The refueling, and over 10,000 nautical miles

The B-2 Stealth Bomber was one of the first stealth aircraft made in 1988 by Northrop Grumman.  Northrop Grumman is still the main contractor and repair company.  The bomber was first shown on November 22, 1988 at Air Force Plant 42 near Palmdale, California.  The development of the plane had been in process for almost ten years before the it was revealed.  The B-2 was shown before a test flight could be done.   However, when the plane did get a test flight in 1989, it was a very successful flight.  The B-2 project was expensive with a $40 billion development cost and each individual plane had a $1 billion price tag.  Because of the forward thinking engineers who designed the B-2, it is an extremely useful plane for the Air Force due to its various capabilities and its ability to be upgraded with the latest technologies in radar and weapons.  The B-2 Bomber is seventeen feet tall, sixty-nine feet long, and has a wingspan of 172 feet.  It has four General Electric F118-GE-100 turbofan engines, which allow it to fly a 40,000 pound payload at an altitude of 50,000 feet.  The top speed of the B-2 is 331 miles per second, a high subsonic speed.  Even though it can reach that speed, it is able to go 6,000 nautical miles without refueling, and over 10,000 nautical miles with one refueling, which is about 8,696 land miles.  It is normally flown with two crew members.  The pilot is on the left, and on the right is a commander or instructor.  Also, there would be one other crew member if there was a specific assignment for a mission. The B-2 is extremely useful for recon due to its ability to evade infrared sensors, sound detectors, and the human eye.  It is also the only plane in the United States that can provide long range attack with a large payload in addition to its stealth capabilities.  At first, the project called for 132of these planes to be built, but the Air Force reduced that number to twenty-one.  The planes were delivered to Whiteman Air Force Base starting in December of 1993.  Before the development of a transportable hangar, the aircraft had to be returned to the base after missions.  The transportable hangars are 126 feet long, 250 feet wide, and fifty-five feet tall.  The first of these was put on Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean. The first real deployment of the B-2 Stealth Bomber was in 2003 to assist in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The next deployment was a squadron in 2005 to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to support the Air Force Pacific Command.  Other uses of this stealth aircraft included Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya.  There has only been one crash in the B-2’s time of operation, now exceeding twenty years.  The Spirit of Kansas crashed in February of 2008 in takeoff from Andersen Air Force Base.  The current count of B-2 Bombers is twenty with nineteen stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, and one stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  The latter is primarily used for testing, training, and upgrades. Northrop Grumman is in charge of an industrial team to modernize the already advanced plane.  In the rapidly advancing world of technology, the B-2 must also adapt so that it remains the intimidating force it has been for the last twenty years.  It currently has a radar-absorbent coating to preserve its stealth capabilities, as well as reducing its maintenance time.  The material is called alternate high-frequency material, or AHFM.  It is sprayed onto the planes by four separately manned robots.  So that it can remain undetected for longer periods of time, the B-2 is equipped with a Lockheed Martin radar warning receiver.  It also has a defensive aids system from Northrop Grumman and an AN/APR-50 defensive management system.  The radar itself  has been upgraded many times since the 1980s.  It is currently equipped with a Raytheon AN/APQ-181 covert strike radar, which was installed in 2012.  The original aircraft was designed so that it could be modernized with the quickly developing radar technology. As far as on board weapons, the plane is definitely not lacking.  All weapons are carried on the inside in two distinct bays in the middle of the plane.  The bays consist of two bomb racks and one rotary launcher each.  It has a capacity of 40,000 pounds which allows for things like precision-guided munitions, gravity bombs, conventional and even nuclear weapons.  The B-2 can launch B-61 and B-83 nuclear bombs, and mk84 conventional bombs.  In the future, Northrop Grumman will convert the bomb racks to hold up to a maximum of eighty joint direct attack munitions missiles.  It will also be upgraded to allow for targeting moving objects and the use of precision-guided weapons. The B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber has been used almost three decades.  It was built and is maintained by Northrop Grumman.  Even though the B-2 was an expensive development, it has proven to be a valuable asset for the Air Force.  Because of its ability to fly at 50,000 feet, deliver a payload of 40,000 pounds, and evade radar systems, it has been used in several crucial overseas military operations since 2003.  The decades-old B-2 Stealth Bomber will continue to be used due to its openly upgradable design. ?


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