Northrop-Grumman B-2 Spirit is a U.S. strategic bomber capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons. The enormous advances of technology was crucial in U.S. bomber modernization program. It is the most expensive plane ever built: it is estimated that the cost per unit between 1157 and 2.2 billion euros. Stealth technology has helped to penetrate enemy defenses without the possibility of being caught and killed, something unthinkable for other aircraft types. The initial order was for 135 air and subsequently reduced to 75 in the eighties, and then President George HW Bush reduced the final order for 21 aircraft in January 1991.
Together with the B-52 Stratofortress and the B-1 Lancer, B-2 is the backbone of American bombers. Its capabilities allow stealth to penetrate enemy air defenses, even the most sophisticated and highly defended targets to hit with minimal (if any) the possibility of loss.
The revolutionary combination of stealth technology with the great aerodynamic efficiency and a load of awesome weapons make the B-2 bomber better than its predecessors. Has a capacity of about 11,100 kilometers without refueling. Its radar track down allows great freedom of action even at high altitudes, thus increasing its range and increasing the field of view for the sensors on board, but these are undermined if stealth flying in conditions of high humidity. With the GPS Aided Targeting System (GATS, “pointing system assisted by GPS) and the use of guided bombs such as Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), it can use its radar APQ-181 to correct pointing errors and increase more accurate laser-guided bombs. The B-2 is also capable of striking 16 different targets in a single pass.
B-2 stealth due to a combination of reduced infrared emissions, acoustic, electromagnetic and a trace detectable by radar limited, making it very difficult or impossible to detect by enemy defenses. Other features that make it invisible to radar, are secret, but the use of composite materials, special coatings and design to “flying wing” help a lot. The mathematical model necessary to calculate the form of invisible aircraft as the F-117 and B-2 was developed by Russian scientist Pyotr Ufimtsev during the Cold War. For comparison, a radar site on a B-52 has a return echo electromagnetic (radar section) equal to that of a Boeing 747, a B-1B to that of a small private plane while a B-2 to a Frisbee.
The B-2 has a crew of two people: a pilot in the left seat and a mission commander on the right. The aircraft may, if necessary, accommodate a third person. In comparison, the crew of the B-1B is composed of four persons and that of B-52 for five. The crews of the B-2 were subjected to sleep deprivation studies to improve the performance of the team in extremely long missions. The bomber is highly automated and, unlike the hunt for two people, allows a member of the crew rest or use the toilet or prepare a meal while the other takes care of the flight.
In 1984, an employee of Northrop, Thomas Cavanaugh, was arrested for trying to sell topsecret classified information to Soviet Union, who stole from the factory located in Pico Rivera, California. Cavanaugh was sentenced to life imprisonment and released on parole in 2001.
Noshir Gowadia, a designer who worked on the propulsion system of the airplane, was arrested in October 2005 on the export of classified information. The trial was to begin February 12, 2008, but was postponed.
In 2008, Congress allocated funds to upgrade the control systems of weapons to make it capable of hitting moving targets.
On December 29, 2008, the Air Force has signed a production contract with Northrop Grumman, worth about 468 million U.S. dollars to modernize the radar. This contract provides for the installation of radar components state of the art today, to maintain operational capability of the fleet of B-2 in the future. This change follows the request of the U.S. Commerce Department to use a different frequency radar.