Tom Harris

Originally, the main function of the B-2 was carrying nuclear bombs into the Soviet Union in the event of war. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the military redefined the role of the B-2. It is now classified as a multi-role bomber designed to carry conventional bombs in addition to nuclear munitions.

Image courtesy US Air Force

The B-2 includes two rotary launchers , positioned in the center of the plane. When the mission commander is ready to fire, a signal is sent to the onboard computer. The computer opens the doors of the bomb bay, the pitcher rotates to position the correct pump and then the spear.

Conventional launchers carry gravity bombs, "dumb" bombs that simply fall into your target, as well as precision guided bombs seeking the target. The plane can carry about 18,000 kg of ammunition.

Image courtesy US Department of Defense An expert in directing the assembly of ammunition rotary launcher of a B-2 (carrying nuclear bombs)

The precision guided bombs B-2 are actually ammunition "dumb" with separate guidance system attached to them. This, known as Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guidance kit includes adjustable tail, a computer control an inertial guidance system , and a GPS receiver . The B-2 uses its own GPS receiver for point targets. Once the team has located its target, it sends the GPS coordinates for JDAM target and releases the bomb.

Computerized project

Northrop Grumman designed the B-2 almost entirely on computers, completely different from the traditional drawing methods. In the 80s, this was a big leap in technology. Engineers were able to build accurate models of an aircraft from the smallest screw, and test its efficiency and stealth in a virtual simulator.

The manufacturing process was also computed. The computer guided robots extremely accurate assembly to make sure that each piece was exactly the right position. Was essential to prevent any mistakes they might compromise the invisible shape of the plane.

In the air, the JDAM GPS receiver processes the signal from GPS satellites to keep knowledge of its own position, while the guidance system tracks the change in position of the pump. The control computer adjusts the stabilizers of the JDAM flight to guide the bomb to the intended target. This precise target attack system allows the B-2 to drop their bombs and escape quickly. The pump works well even in bad weather, as the JDAM only needs signals satellite to find your target, do not have to see anything on the ground (see How Smart Bombs Work for more information).

Due to the high cost and relative inexperience in the field, the B-2 is a fairly controversial weapon. While some analysts consider it the pinnacle of military aircraft, others say the plane has severe limitations, such as high sensitivity of its invisible to bad weather capabilities. However, almost everyone agrees that it is an evolution of aviation technology. Certainly it is a fantastic machine.

For more information about the B-2, including the fascinating story of its design, check out the links on the next page.