A B-2 ‘Sealth’ bomber crashed on Guam a few days ago.  The pilots got out safely, that’s the most important thing. The plane, however, is totaled.  An accident investigation is underway.  They will figure out the cause and make recommendations.  The oldest B-2s are now about 20 years old but even so the technology is cutting edge. 

B-2’s are based on the dream of Jack Northrop of the Lockheed (and later Northrop Aviation) company 60 years ago to build a flying wing. Jack actually began work on the first of his flying wings in 1928 and wound up building large jet powered versions 20 years later (YB-49s).  Some say politics killed the revolutionary design back then. The dream, now finally actualized, was to make planes with less aerodynamic drag and more payload capacity.  Why have all that other stuff like tails and fuselages hanging off the wing if the wing itself could be made to fly, went Mr. Northrop’s reasoning.

Fast forward to the early 80s when Northrop-Grumman got a contract from the Air Force to try it again.  The resulting B-2 bomber’s first flight was in 1989. 21 have been built.  They have played major roles in the ‘smart’ bombing of Yugoslavia and later during the early phases of the current Iraq war.

B-2s cost One Billion, Two Hundred Million dollars ($1,200,000,000.00) each.  Now that is a fair amount of cash-ola by any standards.  I don’t know about you but I have a hard time wrapping my brain around just how big a Billion really is.  I know that if I am making $1,000 a day ($365,000 per year) I am doing pretty well. (Heck, with a thousand a day we could turn on the aircon in the living room again!).  If I spent the whole thousand every single day it would take me over three thousand years to blow the loot.  Yep, at a grand a day I would have had to start 1,279 years before the birth of Christ to finish spending the money it takes to build one Stealth bomber by today. The good old USA has 20 of them left (plus the smoldering ruin at Anderson AFB in Guam).  You have to flip a lot of burgers to pay out that much in taxes.

Nowadays we use them to show our presence and enhance our security around the globe.  Not to mention strike terror into the hearts of those souls on the ground when one of those smart bombs comes blasting though their window unannounced. B-2s are just one weapon in the US arsenal, but it is a most formidable one. Imagine being attacked by an airplane you can’t see coming.  We’ve come a long way, technology wise, since the B-29s that used to take off from Tinian and Saipan. 

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