The B-2A, sometimes called the "Stealth Bomber," was designed using sophisticated low-observable technologies that give the aircraft a very low radar cross section (very small "blip" on the radar screen). The B-2A is capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear weapons against heavily defended targets.
The first B-2A was officially rolled out of the Northrop assembly facility in Palmdale, Calif., on Nov. 22, 1988. The first flight was eight months later on July 17, 1989.
The USAF originally planned to purchase 165 B-2As; however, the changing world situation and budget constraints reduced the number bought to just 21. Two additional non-flying airframes were created for testing and evaluation. The B-2A became operational in the mid-1990s with the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
The B-2A is designed for multiple missions including deep strike penetration missions against heavily defended targets. The aircraft combines several active and passive low-observable systems to maximize its stealthiness. The stealth capabilities are augmented by the aircraft's long range (6,000+ nautical miles unrefueled), large payload (40,000 lbs.) and near precision weapons delivery. These characteristics combine to make the B-2A one of the USAF's most capable and versatile weapon systems.
The B-2A is constructed primarily of composite materials (approximately 80 percent) with some internal load bearing structures made of aluminum or titanium. The shape of the aircraft contributes to its stealth and a special radar-absorbant paint further reduces its radar image. The heat of the engine is masked by an exhaust channel that "hides" it from the below the aircraft and disperses it behind the aircraft. These passive stealth systems, combined with the sophisticated avionics, give the B-2A extremely small radar and infrared (heat) signatures. The aircraft also incorporates electronic counter measures avionics systems to hide from or confuse enemy defenses.
The cockpit suite incorporates three video display screens for each of the two crewmembers. Most flight performance data is displayed on one of these terminals -- each terminal has multifunction and multi-screen display capability to give the crew the required flight information without overloading them with unnecessary data. The aircraft has conventional ejection seats.
The aircraft is a flying wing with no fuselage or empennage sections. The crew compartment, bomb bay, engine bays and landing gear bays are incorporated into the center wing section. The B-2A is controlled by surfaces located along the trailing edge of the wing. The outboard wing trailing edge has split (drag) rudders which provide yaw control. Three sets of elevons (outboard, mid, inboard) provide pitch and roll control.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: 40,000 lbs. of conventional or nuclear weapons Engines: Four General Electric F118-GE-100 (non-afterburning) turbofans 17,300 lbs. thrust each Maximum speed: high subsonic Range: Approx. 6,500 nautical miles without refueling Service ceiling: Approx. 50,000 ft. Span: 172 ft. Length: 69 ft. Height: 17 ft. Weight: 336,500 lbs. take off weight Crew: Two (aircraft commander, pilot) Serial numbers: 82-1066 to 82-1071; 88-328 to 88-332; 89-127 to 89-129; 90-040 & 90-041; 92-700; 93-1085 to 93-1088