17 July 1989: The first Northrop B-2A Spirit, 82-1066, took off from Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, on its first flight. The crew was Northrop Chief Test Pilot Bruce J. Hinds and Colonel Richard Couch, U.S. Air Force. The top secret “stealth bomber” prototype landed at Edwards Air Force Base 1 hour, 52 minutes later.
After completing the flight test program, -1066 was placed in storage until 1993, awaiting upgrade to the Block 10 operational configuration. In 2000 it was again upgraded to the Block 30 standard. It is now named Spirit of America and assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
The Northrop B-2A Spirit is an advanced technology long-range heavy bomber. It can perform both tactical or strategic missions. It features extremely low radar observabilty. The bomber features the “flying wing” concept, pioneered by the Northrop XB-35 in 1946. In addition to its “stealthy” configuration, the B-2A is also highly aerodynamically efficient.
The B-2A has a crew of two pilots. According to data released by the U.S. Air Force, the bomber is 69 feet (21.0 meters) long, with a wingspan of 172 feet (52.4 meters) and height of 17 feet (5.2 meters). Its empty weight is 160,000 pounds (72,575 kilograms), with a maximum takeoff weight is 336,500 pounds.
Th B-2A is powered by four General Electric F118-GE-100 turbofan engines. The F118 is a non-afterburning two-spool axial-flow turbofan with a single stage fan section, 11-stage compressor (2 low- and 9 high-pressure stages) and 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). It is rated at 19,000 pounds (84.5 kilonewtons) thrust. The F118-GE-100 is 100.5 inches (2.553 meters) long, 46.5 inches (1.181 meters) in diameter and weighs 3,200 pounds (1,451 kilograms).
The maximum speed of the B-2A is “high subsonic,” and its range is “intercontinental.” The service ceiling is 50,000 feet (15,240 meters).
The B-2A can carry a variety of conventional or thermonuclear bombs, including sixteen 2,000 pound (907 kilogram) bombs, or two GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrators.
Northrop produced twenty-one B-2As between 1987 and 2000. The first operational bomber was delivered in 1993. One was destroyed when it crashed on takeoff at Anderson AFB, Guam, 23 February 2008.
© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes