The US Air Force and Northrop Grumman has marked the 30th anniversary of the B-2 Spirit’s inaugural test flight on July 17, 1989 from Air Force Plant 42 at Palmdale, California.
Development of the B-2 began in November 1981, when Northrop was awarded a $7.3-billion contract associated with the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB). Although the project originally called for 132 production aircraft, ultimately just 21 Spirits were delivered. The aircraft, which incorporated low-observable technologies, was publicly displayed for the first time in November 1988, when it was rolled out in Palmdale, California. The B-2A flew for the first time in July 1989 and the first aircraft was delivered to the USAF in December 1993.
For three decades, B-2 crews have participated in five major military operations and countless training engagements. The bomber has completed missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and, most recently, Libya. The B-2 was also the first aircraft over Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, for which aircraft and crew hold the record for longest combat mission at 44.3 hours. The stealth bomber has been a vital component of America’s national defense and stands as a symbol of the Air Force’s global strike capabilities.
A full report on the B-2 at 30 will appear in our October issue, which will feature a free US bomber supplement.