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B-2 Spirit (bomber)

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B-2 Spirit bombers are extremely stealthy heavy bombers, which have intercontinental range with air refueling. They are certified to carry nuclear weapons, and also large numbers of conventional bombs, usually precision-guided munitions.

The B-2 is the second generation of operational stealth aircraft. Its surfaces are much more curved than those of the F-117 Nighthawk, as at the time the F-117 was designed, not enough computer power was available to model the complex interactions of radar with curved surfaces.

The United States operates one wing of B-2 aircraft from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, which is subordinate to the Eighth Air Force. They are occasionally forward-deployed to Guam or Diego Garcia.

General characteristics

  • Primary function: Multi-role heavy bomber
  • Contractor: Northrop Grumman and Contractor Team: Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc.
  • Power Plant: Four General Electric F118-GE-100 engines
  • Thrust: 17,300 pounds each engine
  • Wingspan: 172 feet (52.12 meters)
  • Length: 69 feet (20.9 meters)
  • Height: 17 feet (5.1 meters
  • Weight: 160,000 pounds (72,575 kilograms)
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 336,500 pounds (152,634 kilograms)
  • Fuel Capacity: 167,000 pounds (75750 kilograms)
  • Payload: 40,000 pounds (18,144 kilograms)
  • Speed: High subsonic
  • Range: Intercontinental
  • Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
  • Armament: Conventional or nuclear weapons
  • Crew: Two pilots
  • Unit cost: Approximately $1.157 billion (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
  • Initial operating capability: April 1997
  • Inventory: Active force: 20 (1 test); ANG: 0; Reserve: 0