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
|n/a||17 Jul 89||14 Jul 2000|
|AV- 2||82-1067||Spirit of ARIZONA
Ship From Hell
|n/a||19 Oct 90||20 Mar 98|
|AV- 3||82-1068||Spirit of NEW YORK
Navigator / Ghost
|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
|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|
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