Facts About The World's Most Expensive Plane Of All Time. Photo: knowinsiders.
Facts About The World's Most Expensive Plane Of All Time. Photo: knowinsiders.

What is the world's most expensive plane of all time?

The Northrop Grumman B-2 'Spirit' has been the world's most expensive aircraft since 1997. The aircraft started with $737 million as the initial cost. Later, it got inducted into the United States Air Force; ever since, it has been enjoying the label of the world’s most expensive aircraft, as timesofindia reported.

The B-2 Spirit was launched in 1989. The program to develop it was initiated during the Carter administration in the late 1970s. Northrop was chosen to build this fighter plane. The highlight of its design is a technique called “continuous curvature” which deflects radar. In fact, its radar cross-section is just 1.1 square feet – the size of a pigeon. The bomber was first deployed in action in the Kosovo War in 1989 where it flew 50 sorties, as financesonline.com reported.

The B-2 costs about $135,000 per hour to operate. It has a flying range of 6,000 nautical miles, and refuels every six hours. The plane has amenities such as a hot plate to prepare food, a bed, and a toilet. One pilot can sleep at a time on long missions, minimizing fatigue during round-the-clock flights. The fighter jet has a quadruple fly-by-wire flight control system, split brake-rudders, and differential thrust to maneuver which keeps its radar cross-section low. Its engines are concealed in the wing, hiding fan blades from radar, and reducing the engine’s heat signature to prevent detection by infrared tracking systems. Finally, the B-2 can hit a top speed of 1,010 km/hour.

More most expensive planes in the world include:

2. Air Force One – $660 million

3. Airbus A340-300 – $600 million

4. Airbus A380 Superjumbo Jet – $500 million

5. Boeing BBJ 777-8 – $410m

6. F-22 Raptor – $350 million

7. C-17A Globemaster III – $328 million

8. Boeing 747 – $153 million

9. Trump’s Boeing 757 – $100 million

10. BD-700 Global Express – $47.7 million


Little-known Facts About The US B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber

The B-2 Spirit Is Still In Flight Today

A total of 20 Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirits continue to operate today. Northrop Grumman regularly updates and enhances the abilities of each aircraft for reasons of maintenance and to keep up with the times. Modern upgrading includes software engineering, development, and testing.

According to hotcars.com, this incredible military bomber is employed by the U.S. Air Force and is set to continue until 2032. At that point, the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider will replace the B-2 alongside other bombers. The B-2 Spirit is a marvel in military history, and even if it retires a little over a decade from now, it will be remembered for its unique design and stealth capabilities.

Northrop Grumman continues to upgrade and enhance the B-2’s capabilities, and service every B-2 aircraft. From the extensive programmed depot maintenance that ranges from the complete restoration of the jet’s exterior surfaces to software engineering, testing and development. Employees also lead vehicle engineering, logistics and product support for the aircraft.

The Stealth Bomber Won The Collier Trophy In 1991

In 1991, the B-2 Spirit claimed the most reputable award in aerospace in the form of the Collier Trophy. The Northrop Corporation was honored with this award for their production, test flights, design and development of the Stealth Bomber. This eminent award has been granted to innovative companies since 1911. Other victors over the years include the Bell X-1, Boeing 747, F-22 Raptor, and Mars Curiosity Rover.

The Robert J. Collier Trophy is awarded annually “for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.” The list of Collier winners represents a timeline of aviation, as many of the awardees mark major events in the history of flight, as naa.aero reported.

Facts About The World's Most Expensive Plane Of All Time
US Air Force. Photo: militarymachine.com.

In addition to being an aviator, humanitarian, and sportsman, Mr. Collier (the only son of Collier’s Weekly publisher P.F. Collier) was a prominent publisher whose family created the popular Colliers Weekly. While President of the Aero Club of America, National Chapter (now the National Aeronautic Association), Collier commissioned the trophy in 1910 with the intent to encourage the American aviation community to strive for excellence and achievement in aeronautic development. The 525 pound trophy was commissioned of Baltimore sculptor Ernest Wise Keyser and was originally called the Aero Club Trophy. It was officially renamed the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 1944 and put on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in 1951.

Red Carpet Realness

The B-2 stealth bomber has made quite a name and fame for itself. Its part in popular Hollywood movies comes to mind. When Hollywood needs a “super bomber” to make a cameo and fight off a giant monster or an alien invasion, the red carpet is rolled out for the B-2, as northropgrumman.com reported. With an unmistakable silhouette and flying wing design, it’s easily one of the most recognized aircraft in the world. It has appeared in movies including “Independence Day,” “Armageddon,” “Iron Man 2,” “Cloverfield,” “Airplanes,” “Rampage” and, most recently, “Captain Marvel.”

Facts About The World's Most Expensive Plane Of All Time
Photo: boldmethod.com.

Its specifications are given below

Crew: 2: pilot (left seat) and mission commander (right seat)

Wingspan: 172 feet (52.12 m)

Length: 69 feet (20.9 m)

Height: 17 feet (5.1 m)

Weight: 160,000 lbs. (72,575 kg)

The B-2 Has Two Internal Bays For Up To 80 Bombs

The B-2 Spirit has two internal bays for payload and ordnance. The aircraft can deploy a mix of thermonuclear and conventional weapons with a payload capacity of 40,000 lb. This could translate to a total of eighty 500 lb class bombs (e.g., GBU-38 or MK-82), thirty-six 750 lb CBU class bombs, sixteen 2,000lb class bombs (e.g., GBU-31 or MK-84), or two GBU-57 precision-guided bombs, among other combinations. The Stealth Bomber is the only aircraft officially recognized as being able to carry large standoff weapons in stealth mode with air-to-surface capabilities.

The first combat use of the B-2 was in the Kosovo War in 1999. Although the B-2 only flew 50 sorties out of a reported 34,000 during the conflict, they delivered 11 percent of all the bombs, as boldmethod.com reported. B-2s were also used during the Iraq War and the 2011 international intervention in Libya. More recently, two B-2 bombers killed about 85 ISIS militants in January 2017 during an aerial attack on a training camp.

The B-2 has demonstrated its capabilities in several combat scenarios, including Operation Allied Force in Kosovo,Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and most recently, in Libya, during Operation Odyssey Dawn.

The B-2 has nearly all the amenities of home

According to CNN, B-2 missions have lasted as long as 44 continuous hours -- such as one flown in 2001 from Missouri to Afghanistan during operation Enduring Freedom -- which is why there is a flat space behind the cockpit where one of the two pilots can rest, along with facilities to store and heat food, as well as a toilet. However, reports say there is no Netflix available on board the aircraft.

Facts About The World's Most Expensive Plane Of All Time
A B-2 is followed by two F-117s, an earlier stealth plane with a strikingly different design approach, dominated by flat panels and jagged edges instead of smooth curves. Credit: USAF/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

The B-2 Spirit’s Design Is An Optical Illusion

While the focus of the B-2 Spirit’s design is to fool radar, it also works to fool the human eye. As militarymachine.com reported, the B-2 Spirit is indeed a flying optical illusion. Viewed from one angle, and the aircraft is a thin line—a ‘flying wing’, as the design is called. Viewed from a slightly different angle, and the whole thing becomes a bulbous flying torpedo. This makes the B-2 difficult to spot in the skies, and potentially difficult to identify. As its missions are most often classified, the ability to disappear or distort visually gives the B-2 Spirit a hefty advantage over its competition.

Additionally, the B-2 is flat for a reason. The more vertical surfaces on a plane, the easier it is to spot on a radar screen. That’s why the B-2 was designed as flat as possible, without a traditional tail.

Individually Named Spirit Aircraft

Northrop Grumman has produced a total of 21 B-2s. Aside from Spirit of America, each Stealth Bomber is named after a U.S. state, beginning with the Spirit of Texas, which became active in March 1994. Other B-2s include the Spirit of New York, Spirit of California, and Spirit of Arizona. Each of the current 20 B-2s in service are named after a states. Here, the Spirit of New York can be seen at the British Royal International Air Tattoo in July of 2012.

A 22nd aircraft was proposed but never made. In February 2010, the Spirit of Washington suffered severe fire damage but was subsequently repaired and is still in operation today. The same cannot be said of the ill-fated Spirit of Kansas (a.k.a AV-12), which crashed in February 2008. Although AV-12 was destroyed shortly after taking off, the crew survived, as they had safely ejected just in time.

Prone To Odd Accidents

Most military aircraft are difficult to fly. And the more advanced the aircraft, the trickier they are to keep in the air. And while US pilots train hard, accidents do happen. In keeping with the B-2’s unique design and mission, it has had a unique set of accidents. In 2008, the Spirit of Kansas crashed during a routine takeoff from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The crew ejected safely, but the aircraft was nearly destroyed. After a strenuous investigation, the US Air Force found that a freak instance of moisture buildup was to blame. With a little redesign, the B-2 fleet quickly returned to duty.

Facts About The World's Most Expensive Plane Of All Time
Photo: autojosh.com.

Large Hi-Tech Winged Design

One standout feature of the Northrop B-2 Spirit is its design, whereby the entire aircraft resembles a giant wing. The origins of this design began with the founder of the Northrop Corporation (later Northrop Grumman), Jack Northrop, who first envisioned such an aircraft structure in the 1920s and '30s.

Other cold war flying designs dating back to the 1940s included the N-M9 Flying Wing, XB-35, and the YB-49. Its flying wing design means high aerodynamic efficiency, thanks, in part to a lack of tail or fuselage.

Low Observable technology

The B-2 is one of three strategic bombers currently in service in the US Air Force, along with the agile Rockwell B-1 Lancer, which first flew in 1974, and the gargantuan Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, a legendary aircraft from the 1950s that has been constantly updated ever since.

The B-52 first introduced the idea of flying a bomber at very high altitudes, to make it harder for anti-aircraft missiles to reach it, while the B-1 tried the opposite: flying so low and fast that radar would have trouble picking it up. Neither strategy was perfect nor immune to enemy fire, and Cold War tensions were calling for the ultimate nuclear deterrent: a bomber capable of carrying atomic weapons while being virtually undetectable by enemy air defenses.

Northrop Grumman Adopted The Motto “A Miracle A Day” During B-2 Development

The B-2 Spirit’s stealth needs and unique mission meant that the airframe and the engineering behind it had to go above and beyond. The designers and engineers at Northrop-Grumman had a motto that they adopted while working on the B-2: “A miracle a day”. And they delivered, as militarymachine.com reported, from engineering tolerances that were far tighter than those found on any other aircraft, to developing materials that were well ahead of state of the art. Everything about the B-2 bordered on the miraculous, and continues to do so.

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