11/22 – The B-2 Spirit

A B-2 “Spirit” bomber on its first flight. (source: AF.Mil)

On this day in 1988, the American B-2 Spirit Bomber was unveiled to US military officials. The B-2 is a stealth heavy strategic bomber designed to fly above enemy radar capabilities and conduct long range missions with a crew of two. Costing roughly $2.1 Billion per aircraft (including spare parts and maintenance) the B-2 was designed for nuclear strikes during the Cold War – but by the time it was purchased in the early 1990s, it was impossible for the US Congress to justify buying any more than 21 of the aircraft. The B-2 was successful, however, and was used to conduct bombing raids during the 1999 Kosovo War and later on was a crucial part of Operation Shock and Awe (the 2003 bombing of Iraq). Although the B-2 can be seen as an unjustifiably huge expense typical of the Cold War, it has played an important part in projecting American power into the 21st century. For the superpowers, the “blank-cheque budget” days of the Cold War resulted in incredibly sophisticated military tech that will be employed well into the current era (and that could never be afforded in the current age).

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