological advancements made during the development of the plane will no doubt continue to serve the United States well. A more thrifty example of stealth technology can already be seen in the mass produced(at the relative bargain of 40 million dollars per plane), technologically unsurpassed F-117. The B-2 will continue to serve as a valuable stepping stone to future technologies as well as an example of American ingenuity.

© High Speed Ventures 2011