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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)




B-2 Variants

The Air Force accepted delivery of production B-2s in three configuration blocks: blocks 10, 20, and 30. Initial delivery was 6 test aircraft, 10 aircraft in the block 10 configuration, 3 in the block 20 configuration, and 2 in the block 30 configuration.

Block 10 configured aircraft provide limited combat capability with no capability to launch conventional guided weapons. The Block 10 model carried only Mk 84 2,000-pound conventional bombs or gravity nuclear weapons, and was intended to strike "soft" targets from medium or high altitudes. This sufficed for the initial deployment, but the planes were later returned to Palmdale for upgrading to Block 20 or Block 30 status. The first operational version of the Spirit Block 10, began to be delivered to Whiteman Air Force Base in December, 1993, and continued to deliveries until April 1996. B-2s in this configuration were located at Whiteman AFB and were used primarily for training. As with most new warplanes, these had only limited initial capabilities with refinements to be added as the system matured.

Block 20 configured aircraft had an interim capability to launch nuclear and conventional munitions, including the GAM guided munition. The Block 20 had been tested with the Mk 84, 2,000-pound, general-purpose bombs and the CBU-87/B Combined Effects Munition cluster bombs (low-altitude, full-bay release). Block 20 aircraft, produced between April and December 1996, provided greater electronic and weapon-delivery abilities. A Terrain Avoidance/Terrain Following (TA/TF) capability provided for low-profile missions. Block 20 also included an interim precision-guided bomb system based on the use of the Global Positioning System (GATS/GAM).

Block 30 configured aircraft were fully capable and met the essential employment capabilities defined by the Air Force. The first fully configured Block 30 aircraft, AV-20 (Air Vehicle-20) Spirit of Pennsylvania, was delivered to the Air Force on 7 August 1997. Compared to the Block 20, the Block 30 aircraft have almost double the radar modes along with enhanced terrain-following capability and the ability to deliver additional weapons, including the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and the Joint Stand Off Weapon (JSOW). Other features include incorporation of configuration changes needed to make B-2s conform to the approved radar signature including: replacement of the aft decks, installation of remaining defensive avionics functions, and installation of a contrail management system.

All block 10, 20, and test aircraft were eventually modified to the objective block 30 configuration. This modification process began in July 1995 and was completed in June 2000. The Spirit of Missouri was the first Block 10 B-2 delivered to the Air Force. It arrived at Whiteman on 17 December 1993, the 90th anniversary of flight and the 49th anniversary of the 509th Bomb Wing. The Spirit of Missouri departed Whiteman 9 November 1995 and returned to the Northrop Grumman Plant 42 assembly line where it underwent the two-year modification process to upgrade it to its final Block 30 configuration. In January 1998 the upgraded aircraft joined the fleet of Whiteman's newest squadron, the 325th Bomb Squadron.

The Spirit of Indiana, a Block 30 aircraft, was the 20th of 21 B-2s to be named. The Spirit of Indiana arrived at Whiteman in May 1999, bringing the total number of B-2s on station to 10. The B-2 fleet had 16 combat-coded aircraft by the second quarter of FY00. Whiteman welcomed home the final B-2 when Spirit of America rolled to a stop in front of base operations 14 July 2000. More than 150 members of the Whiteman community braved 100-degree temperatures to roll out the red carpet for the 21st member of the B-2 fleet. Spirit of America was flown home by Col. Tony Przybyslawski, 509th Bomb Wing commander, and Maj. Bob Duncan, 325th Bomb Squadron assistant director of operations.




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