Although the B-2 Spirit may have entered American military service in the early 1990s, the nation’s fleet of deep penetration stealth bombers has managed to keep a great deal of its operations and equipment a secret despite the advent of the internet and America’s contemporary love affair with cell phone cameras. In many ways, the mighty B-2 can be seen as one of the U.S. military’s best-kept secrets hidden in plain sight. The B-2 is immediately recognizable the world over as a symbol of American air power, despite the effective levels of secrecy tied to the aircraft’s use.
Now, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force is offering a glimpse of what it’s like to be behind the stick of the most capable stealth bomber in operation today. Journalist and filmmaker Jeff Bolton was recently granted the extremely rare opportunity to not only climb aboard a B-2, but he was even permitted to record the flight from inside the cockpit – marking a first for the bomber’s 30-year operational history.
“In an era of rising tensions between global nuclear powers – the United States, China, Russia, and North Korea – this timely video of is a vivid reminder of the B-2’s unique capabilities,” Bolton said in a statement. “No other stealth bombers are known to exist in the world.”
The footage, recorded aboard a B-2A out of Whiteman Air Force Base’s 509th Bomb Wing, offers the first-ever glimpse of what it’s like to fly one of the most capable bomber platforms ever devised. With an operational range in excess of 6,000 miles without a refuel and the ability to penetrate deep into enemy-controlled air space by avoiding detection using a variety of radar and infrared dampening techniques, the B-2 is truly an example of out-engineering brute strength. Rather than relying on higher altitudes or faster propulsion as had been America’s Cold War modus operandi, the B-2 program embraced stealth technology to sneak past enemy defenses, rather than to out-fly them.
The B-2 is slated to be retired by the forthcoming B-21 Raider, though the resemblance between the new bomber and its predecessor says a great deal about the design of the now-dated B-2. Once operational, the B-21 will be the most capable and advanced stealth bomber ever built, and its design, despite the secrecy involved, is a clear continuation of the B-2’s pedigree.
The B-21 is expected to enter operational service midway through the 2020s, with B-2s continuing to fly for years to come as enough advanced bombers are built to replace the old fleets.