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B-2 Stealth Bomber: Armed with a Toilet, Bed and Microwave?

B-2
A crew chief assigned to the 110th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, prepares a B-2 Spirit for departure from Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, Sept. 11, 2021. The stealth bomber provides unique capabilities to combatant commanders with their ability to strike targets without being detected. Operating out of Iceland allows Airmen and the B-2 to assure allies by contributing to security in the European theater. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Victoria Hommel)

B-2 Stealth Bomber – All of the Facts You Don’t Know and the Latest Controversy: Civilians have pounced on a recent stilled image of a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber that appeared over a farm in Missouri close to Whiteman Air Force Base. This photo was captured by Google Earth, and it has some critics wondering why the stealth technology on the B-2 didn’t hide it better. The enterprising person who used Google Earth cheekily referred to the B-2 as conducting a “crop dusting mission” and you can see the agricultural scene below the bomber in the video here. But is there actually a real problem here or not? Here is a quick rundown of the B-2s history and some very key facts about this one-of-a-kind bomber.

Is the Sighting on Google Earth a Showstopper?

It’s probably not fair to criticize the bomber’s stealth signature based on one incident on Google Earth, but it is alarming that an app available to anyone with Internet service can track the B-2.

This is, after all, the most expensive and advanced bomber in the Air Force’s arsenal. Adversaries have noticed and could possibly use Google Earth to show B-2s taking off from Whiteman AFB in the future. They could count the number of take-offs, for example, and receive an early warning on intercontinental missions as well as training sorties. Of course, we must keep in mind this is entirely dependent on how often Google Earth updates its maps.

Some Spectators Have Caught a Rare Glimpse

The B-2 sometimes makes appearances at air shows and even conducted a fly-over at the Super Bowl over Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida in January of 2021. But sightings are rare because there are only 20 in service.

The Air Force has plans to use the flying wing until 2032 and gradually put them out to pasture after the B-21 Raider comes onto the scene in five or six years.

The B-2 Has Set Records for Longest Flights

The B-2 was meant to cruise past enemy air defenses with stealth characteristics. The B-2 has also made some historic, record-setting flights. After 9/11, it ventured all the way to Afghanistan for a bombing run that took 44-hours. Then it landed, made a quick change to a replacement crew, and flew back to Missouri in 34-hours.

Crew Rest and Comfort Is Important on Multi-day Missions

How does the crew handle such a long flight? The B-2 actually has a bed, a toilet, and a microwave aboard so creature comforts are covered for pilots who need a break.

It Has Substantial Amounts of Maintenance and Operating Costs

But these features come with a price.

The B-2 is the most expensive bomber in history. It takes over $44 million a year just to maintain it. Each airplane set the DOD back $2 billion. The Air Force originally wanted 132, but Congress put the kibosh on that order and only authorized 21 with one lost during a crash in 2008 to make a total of 20 now flying. None have been shot down in combat.

The Flying Wing Concept Has Been Around Since the 1940s

If you can believe it, the flying wing is not new.

Designers have experimented with the style since World War II when they tested the experimental Northrop XB-35 and YB-35. Then the service branch, known as the U.S. Army Air Forces at the time, went to work. They replaced the props with eight turbojet engines, added four vertical stabilizers, and gave it four air dams.

The development wasn’t always smooth. In 1950, one of the experimental airplanes did a nosedive when the landing gear failed, and the prototype busted in two and was a complete loss. By 1953, the entire flying wing program was retired after only 13 flights.

The flying wing design saw no other development until the Air Force figured it would be the best way to get a stealth model into the air. This was 40 years after the experimental flying wings.

The Enemy Evolved and the B-2 Responded in Combat

Northrop Grumman introduced the B-2 and based it in Whiteman AFB in 1993 because the Russians and Chinese were creating a web of dangerous air defenses with new radars and improved fighter interceptors. It made its combat debut in the War in Kosovo by eliminating Serbian targets without resistance. During that conflict, it destroyed around 33-percent of all targets in the first eight weeks of fighting. Then Afghanistan and Iraq became a rich killing field for the B-2. In 2017, it also removed ISIS terrorists from the battlefield in Libya with GPS-guided bombs.

Important Part of the Nuclear Triad

The B-2 can deploy up to sixteen B-61 or B-83 nuclear gravity bombs on the rotating launchers inside its two weapons bays. In 2018, it carried the upgraded B61-12 nuclear bomb.

It can fly up to 6,000 nautical miles without re-fueling which gives it global reach. The idea is to fly low and use the stealth characteristics to sneak into combat theaters.

Unfortunately, the bomber was not able to sneak past intrepid viewers of Google Earth recently, but that was just a minor hiccup. The B-2, along with the B-1, and B-52 will “deliver the mail” in combat when called upon. And the B-2 will still be able to penetrate deep into enemy airspace.

B-2 Bomber

A view of a B-2 advanced technology bomber on the ground at the Air Force Flight Test Center for its first flight.

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B-2 Artist Rendering.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Herman

    December 30, 2021 at 9:58 am

    Some facts about the first all wing aircraft. The German Horten Ho 229 flew during the last days of World War II and was the first jet powered flying wing.

  2. Cesaraugusto59

    December 30, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    Veamos. Hay que tener algunas cosas claras.el B2 es un bombardero sigiloso e indetectable al radar, pero no es invisible.Afemas normalmente para sus misiones vuela de noche, con lo cual difícilmente será detectado.

  3. Mccoy

    December 30, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    I can’t believe how naive or ignorant the author of the article is, whoever wrote it obviously has no experience in talking about military aviation or how stealth tech & the b2 works! Google earth did not “track” a b2, it got extremely lucky and happened to photograph a b2 in flight while it was photographing parts of earth, and no enemy of ours would rely on a Google sat for ISR (recon) missions they have much more capable platforms of their own and in fact just today a piece was written of a Chinese sat that can scan huge swaths of earth in hd in a single pass multiple times a day rivaling us sats! Also they couldn’t use a commercial sat to observe b2’s taking off for many reasons, these commercial sats are incapable of monitoring a single location indefinitely they are in constant motion as they orbit the earth, also b2’s will come and go at all times of day and night and flight paths and missions would still be unknown and the sats cannot follow a plane in flight, stealth / low observability makes you harder to detect on radar, it has nothing to do with optical stealth or invisibility, you’ve watched too much Harry Potter! The b2 is still the apex predator of heavy bombers and will only be dethroned by the B21, but the platform is still exceedingly capable and this little pic that popped up is nothing more than a incredible circumstance of right place, right time!

  4. Dan

    December 31, 2021 at 11:55 am

    The B-2 was designed to have a third crewmember and ejection seat, but never implemented. Thus there is room in the cockpit.

    The pilots also practice these long flights in the simulator. Crew rest is built into the plan. Why is it considered amazing that over the past 30 years, new ideas to make the B-2 operate better are implemented, even if that means a bed, toilet and microwave? Many military planes have them.

    Since we know the B-2s are based in Whiteman AFB, amid the pastures and farmland of Missouri, the idea of the B-2 “crop dusting” is simply ridiculous. It must land. That means flying low and slow. If Google Earth happens to be looking down at Whiteman, it might catch a B-2 landing or taking off. So what?

    The B-2 is not “invisible.” It’s a big, black airplane. Of course you can see it, under certain circumstances. But how many B-2s has Google Earth captured when it’s flying at speed and altitude, and at night?

    The beauty of the B-2 is that, with only two pilots, its awesome payload will hit its multiple targets with pinpoint accuracy…and the B-2 will be long gone before the ordnance even detonates. Shoot into the sky all you want: the B-2 will have “spirited” away cleanly.

    And unless Google Earth (or any other satellite) is carefully watching *the target* and can perceive and resolve images *at night,* and then communicate, in seconds, to countermeasures that must then also find and target the B-2, the B-2 will get her pilots home in time for dinner.

  5. Frost

    December 31, 2021 at 5:18 pm

    I’ve taken photos of the B-2 flying over my house in Missouri. The conduct training runs that send them over, I captured photos of three flying in formation making a 180 degree turn and flying back to the south west. I have a couple of 600mm shots on my Instagram @adventures.with.frost they are fuzzy but I was shooting off hand at 600mm at what looked like a black speck leaving contrails. I couldn’t tell what they were till I snapped a shot and zoomed in.

  6. John Benning

    December 31, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    Why exactly is a bed, a toilet and a microwave on an airplane considered “news”? I flew on Navy P-3 Orion aircraft for over 10-years. They had two recks (beds), a galley, a small stove and fresh coffee. The missions were 12-hours long. Does the “author” of this article have any aviation experience?

  7. Todd

    December 31, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    What a goofy article.
    Who in their right mind ever read or heard that the “stealth” of the aircraft implied invisibility to the human eye?

    It was designed to mitigate; radar return signatures, ground level IR/thermal and sound signatures and flight interruption signatures.

    No one ever said it’d be Wonder Woman’s *invisible jet*.

  8. Mike

    January 1, 2022 at 12:02 am

    Radar evading does not mean invisible!

  9. David John GORDON

    March 1, 2022 at 5:19 pm

    Could one not be used over The Kremlin?

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