Northrop Grumman has released a new book about the people and innovation that helped create the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 stealth bomber, one of most powerful and survivable aircraft ever produced.
Entitled “B-2: The Spirit of Innovation,” the book was written by political analyst Rebecca Grant, president of IRIS Independent Research, and the author of several books about bomber warfare, including “The B-2 Goes to War,” published in 2001. The book was made available to attendees of the Air Force Association’s 2013 Air & Space Conference at National Harbor, Md.
“The development of the B-2 led to an extraordinary and enduring partnership among Northrop Grumman, Air Force and Pentagon leaders,” said Dave Mazur, vice president and Northrop Grumman’s B-2 program manager. “Through invention, discovery and innovation, the team delivered a revolution in airpower that remains one of the nation’s most effective deterrent forces.”
Northrop Grumman, the Air Force’s B-2 prime contractor, published the book as part of Air Force Global Strike Command’s celebration of 2013 as the “Year of the B-2.” It is now available for download at www.northropgrumman.com/B-2book.
“B-2: The Spirit of Innovation” is based on interviews with former Northrop Grumman, Air Force and Pentagon officials. It explores the political and engineering passions that fueled the competition to produce a bomber that could defeat increasingly sophisticated Soviet air defense systems of the early ’80s.
From the early Experimental Survivable Testbed that laid groundwork for the F-117 stealth fighter, to the development of Tacit Blue, a technological forerunner to the B-2, the name of the game was stealth: understanding how best to minimize the radar cross section of an aircraft, and manage its electromagnetic signature.
“It was pioneering work. Every day was a discovery,” said John Cashen, who served as chief scientist for Northrop Grumman’s B-2 program.
The book traces the evolution of Northrop Grumman’s B-2 flying wing design – the shape closest to radar engineers’ ideal for no reflections, an infinite flat plate – and other technologies that enable the aircraft’s stealth missions today.
It also discusses the technology challenges, engineering breakthroughs, and shifting customer requirements that drove the pace and tenor of the massive and highly secretive B-2 program.
In 1983, for example, the Air Force added a new combat requirement for the B-2: it needed to be able to fly at high subsonic speeds at low altitude. The new requirement led to a significant redesign of the bomber, but, serendipitously, also a much better performing aircraft.
The book takes readers through events leading up to first flight, and the subsequent challenges of flight test and full-scale production. It also provides highlights of the bomber’s successful operational career, which debuted in March 1999 during the Kosovo War.
“The B-2 was and is unique,” writes Grant, “a success born out of necessity, and facilitated by a dedicated, capable government-contractor team – a steppingstone to a next generation of air dominance.”