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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Iconic Planes: B-2 Spirit

The B-2 Spirit is a stealth bomber developed by Northrop Grumman for the US Air Force. It grew out of needs for a strategic bomber to replace the aging B-52 Stratofortress, and several prototypes were cancelled because they could not survive for a very long time in enemy territory. Finally, the B-2 was built using stealth technology, which was state of the art back then, to allow an aircraft to fly past any weapons systems guided by radar. The shape of the B-2 and its radar-absorbent paint allows it to have an almost non-existent radar cross-section. The engines also are buried inside the body to minimize their exhaust. The picture above shows a B-2 flying in formation with 8 F-18 fighters.  
 
B-2 Spirit original.jpg
The B-2 is a flying wing; it has no tail or fuselage. It only has a single body which allows radar waves to be absorbed into the body. Because of the precise shape required by the B-2 to be stealthy, high-tech computer-aided design and high-tech manufacturing technologies. The cockpit is very comfortable: it includes a bed, kitchen and a toilet. The B-2's computer systems are very advanced, and thus the plane can be flown by only one person is needed. Usually, two pilots fly the planes. (Above right): A Spirit flying over the ocean.
 
The Spirit can carry a variety of conventional weapons as well as nuclear warheads. In the Cold War, the B-2 was originally intended as a plane capable of delivering nuclear strikes deep in enemy territory and then escape quickly. However, after the Cold War, the B-2's role switched to conventional warfare. The B-2 is also the only plane as of 2012 to be able to carry the 14000 kg Massive Ordnance Penetrator, the biggest bunker-busting bomb available. It can carry two of these in its bomb bays. The picture on the right above shows a bomb being loaded into the bomb bay of the B-2. 
 
The B-2 is a very expensive plane, with a single unit costing about 737 million dollars. Thus, only 21 have been built till date, although more may be built soon. Only the United States operates this airplane.
 
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