It's amazing to think that the B-2 Spirit's first flight was nearly three decades ago. On July 17, 1989, the world's first stealth bomber took to the skies for the very first time. What came next was years of intricate testing that brought the Air Force and industry together to transform the bat-winged bomber from an exotic flying machine into America's deadliest flying weapon. A video montage recently posted online shows this process, and the B-2 in general, like you've have never seen them before.
We were recently treated to a series of beautifully produced videos celebrating the B-2's creation from the jet's manufacturer, Northrop Grumman. Those videos were great, but this B-2 Combined Test Force highlight reel is absolutely awesome for a number of reasons.
First off, it shows so many unique elements of the B-2's development, many of which we have never seen before. Beyond that, it has a surprisingly good 'vintage' soundtrack that is paired with some sweet editing that really works to capture the esprit de corps among the sprawling team of people who gave birth to the Spirit.
As the video notes, at its peak, the B-2 test program involved over 2,000 dedicated people, six B-2s, and a C-135 avionics testbed. It completed over 23,600 individual test points that occurred over 989 missions and 5,242 flight test hours. In the end, all this work was done for just 21 airframes, but to this very day, the small fleet of B-2s is considered a national treasure and linchpin of national security that is capable of executing a surprisingly wide array of missions. These include nuclear and conventional strike missions.
The video's timing is somewhat topical as America's next stealth bomber's Combined Test Force is already spinning up. Its job will not be easy. Even though thirty years of technological development and knowledge gained from operating the B-2 have helped, the B-21 Raider will have a fairly compressed testing schedule. The advanced stealth jet is slated to enter service in the middle of the coming decade when it will also begin to replace B-2s and B-1s at a steady pace into the 2030s.
With that in mind, it's good to remember those who blazed the stealth bomber trail and how they did it. It's also worth noting that the B-2's own development continues till this very day with the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron playing a central role in those efforts.
Maybe what becomes most clear when watching the test montage video is that the B-2 still looks totally alien even after plowing the skies for 30 years. In fact, the plane remains so technologically sensitive that even disposing of it will be a major logistical undertaking.
Thankfully, we still have years to marvel at the B-2 before she heads to the boneyard or meets the scrapper's blade.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com