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21 Facts About The B-2 Stealth Bomber

Now you see you don't.

1) The B-2 Spirit's first flight was on July 17, 1989 - two years before the first Persian Gulf war.


2) The B-2 is the only acknowledged aircraft to carry air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth platform.


3) During the mid-1970s, several projects were underway to replace the aging B-52 Stratofortress, including the B-70 and B-1A.


4) The B-70 and B-1A were designed to fly above and beyond interceptor aircraft, however, stealth technology was quickly becoming a real possibility, and B-2 program was launched in pursuit of a true stealth bomber.


5) The B-2 program was started during the Carter administration in the late 1970s, and was one of the primary reasons for the cancellation of the B-1A bomber program.

6) Northrop was selected to produce the B-2. Their previous experience building the YB-35 and YB-49 aircraft helped them win the project.


7) B-2 project delays during the 1980s caused the B-1 program to be restarted. The new B-1B program had a new mission: fly close to the ground, and mask the aircraft with surrounding terrain.

8) The original B-2 aircraft cost was projected to be $737 million per aircraft, but when coupled with maintenance and support, each aircraft was valued at $2.1 billion.

9) Because of creeping costs, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the original plan of producing 132 bombers was reduced to 21.

10) The B-2 was designed using a technique known as "continuous curvature." The curved exposed surfaces are designed to deflect radar.

11) And, the aircraft reportedly has a radar cross-section of 1.1 square feet. That's about the same size as a pigeon.

12) The first combat use of the B-2 was in the Kosovo War in 1999. Although the B-2 only flew 50 sorties out of a reported 34,000 during the conflict, they delivered 11 percent of all the bombs.


13) The B-2 costs $135,000 an hour to operate, making it roughly twice as expensive to operate as the B-52 or B-1.

14) The B-2 has a reported range of 6,000 nautical miles, and refuels approximately every six hours.


15) The B-2 has nearly all the amenities of home. It has a bed, a toilet, and hot plate to prepare food. However, reports say there is no Netflix available on board the aircraft.

16) One crew member can sleep at a time on long missions, reducing fatigue for round-the-clock missions.

17) Because of its inherent instability, the B-2 has a quadruple fly-by-wire flight control system.

18) The B-2 uses split brake-rudders and differential thrust to maneuver, keeping its radar cross-section low, even when the aircraft is maneuvering.

19) And its engines are buried in the wing, concealing fan blades from radar and minimizing the engine's heat signature from infrared tracking systems.


20) The B-2 supports its 376,000 pound max takeoff weight with a 172 foot wingspan. That's wider than a Boeing 767-400ER.

21) It's the only acknowledged stealth bomber in the world, and it will continue to be seen (or not) in the skies for decades to come.

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at

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