In 1981, the U.S. Air Force selected the Northrop Corporation as the prime contractor to lead an industry team to develop and produce the B-2 Stealth Bomber. The award of the contract for the B-2, then called the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB), began one of the most challenging aerospace programs in history. It was a challenge that involved more than 6,000 companies and 40,000 men and women from 46 states, and pressed the limits of technology in more than a dozen disciplines, from integrated three-dimensional, computer-aided design and manufacturing to the production and forming of new composite materials into large-scale aircraft structures.
Almost everything about the B-2 is unique: its revolutionary design; unprecedented use of composite materials; the production processes that enable precise stealth shaping; and a flight management system designed specifically to meet the demands of a flying wing and also be totally responsive to mission needs. These and other requirements have driven the development of more than 900 new materials and processes, expanding America’s technology base and resulting in a leap forward for our aerospace industry.
The early years of the B-2 program were conducted under a cloak of near-total secrecy. It was not until 1988 that the major team members were publicly announced – Northrop, Boeing, LTV (Vought), Hughes, and General Electric. In their plants and around the country, major structural sections, components and systems for the B-2 were manufactured, then shipped to USAF Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, for final assembly, engine installation, and checkout. The public first viewed the B-2’s extraordinary shape and planform during the rollout on November 2, 1988.
LTV (Vought) was a major subcontractor on the B-2 to Northrop Corporation, designing and producing the intermediate wing section.
LTV also designed the installation of all systems in the intermediate section. Twenty one ship sets of the intermediate wing section were built and shipped by C-5 aircraft to Palmdale, California, for final assembly.
The final intermediate section was delivered to Palmdale on March 17, 1994.
The historic first flight of the B-2, from Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base, was made on July 17, 1989, with test pilots Bruce Hinds of Northrop and Air Force Col. Rick Couch at the controls.
The first operational aircraft was delivered to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri in late 1993. A total of twenty-one aircraft comprises the B-2 operational fleet. The third operational B-2 was named “The Spirit of Texas” during dedication ceremonies at Vought-Dallas in September 1994. The U.S. Air Force/Northrop B-2 bomber is the most technologically advanced aircraft in aviation history. Its stealthiness, long range, and large weapons payload will enable it to reach any target on earth, deliver many thousands of pounds of precision conventional weapons, and return safely with its aircrew. The B-2 is a tribute to American technology and engineering, and to the skill and dedication of the men and women across the nation who made up the B-2 team.
For more information on the B-2 visit the following sites:
The U. S. Air Force