The B-2 stealth bomber, with its unique flying wing configuration and low-observable, radar-evading, or “stealth,” technology is a versatile multi-role bomber, capable of delivering both nuclear and conventional munitions. The sleek structure is reminiscent of the B-35, developed by Northrop during the 1940s, and uses advanced composites, such as resin-impregnated graphite fiber, rather than metal.
As part of an industry team led by Northrop, Boeing built the outboard portion of the B-2 stealth bomber wing, the aft center fuselage section, landing gears, fuel system and weapons delivery system. At its peak in 1991, the B-2 was the largest military program at Boeing, employing about 10,000 people. The same year, the National Aeronautic Association of the U.S.A. awarded the B-2 design team the Collier Trophy for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, as demonstrated in actual use.
The first B-2 rolled out of the bomber's final assembly facility in Palmdale, Calif., in November 1988 and it flew for the first time on July 17, 1989. 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 was named "Spirit of Washington" in Seattle, Wash., to honor the people of the state who helped make the B-2 a reality.
|First flight||July 17, 1989|
|Gross weight||336,500 pounds|
|Cruising speed||High subsonic|
|Range||6,000 miles plus|
|Power||Four 19,000-pound-thrust F118-GE engines|
|Armament||More than 40,000-pound nuclear or conventional weapon payload|