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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

B-2 Production

The Air Force began full-scale development of the B-2 bomber in 1981 and planned to acquire 132 operational bombers. The estimated cost to acquire and construct facilities for 132 aircraft, expressed in then-year dollars, increased by $19 billion, from $58.2 billion in 1986, when B-2 cost estimates were first made public, to $77 billion in 1990, representing a cost increase of 32 percent. The estimated cost calculated in constant 1992 dollars grew from $60.2 billion to $74.3 billion, an increase of 23 percent. The Air Force was granted approval in 1987 to begin procurement of 132 operational B-2 aircraft, principally for strategic bombing missions.

In April 1990, the Secretary of Defense, as the result of a major aircraft review, announced a reduction in the B-2 quantities, from 132 to 76. As a result, in January 1991, the Air Force estimated the cost to develop, procure, and construct facilities for 76 aircraft at $64.8 billion in then-year dollars.

In January 1992, the President reduced B-2 quantities from 75 to 20 operational aircraft, plus 1 test aircraft that was not planned to be upgraded to an operational configuration. The Air Force estimated the cost of the 20 aircraft program, including construction of facilities, at $45.3 billion in then-year dollars. Production of these aircraft was concurrent with development and testing. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the emphasis of B-2 development was changed to conventional operations.

The prime contractor, responsible for overall system design and integration, was Northrop Grumman's Military Aircraft Systems Division. Boeing Military Airplanes Company, Hughes Radar Systems Group and General Electric Aircraft Engine Group were key members of the aircraft contractor team. Another major contractor, responsible for aircrew training devices (weapon system trainer and mission trainer) was Hughes Training Inc. (HTI) - Link Division, formerly known as CAE - Link Flight Simulation Corp. Northrop Grumman and its major subcontractor HTI, were responsible for developing and integrating all aircrew and maintenance training programs.

On 21 March 1996 President Bill Clinton directed that the remaining B-2 Spirit test flight aircraft be upgraded to a fully operational aircraft using funds from a Congressional addition to the FY96 defense budget for the multi-role bomber. The B-2 upgrade was expected to cost about $493 million and would increase the B-2 inventory to 21 aircraft. This upgrade was contingent upon Air Force negotiations of a mutually agreeable firm-fixed price contract with Northrop Grumman. The upgrade included replacing the landing gear, a new avionics suite, and modifications to the aircraft structure, fuel system, and weapons bay doors. It would be primarily accomplished at the Northrop Palmdale facility and was estimated to take about three years. The total R&D and procurement for the B-2 program in then-year dollars is $44.4 billion.

In the early 1990s the Northrop workforce peaked at 13,000, though by early 2001 only 1,200 employees worked on the B-2 in Palmdale, doing maintenance and upgrades. Northrop had estimated that it would cost between $2 billion and $4 billion to reopen the production line, including nonrecurring costs. Each new aircraft would cost about $500-700 million for a production run of 40 aircraft. In the late 1990s both Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney were among those publicly supporting production of more B-2s. During the 2000 presidential campaign some Bush advisors suggested considering resumption of B-2 production.

In 2001 Northrop Grumman Corporation offered to build 40 more aircraft at a cost of $735 million apiece, a reduction from the $2.2-billion unit cost of the existing fleet.


Each stealth bomber has at least three designations. The Air Vehicle [AV] number [eg, AV-1], indicative of the aircraft's construction sequence within the stealth bomber program. The tail number [eg 82-1066] is part of the general Air Force numbering system in which the first two digits are the year in which the plane was authorized, and the last four digits are the aircraft's unique serial number. The planes also have both formal and informal names, which is an unusual [though increasingly common] practice. For a long time we had a bit of difficulty providing robust correlation among these three designation systems, since Whiteman AFB and Dave Hastings did not have their stories straight on Spirit of Ohio and Spirit of Arizona. While we think that we have finally gotten these ducks lined up, any additional corrections would be vastly appreciated.

Following the naval precedent in which battleships, and subsequently whatever ship the Navy regarded as its capital ship [currently ballistic missile submarines, but it was nuclear powered cruisers for a while] were named after states, operational B-2 aircraft are named after states, with the annoying exception of Spirit of Kitty Hawk. States so honored are generally those with a close association [operational, political, or otherwise] with the program. This would seem to place an upper limit of 50 on the number of aircraft that can eventually be expected to be produced, though one imagines that additional states can be admitted to the Union if the need arises.

Test aircraft have a somewhat less illustrious, and less definitive, naming system. Sources vary as to the names that have at times been used in connection with these aircraft, and we provide all names that have been reportedly associated with these vehicles [with the less certain names in [] parentheses]. As they enter operational service, these aircraft were given more dignified state names.

Aircraft # Name [*] Ordered Delivered
AV- 1 82-1066 Spirit of AMERICA
Fatal Beauty
n/a 17 Jul 89 14 Jul 2000
AV- 2 82-1067 Spirit of ARIZONA
Ship From Hell
[Murphy's Law]
n/a 19 Oct 90 20 Mar 98
AV- 3 82-1068 Spirit of NEW YORK
Navigator / Ghost
[Afternoon Delight]
n/a 18 Jun 91 10 Oct 97
AV- 4 82-1069 Spirit of INDIANA
n/a 02 Oct 92 22 May 99
AV- 5 82-1070 Spirit of OHIO
Fire and Ice [Toad]
n/a 05 Oct 92 18 Jul 97
AV- 6 TOV&V 82-1071 Spirit of MISSISSIPPI
Black Widow / Penguin
[Arnold the Pig]
n/a 02 Feb 93 23 May 98
AV- 7 88-0328 Spirit of TEXAS
Pirate Ship
1987 29 Aug 94 31 Aug 94
AV- 8 88-0329 Spirit of MISSOURI 1987 11 Dec 93 17 Dec 93
AV- 9 88-0330 Spirit of CALIFORNIA 1988 16 Aug 94 17 Aug 94
AV-10 88-0331 Spirit of S. CAROLINA 1988 29 Dec 94 30 Dec 94
AV-11 88-0332 Spirit of WASHINGTON 1989 27 Oct 94 30 Oct 94
AV-12 89-0127 Spirit of KANSAS 1989 16 Feb 95 17 Feb 95
AV-13 89-0128 Spirit of NEBRASKA 1990 26 Jun 95 28 Jun 95
AV-14 89-0129 Spirit of GEORGIA 1990 25 Sep 95 14 Nov 95
AV-15 90-0040 Spirit of ALASKA 1991 12 Jan 95 24 Jan 96
AV-16 90-0041 Spirit of HAWAII 1991 21 Dec 95 10 Jan 96
AV-17 92-0700 Spirit of FLORIDA 1992 29 Mar 96 3 Jul 96
AV-18 93-1085 Spirit of OKLAHOMA 1993 13 May 96 15 May 96
AV-19 93-1086 Spirit of KITTY HAWK 1993 30 Aug 96
AV-20 93-1087 Spirit of PENNSYLVANIA 1993 05 Aug 97
AV-21 93-1088 Spirit of LOUISIANA 1993 10 Nov 97
AV-22-76 Cancelled
AV-77-133 Cancelled
AV-134-165 Cancelled

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Page last modified: 07-05-2015 19:13:18 ZULU