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B-2: The Stealth Bomber As Powerful as Aircraft Carrier

Crew chiefs assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prep a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber for a hot-pit refuel, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 4, 2022. Exercise Agile Tiger promotes resilience, innovation, competitiveness and process improvement, all talents required to address today’s complex challenges. (U.S Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Christina Carter)

The B-2 stealth bomber is getting old and will eventually be augmented by the B-21 Raider. And yet, the B-2 is still one of the world’s most deadly weapons: According to aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman, the United States Air Force’s “B-2 stealth bomber is a key component of the nation’s long-range strike arsenal, and one of the most survivable aircraft in the world. Its unique stealth characteristics allow it to penetrate the most sophisticated enemy defenses.”

This aircraft indeed possesses remarkable stealth capabilities, but what about its firepower? Know that it was on full display when B-2 stealth bombers forged an attack on Serbia during the opening night of Operation Allied Force in 1999. It was also able to destroy Iraqi air defenses during 2003’s “Shock and Awe” and took out the Libyan fighter force in 2011.

“The B-2 saw its first operational use during Operation Allied Force,” aircraft manufacturer Northrop Grumman writes on its website.

“Two B-2s flew more than thirty-one hours from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to Kosovo. They attacked multiple targets, then flew directly back. The B-2s flew less than 1 percent of the total missions, yet destroyed 33 percent of the targets during the first eight weeks of conflict,” it continues.

Do take note that the B-2 also holds the record for the longest air combat mission in history.

“In 2001, the Spirit of America and five other B-2s were the first to enter Afghan airspace for a record setting forty-four-hour mission,” Northrop Grumman writes.

“The aircraft’s performance is even more impressive in that the B-2 made a quick pit stop for a forty-five-minute crew and service change with engines still running. It then flew back to Missouri for another thirty-hour flight for a total of more than seventy consecutive hours,” it adds.

Despite flying these grueling missions, pilots do not have a bed or even a refrigerator. There are just two seats in a cockpit and a small area behind them that is about the width of a seat.

“Sometimes we can bring a little blow-up mattress, put in on the floor and take a nap,” Lt. Col. Nicola Polidor, Commander of Detachment 5 of the 29th Training Systems Squadron, told Warrior in an interview.

“It’s about big enough for someone who is five feet eight but not big enough for taller people,” she added.

Lt. Gen. David Deptula (Ret.), who participated in the planning and preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom, told Warrior about the warzone importance of an aircraft like the B-2 bomber.

“The B-2 is one of the most game-changing aircraft ever built … and one of the most cost-effective,” he said.

“One B-2 can deliver the punch of an entire aircraft carrier air wing at several orders of magnitude less in operating cost and personnel,” he continued.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.



  1. Tejas

    April 10, 2022 at 5:16 am

    Why did it take 33 hours from Missouri to Kosovo that too when it was flying non stop? Commercial airlines take 1/3rd the flying time

  2. Glen Burrows

    April 10, 2022 at 6:51 am

    The comment by Gen. Deptula that one B-2 can drop as much ordinance as a Carrier Air wing is not correct.

  3. Larry Butler

    April 10, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    More than just a bit of hyperbole there from the AF.

  4. John Retzos

    April 10, 2022 at 4:26 pm

    The B-2 is not going to be “augmented” by the B-21, it is going to replace the B-2

  5. John Retzos

    April 10, 2022 at 4:34 pm

    @Tejas it took 31 hours to fly to Kosovo and back, that’s the total time for the round trip not each way.

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