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B-2 Spirit: The $2 billion flying wing

July 20, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

The B-2 Spirit bomber is a standout among military planes -- and also the world's most expensive at more than $2 billion each. Find out why each plane is said to have its own personality.

With its "flying wing" design that makes it almost invisible to radar, the B-2 Spirit bomber is truly a standout among military planes -- and also the world's most expensive, at over $2 billion per aircraft.

"It is really one of a kind, completely unlike any other plane ever designed," Rebecca Grant, a B-2 and aerospace expert who has flown in the classified plane, said in a phone interview.

The idea of designing a plane as a flying wing -- without a definite fuselage, a tail and other protuberances -- is an early one in aviation, surfacing before World War I in Germany and the Soviet Union.

Towards the end of World War II, Nazi Germany built and tested the Horten Ho 229, a futuristic flying wing aircraft with rudimentary stealth features, to which the B-2 bears a striking resemblance.

The B-52 first introduced the idea of flying a bomber at very high altitudes, to make it harder for anti-aircraft missiles to reach it, while the B-1 tried the opposite: flying so low and fast that radar would have trouble picking it up.

Unlike other aircraft, the B-2's flying wing design doesn't have any large vertical shapes, such as a tail, for radar waves to bounce off.

While no B-2 has ever been lost in combat -- the plane doesn't even have defensive weapons -- one was destroyed in an accident in 2008, when it crashed shortly after takeoff from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam (the pilots ejected safely).

Because of the small fleet and its classified technologies, the B-2 is a coveted plane to fly, and only a few stathundred pilots have ever boarded one.

The new plane will take on the same role as the current one, but it will be designed making full use of the technological advancements that have occurred since the B-2 was first conceived, over 40 years ago.

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