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Manufacturer: Boeing Country of Origin: USA

Model:B2 Stealth Bomber


As part of the U.S. Air Force B-2 industry team, Boeing built primary structural components, namely the outboard wing and aft-center sections of the bomber's fuselage, using the latest in advanced composite technology.

The B-2 stealth bomber combines revolutionary aerospace technologies and unprecedented design, development and manufacturing systems and processes into the world's most advanced aircraft. The B-2, with its unique flying wing configuration, was designed as a highly versatile multi-role bomber, capable of delivering both nuclear and conventional munitions.

In the conventional role, the B-2 will operate with far less support aircraft than other bombers require. That means fewer pilots and aircraft put in harm's way. Its long range will enable it to strike targets all over the world from bases in the United States. With its large payload, it will be able to attack eight times as many targets on each mission as the stealthy F-117 strike fighter. With the proliferation of modern radar-guided air defenses throughout the world, non-stealthy aircraft will face increasing difficulty accomplishing their missions. The B-2's low-observable characteristics will enable it to defeat those defenses, attack the full spectrum of enemy targets and return to base safely.

Developing and Building the B-2
The B-2 design had to meet a number of potentially conflicting requirements. Aerodynamic and structural challenges of the long-range, large-payload bomber had to be overcome while at the same time minimizing all low-observable characteristics of the aircraft. Ease of maintenance and deployability also are important. In addition, the aircraft must be able to communicate, detect targets, navigate and perform other functions without revealing its location.

Stealth and performance requirements made it necessary to build the B-2 with an unprecedented amount of composite materials, with elements fabricated to exceptional quality standards, and assembled and finished to extraordinary tolerances. In a sharp break from past practices, B-2 engineers designed and fabricated final production tooling directly from data in the three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) system, bypassing the use of "development" tooling.

The 509th Bomb Wing
All 21 B-2s will be assigned to the U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., about 70 miles southeast of Kansas City. The aircraft will be assigned to the wing's two squadrons. Each squadron plans to operate eight combat-ready B-2s. As of June 1996, 11 operational B-2s had been delivered to the Air Force and are flying out of Whiteman Air Force Base.

Boeing Participation in the B-2 Program
As part of the Air Force B-2 industry team led by Northrop Grumman, Boeing built primary structural components, namely the outboard and aft-center sections of the bomber's fuselage, using the latest in advanced composites technology. Boeing also supplies the bomber's fuel systems, weapons-delivery system and landing gear.

Both the 50-foot-long aft-center sections and the 65-foot-long outboard sections were assembled at Boeing facilities in Seattle. The aft-center section contains the bomber's weapons bay. The outboard sections, the largest structural aircraft parts ever made from composites, contain integral fuel tanks.

When completed, the sections were flown on Air Force C-5 transports to the Palmdale, Calif., final assembly plant. There they are mated with other major sections of the B-2 that have been built by Northrop Grumman and Vought. Boeing completed production of the last air-vehicle structural components in mid-1994 and will complete the final weapons delivery systems in mid-1997.

Boeing is actively providing post-delivery support to flight test operations at Edwards Air Force Base and to the operational flight activity at Whiteman.

Program employment at Boeing reached a peak of 10,000 people in January 1990. Current employment is about 1,000.

Primary Mission
The B-2's primary mission is to enable any theater commander to hold at risk and, if necessary, attack an enemy's war-making potential, especially those time-critical targets which, if not destroyed in the first hours or days of a conflict, would allow unacceptable damage to be inflicted on the friendly side.

Significant Milestones
The first B-2 rolled out of the bomber's final assembly facility in Palmdale, Calif., in November 1988.

It flew for the first time on July 17, 1989. As of June 1996, three of six full-scale development aircraft continue to fly as part of the flight-test program at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Two of the original development aircraft are undergoing modifications before delivery to the Air Force. President Bill Clinton has directed the first developmental B-2, which had been in flyable storage, to be upgraded to an operational configuration. This announcement increased the number of funded bombers in the B-2 fleet to 21.

On May 6, 1992, Northrop Grumman, the nationwide B-2 industrial team, and the Air Force were awarded the 1991 Collier Trophy "for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America demonstrated in actual use in 1991." The Collier Trophy is awarded annually by the National Aeronautic Association and is widely considered to be the most prestigious aviation award in the United States.

The first B-2 entered the Air Force's operational fleet at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., on Dec. 17, 1993.

On Oct. 29, 1994 the Air Force's fourth operational B-2 is named "Spirit of Washington" in Seattle, to honor the people of the state who helped make the B-2 a reality.

As of June 1996, six flight-test vehicles had logged more than 3,800 hours in more than 750 flights; approximately 60 percent of the flight test hours have been completed.


Powerplant: Four General Electric F118-GE-100 engines
Speed: The B-2's speed range is high subsonic
Armament: The B-2 can deliver a variety of nuclear and conventional weapons, including gravity bombs and maritime weapons.
Crew: The B-2 carries two crew people — a pilot and a mission commander.

© 1999