The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, is a heavy strategic bomber, featuring stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses.

The U.S. has built 21 Stealth Bombers, though one was destroyed in February 2008.

What is the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber?

As mentioned, the B-2 Spirit is a heavy strategic bomber, featuring stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses.

To go into more detail, the B-2 Spirit is:

  • Subsonic
  • A flying wing aircraft, which means that it has no fuselage or tail
  • Can deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons
  • Capable of all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000 feet (15,000 m)
  • Has a range of more than 6,000 nautical miles (6,900 mi; 11,000 km) on internal fuel
  • Has a range of over 10,000 nautical miles (12,000 mi; 19,000 km) with one midair refueling
  • At cruising altitude, the B-2 refuels every six hours, taking on up to 50 short tons (45,000 kg) of fuel at a time

B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers Weren’t Cheap

Each B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber cost $737 million in 1997 dollars, which is the equivalent to $1.36 billion today.

The total cost of the fleet of B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers was $15.48 billion in 1997, which is $28.57 billion today.

However, the total program cost, which included development, engineering and testing, averaged $2.13 billion per aircraft in 1997, which is $3.93 billion today.

The B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Was Introduced in 1989

The B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber took its first flight on 17th July 1989, but it first entered service in the U.S. Air Force in April 1997.

The aircraft was designed during the Cold War, and has served in the Kosovo War, Iraq War, War in Afghanistan, and First Libyan Civil War.

The B-2 Spirit Stealth Has Been a Big Success

No B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers have been shot down, but one has been destroyed.

On 23 February 2008, a B-2 Spirit known as Spirit of Kansas crashed on the runway moments after takeoff from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

Both crew members managed to successfully eject and survive, but the aircraft was destroyed.

The estimated loss due to the crash was $1.4 billion.

How Many Pilots Can Fly the B-2 Spirit?

There are 80 pilots that are capable of flying the B-2 Spirit.

B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Specifications

  • Primary function: Multi-role heavy bomber
  • 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

The B-2 Spirit Has Some Great Amenities

It may surprise you to learn that B-2 Spirit has a bed, a toilet, and a microwave for those long mission flights.

There is also enough space for a couple of Styrofoam coolers containing food that the pilots can bring with them.

Russia Has No Equivalent to the B-2 Spirit

While Russia has no equivalent to the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, they are currently developing the Tupolev PAK-DA that is planned to be introduced into service in 2028.

It will be a stealth strategic bomber that is designed to drop large amounts of air-to-ground weaponry onto a distant target.

China Also Has No Equivalent to the B-2 Spirit

While China may also not have an equivalent to the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, the Xian H-20 is currently under development, with Chinese state media in 2022 suggesting that the H-20 is close to taking its maiden flight.

The Xian H-20 will be a subsonic stealth bomber with a maximum speed less than the speed of sound (Mach 1).

Look Out For the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider

The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is currently under development for the United States Air Force.

It is expected to enter service by 2026-27.

The United States Air Force plans to operate the B-2 Spirit until 2032.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.