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The B-2 Spirit’s Astonishing Return: An Unveiling After a Secretive Upgrade!

The B-2 Spirit is a stealthy, strategic, long-range, heavy-duty bomber capable of infiltrating complex and robust air-defense systems. It can execute all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000 feet and has a range exceeding 6,000 nautical miles without refueling, and over 10,000 nautical miles with one in-flight refueling, enabling it to reach any location globally within hours.

The Northrop (subsequently Northrop Grumman) B-2 Spirit, also referred to as the Stealth Bomber, is an American heavy strategic bomber featuring cutting-edge stealth technology for breaching dense anti-aircraft defenses. It was developed during the Cold War and has a flying wing design with a crew of two. The bomber is subsonic and can carry both conventional and thermonuclear weapons, such as up to eighty 500-pound class (230 kg) Mk 82 JDAM GPS-guided bombs, or sixteen 2,400-pound (1,100 kg) B83 nuclear bombs. The B-2 is the sole acknowledged aircraft capable of carrying large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealthy configuration.

The development of the B-2 started under the “Advanced Technology Bomber” (ATB) project during the Carter administration. Its anticipated performance was one of the President’s reasons for canceling the Mach 2-capable B-1A bomber. The ATB project persisted during the Reagan administration, but concerns about delays in its introduction led to the reinstatement of the B-1 program.

Program costs increased throughout development. Designed and manufactured by Northrop, later Northrop Grumman, the average cost per aircraft was US$737 million (in 1997 dollars). Total procurement costs averaged $929 million per aircraft, which includes spare parts, equipment, retrofitting, and software support. The total program cost, encompassing development, engineering, and testing, averaged $2.13 billion per aircraft in 1997.

Due to its substantial capital and operating expenses, the project was contentious in the U.S. Congress. The Cold War’s winding down in the late 1980s significantly diminished the need for the aircraft, which was designed to penetrate Soviet airspace and target high-value assets. During the late 1980s and 1990s, Congress slashed plans to purchase 132 bombers to 21. In 2008, a B-2 crashed shortly after takeoff, but the crew safely ejected. As of 2018, twenty B-2s are in service with the United States Air Force, which intends to operate them until 2032 when the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is set to replace them.

The B-2 can undertake all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000 feet (15,000 m), with a range of over 6,000 nautical miles (6,900 mi; 11,000 km) on internal fuel and more than 10,000 nautical miles (12,000 mi; 19,000 km) with one midair refueling. It entered service in 1997 as the second aircraft designed with advanced stealth technology after the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk attack aircraft. Although originally designed as primarily a nuclear bomber, the B-2 was first utilized in combat by dropping conventional, non-nuclear ordnance during the 1999 Kosovo War. It later served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

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