Although the Price is Very Expensive, US B-2 Spirit Bomber Turns Out To Have Incredibly Great Specs
The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit is an American heavy strategic stealth bomber, designed to penetrate enemy heavy anti-aircraft defenses. The B-2 was designed during the Cold wᴀʀ. The bomber is operated by a crew of 2.
The bomber flies at subsonic speeds, and has the capability to deliver conventional and thermonuclear weᴀponѕ. Although the B-2 is a very capable and highly sophisticated bomber.
But it is very expensive, the total cost of procuring the B-2 is an average of $929 million per aircraft, which includes spare parts, equipment, retrofitting and software support. The total cost of the project, including development, engineering and testing, averaged $2.13 billion per aircraft in 1997. The USAF actually wanted a large fleet of B-2s but the exorbitant costs limited the total number of aircraft to just 21.
So why is the B-2 so expensive?
U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit Flying Wing Stealth Bombers
A warplane costs 2.13 billion US dollars? But why? The price of a Nimitz-class carrier is $4 billion, and two B-2 bombers are more expensive than a Nimitz-class carrier for $800 million. When converted to gold, the B-2 bomber is three times more expensive than gold of the same weight.
For two reasons, firstly high-tech stuff is integrated in this aircraft, which results in high R&D costs. Many aircraft technologies are very innovative.
Second, after the finished B-2 bombers came out, the US military withdrew, and the original order of more than 100 bombers went unused, and 21 of them left. That’s good, research and development costs can’t be wasted, so it can only be spread over these 21 aircraft. Wouldn’t the final price be too high?
Moreover, in order to maintain the necessary advantage over the B-2 bomber, the United States had no intention of exporting it. It can only be purchased by the US military itself. The scope of sales is narrow. Simply put, it’s a one-time deal. So the high price is unavoidable.
In contrast to the F-35, although research and development costs exceed $200 billion, the US military has planned to equip 2,456 F-35 aircraft. Therefore, although the F-35 is also a high-tech integrated aircraft, its price has been compressed to 135 million US dollars.
If the F-35 could only follow the B-2’s way, only 21 could be built, and it would cost several times more than the B-2. In the 1970s, the United States and the Soviet Union were still in the Cold wᴀʀ, and the Soviet Union began developing various anti-aircraft missiles. The goal is to build an excellent air defense system to defend the homeland from enemy attacks.
In this context, the United States was a little unwilling, and a little anxious to see the Soviet Union build up layers of defence. So at that time, the US Air Force came up with the idea to build an aircraft with extraordinary penetrating capabilities, evading radar, and going deep into enemy territory to drop bombs.
U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit Flying Wing Stealth Bombers
Later, under the promotion of the US Air Force, a project called the “Saber Penetrator” project was established, and stealth technology was also introduced into this project. The reason why the United States introduced stealth technology into this project is entirely because the F-117 stealth fighter had previously stimulated America.
And the managers of this project, a total of three companies, one Lockheed, one Boeing, and finally Northrop. This plan began to be determined in 1975, and it took five years to arrive, and it was not until 1980 that the plan was announced. One hundred and thirty-two of these stealth bombers are expected to be produced by then.
In fact, there should have been two types of bombers being developed by the US military at the time, using a competitive model to see who was the ultimate winner.
In the end, the B-2 stood out. In 1981, the US military signed a preliminary contract and prepared to order six test aircraft and two static test aircraft. This large order of 127 B-2s is planned to be delivered to the US military at a rate of ten per year in the next period.
From here, the B-2 embarked on a road of research and development. On July 17, 1989, the prototype began its flight tests and began to be delivered in 1991. Soon, at this point, the Soviet Union was doomed. The US military is considered the dominant power, and feels no rival. Therefore, the large order of more than 100 B-2s was cut down by the US military and became an order of twenty-one.
In fact, at that time, not only were the B-2s cut, but during this period, a lot of US military equipment, including redeveloped equipment, was scrapped or scaled back. It is said that on March 24, 1999, two B-2 bombers took off from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, United States.
What will these two B-2 bombers do?
Very simply, their mission was to fly over 1,000 kilometers, target Yugoslavia, and finally drop a US military satellite-guided bomb on this spot, and then return to the United States again.
The mission lasted fifteen hours, and the B-2 didn’t carry enough fuel, so two more aerial refuelings were needed on the way. Of course the above will only make the pilot feel tired.
The most difficult thing in the eyes of the layman was that the B-2 needed to test the B-2’s stealth ability to break through the various anti-aircraft missiles placed on the ground by the Serbian army at the time. As a result, the mission was completed very easily, and the anti-aircraft missiles of the Serbian army had no effect at all.
During the entire Kosovo wᴀʀ, the US military also dispatched six B-2 bombers, and the number of sorties delivered was modest, only forty-five. You should know that in battlefield warfare, the West, led by the US military, sends out as many sorties as possible. More than 30,000 sorties.
This comparison figure didn’t seem unusual, but compared to the effects of the wᴀʀ behind it, it was truly extraordinary. The number of surprise attacks sent by the B-2 was less than 1% of all sorties, but more than 500 weᴀponѕ were dropped, accounting for 1/10 of the total bombs dropped, and the various military targets destroyed accounted for 3/10 of all targets .
At that time, in order to keep all B-2 secrets a secret, the Americans did not hesitate to let all B-2 attacks take off from the mainland, and would not stop at their bases overseas at all. One more piece of data to find out how much the US military has increased the secrecy of the B-2.
It said that all relevant B-2 research and development sites, production sites, personnel, classified materials and other places had invested as much as 20 billion dollars in secrecy costs, a record that did not exist before.
Advantages of B-2 Spirit Bomber
It is said that the biggest advantage of the B-2 is actually stealth. These types of stealth include form stealth, material stealth, structural stealth and machine stealth. In fact, what is often mentioned by many people is the form of stealth and stealth material.
What are these two types of stealth?
Simply put, through the special shape of the body and the special materials used to make the outer shell of the aircraft, as much of the radar waves as possible are absorbed, or the radar waves are deflected, thereby reducing the reflected waves from the aircraft itself.
In the end, the opponent’s radar can only see weak or even non-existent reflections when searching. Therefore, the shape of the B-2 is very special, very smooth without too many nooks and crannies, and looks like a big bat.
Not to mention the main beam and engine compartment of the B-2 fuselage structure is also very special. Titanium alloys are used. Except for this part, other parts are made of carbon brazed or graphite composite materials.
Why brazing graphite and carbon?
These materials are not only lightweight, but also strong. There are many small holes in the body. Once the radar waves are shot, they will be absorbed.
According to the general manufacturing process of the aircraft, various attachment points will be connected by rivets, but the B-2 will not. To reduce reflections, these parts need to be joined and they are all made of high pressure die-casting.
In some cases, the color of the B-2 is black. In fact, right now, all stealth planes are getting darker and darker. This color characteristic helps absorb radar waves.
Of course, the coating used by the B-2 must be a special invisible material, which can’t only be seen in black. Many people will notice that the tail of the B-2 is zigzag, and this shape is also very beautiful, which can achieve the effect of radar scattering.
There’s also the 33-degree swept-back wing that a lot of people talk about. This structure can make it difficult to reflect or refract radar waves emitted from the front or the top and bottom sides of the front.
Then the rear side had to be handled, and the front side had to follow, so that the B-2 wing’s front end was designed with an irregular honeycomb cavity design. This kind of honeycomb cavity design will make radar waves come and go, and if you get in, you can’t get out.
First of all, there are still many problems in stealth. Air intakes, like the large nostrils of humans, are not easily defended from the radar. So the Americans just set the intake port of the B-2 to an S-shape. This form has the advantage that the incoming radar wave can be refracted many times in this S form, so that the wave is a kind of energy. Refraction will cause a large amount of energy loss. After a few more times of refraction, the radar waves would not be able to get out, and would be completely lost inside.
In addition, the cockpit of the B-2 is arc-shaped. This shape has no edges and corners, so radar waves are beamed over it, and are difficult to reflect back. Most of the radar waves will glide along the outer edge of the cockpit.
Of course, radar waves are also pervasive. To prevent radar waves from being reflected in the cockpit along the cockpit glass, America mixed a number of glasses into the cockpit glass. Metal powder, radar waves can’t get through the glass.
The whole B-2 looks very smooth. There are protrusions, which are two square objects in front of the wings. It cannot be seen unless you look carefully. What are these two things used for? Actually, they are B-2 antennas.
The final feature of structural stealth is that the second half of the B-2 appears to be two sets of Ws together, which is also very special.
The principle is the same as the S shape on the air intake. After the radar wave enters here, it is reflected back and forth in the second half of the two W shapes, thus achieving the goal of allowing the radar wave to enter without returning.
The engine is the core of the plane, and it’s also something that’s not easy to hide. After all, the engine caught fire and the heat rose. So this needs to reduce engine heat, so how does the B-2 do it?
It uses something called an airflow mixer to guide cold air into the combustion chambers and engine pulleys. Once cold air enters, it can exchange heat with the outside of the combustion chamber and pulley, thereby reducing the overall temperature.
Of course the engine nozzle is also a position that is easily captured by radar waves, so radar waves must also come and go. So the Americans buried the engine nozzles deep in the wings, and the nozzles were hidden inside, and radar waves had to come in to catch them.
And there is an unexpected effect of doing so, namely the infrared signal becomes very weak. Then after the process, the B-2’s reflective surface displayed on the radar was only 0.1 square meters, which is not much bigger than a bird flying high in the sky.
Of course, it would be unreasonable to say that there should be a horizontal comparison, like the American B-25 long-range bomber. If captured by radar, the cross section of the reflection is as high as 100 square meters.
The difference between the two is a thousand times, so the B-2 achieves an overall stealth effect. In addition to the above advantages, the B-2 has other advantages, namely it can fly as far as 18,200 kilometers in one breath, and can fly half the earth. So does the B-2 have no drawbacks? Of course there is!
Disadvantages of B-2 Spirit Bomber
Maintenance of the B-2 is quite a headache. According to data, the B-2 needs to be maintained hours after flying. If it is short it will take 20 hours, and if it is long it will reach 100 hours.
Then there is the maintenance support equipment and personnel which is also quite awesome. For example, the US military has deployed two B-2s on Guam, and these two B-2s require only 170 tons of equipment to maintain, which is a frightening number. The personnel who use the equipment for the maintenance of the B-2 are 200 people.
Of course, this is nothing, the B-2 must also have a special hangar to use, and a normal hangar will throw the B-2 away. Therefore, it is almost impossible to use the B-2 in continuous wave.
Then there is the B-2 which looks very good, but its ability to resist bad weather, such as fog, clouds, rain, smoke, the combat effectiveness of the B-2 will be limited. However, nothing is perfect.