Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The B-2 is a low-observable, strategic, long-range, heavy bomber capable of penetrating sophisticated and dense air-defence shields. It is capable of all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000ft, with a range of more than 6,000nm unrefuelled and over 10,000nm with one refuelling, giving it the ability to fly to any point in the world within hours.
Its distinctive profile comes from the unique 'flying wing' construction. The leading edges of the wings are angled at 33° and the trailing edge has a double-W shape. It is manufactured at the Northrop Grumman facilities in Pico Rivera and Palmdale in California.
The B-2, after ten years of service, finally achieved full operational capability in December 2003. In the first three years of service, the operational B-2s achieved a sortie reliability rate of 90%. An assessment published by the USAF showed that two B-2s armed with precision weaponry can do the job of 75 conventional aircraft.
AHFM stealth coating
Northrop Grumman has developed a new radar-absorbent coating to preserve the B-2's stealth characteristics while drastically reducing maintenance time. The new material, known as alternate high-frequency material (AHFM), is sprayed on by four independently controlled robots.
In November 2011, the USAF awarded a $109m contract to Northrop Grumman for producing a redesigned aft deck for the B-2 stealth bomber.
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