B2 Spirit: Why has no country ever dared to copy it after 20 years of service?

The B2 stealth bomber has never been imitated in service for more than 20 years. This is very strange. After all, more and more countries in the world are equipped with UAVs that also use flying-wing aerodynamic layouts. These UAVs also have The stealth advantage like the B-2. But to elaborate, although there are many flying-wing aerodynamic layout drones in the world, there is only one manned fighter aircraft using the flying-wing aerodynamic layout, so it is fair to say that it has never been imitated. In the past 20 years, there have been more and more flying-wing UAVs, but why has no country imitated the B2 stealth bomber, a manned large-scale strategic bomber?

Of course, in order to enhance the comprehensive combat strength of the B2 stealth strategic bomber, the B2 not only adopts a flying-wing aerodynamic layout with excellent inherent stealth ability, but also integrates many “black technologies” that are still trendy up to now, such as stealth paint Layers, S-type air intakes, infrared suppressors, common-type array radars, etc.

B2 spirit mid air refueling with KC-135 tanker
B2 spirit mid air refueling with KC-135 tanker

These excellent black technologies not only give B2 the confidence to penetrate enemy air defense identification zones, but also make the price manufacturing cost higher, so this is the core reason why the B2 stealth bomber spent a lot of money on research and development, and finally only 21 were equipped. So why hasn’t any country copied it? After all, the comprehensive combat strength of the B2 stealth strategic bomber can never be compared with money. For example, without mid-air refueling, its combat range can reach 12,000 kilometers, and it can reach 18,000 kilometers with one refueling in the air. The air flight time for each mission is generally no less than 10 hours, and the US Air Force says it has “global reach” and “global destruction” capabilities.

Cost is the biggest problem

Although the research and development of the B2 stealth bomber started in the mid-1970s, the successful first flight was in 1989. Within a research and development cycle of less than 10 years, the research and development cost of the B2 was as high as 59 billion dollars, what is this concept? In the 2020 global military budget rankings alone, only China, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and India are the only countries that can reach more than $59 billion. It is conceivable how much their R&D costs accounted for in the 1980s? How high is the economic strength of a country?

What about other countries? Although most countries at this stage can get up to 59 billion US dollars in research and development costs within 10 years, it is a pity that this is the 1980s before inflation. If it is put today, the same technology, research and development The cost will be at least 30 times higher, which is 1.7 trillion US dollars.

What is the concept? The market value of the well-known Apple company is only one trillion US dollars; the total value of the world’s fashion industry is only 2.4 trillion US dollars; the total GDP of India is only 2.6 trillion US dollars; the world’s top 20 Internet companies The total market value of the company is only 3 trillion US dollars; the total GDP of the world is only 75.6 trillion US dollars, and these trillion-dollar companies are only the market value of the company, not the real capital.

Manufacturing and maintenance costs are also sky-high 

As I said at the beginning of the article, if the construction cost of B2 is converted into weight, the price per ton is three times more expensive than gold of the same weight, even if it is not considered as high as 30 times. Affected by inflation, the unit price of 2.4 billion US dollars is also unbearable for most countries. After all, the number of military equipment with the same weapons and equipment is not too small. Even in the United States, when the mass production of B2 stealth bombers began in the 1990s, the number of constructions was reduced from the original 159 to 21 due to the high manufacturing cost.

In addition to the sky-high manufacturing cost, the maintenance cost is also ridiculously expensive, because the entire body of the B2 is sprayed with a stealth coating. This stealth coating needs to be re-sprayed on a regular basis. It also needs to be checked and repaired after each landing. Aircraft hangars also need to maintain “constant temperature and humidity hangars with very expensive construction and operating costs. For example, the price of B2 spraying a stealth coating is close to 60 million US dollars, and the daily maintenance cost is also ridiculously expensive. The cost of B2 1 hour flight is $135,000. The maintenance cost alone is close to 20 billion US dollars.

The technical difficulty

Flight control difficulty

Because there is no peace tail fin on flying wing aerodynamic configuration, different angles can only rely on the deflection of the trailing edge flap analog implementation, the flight control system for. In other words, the joint deflection of its multi-controllable airfoils at different angles and directions has become the key to controlling the normal flight of the aircraft. But it also makes it very difficult to write the code of the flight control system, because the flight control code must not only meet the flight attitude deflection requirements in different states, but also meet the flight control balance requirements in emergency states, and the B2 with the larger take-off weight Stealth bombers have different deflection control torques for different flight attitudes because of their heavier weight and greater inertia. Therefore, there are hundreds of different angles of deflection codes for one airfoil, so so many airfoils need to be connected. It is conceivable how difficult it is to write the code.

Avionics system 

As B2 stealth bomber flying wing aerodynamic layout is different than the traditional one, so the design direction on avionics systems on aircraft is also very different, for example, arranged on the leading edge of the flap B2 The slot array radar, the air-to-ground scanning common-type array radar under the nose, and of course, many electronic devices must be hidden inside or on the surface of the fuselage, so the development of avionics systems is also very difficult, after all, for most countries, this is an option from scratch.

Integrated fuselage structure 

Because no traditional fuselage and wings in B2, it includes a built-tank shells arms, and bay in the main fuel tank and so need an integrated fuselage structure embodied, then higher requirements are put forward for the structural design, structural materials, and manufacturing methods of aerospace manufacturing. In particular, the built-in bomb bays and landing gear bays of the flying-wing type are arranged in key positions, making it impossible to realize the overall manufacture of the fuselage. In addition, the wingspan is very large, and there are also very large requirements for the structural strength under different flight conditions.


Although at this stage, many countries have broken through the technical barriers of stealth coating, but the air defense threat rising, capacity for absorbing stealth coating also has higher requirements, if that is not developed a world leader in performance stealth Coating technology, then even if a flying-wing bomber is produced, it will still be invisible, but the stealth coating technology will be detected by the enemy air defense radar, and then intercepted.

Here's What It Takes to Fly the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber

In addition to radar stealth, whether it is a fighter or a bomber, the temperature of the high-temperature gas emitted by the engine is very high, which can often reach thousands of degrees, so it will be a big trail for the enemy’s infrared scanning equipment. To this end, it was necessary to install equipment that can quickly cool down the engine tail nozzle. This technology does not seem to be involved in fighter jets, but it is very critical, but only the United States has this technology in the world, so this technical barrier cannot be broken. F-22 also use the same tech to reduce heat signature

Of course, there are no absolutes in the world. The United States cannot always be a military power, and it cannot always use force to coerce its opponents. Therefore, with the development of the times and science and technology, there will definitely be some countries that have also developed a flying-wing aerodynamic layout, which can be better than the B2 Stealth bombers and more advanced strategic bombers come out in coming years

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