The US Air Force began full-scale development of the B-2 bomber in 1981 and planned to acquire 132 operational bombers. The estimated cost to acquire and construct facilities for 132 aircraft, expressed in then-year dollars, increased by $19 billion, from $58.2 billion in 1986, when B-2 cost estimates were first made public, to $77 billion in 1990, representing a cost increase of 32 percent. The estimated cost calculated in constant 1992 dollars grew from $60.2 billion to $74.3 billion, an increase of 23 percent. The Air Force was granted approval in 1987 to begin procurement of 132 operational B-2 aircraft, principally for strategic bombing missions.

In April 1990, the Secretary of Defense, as the result of a major aircraft review, announced a reduction in the B-2 quantities, from 132 to 76. As a result, in January 1991, the Air Force estimated the cost to develop, procure, and construct facilities for 76 aircraft at $64.8 billion in then-year (1990) dollars.

In January 1992, the President reduced B-2 quantities from 75 to 20 operational aircraft, plus 1 test aircraft that was not planned to be upgraded to an operational configuration. The Air Force estimated the cost of the 20 aircraft program, including construction of facilities, at $45.3 billion in then-year dollars. Production of these aircraft was concurrent with development and testing. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the emphasis of B-2 development was changed to conventional operations.

The prime contractor, responsible for overall system design and integration, was Northrop Grumman's Military Aircraft Systems Division. Boeing Military Airplanes Company, Hughes Radar Systems Group and General Electric Aircraft Engine Group were key members of the aircraft contractor team. Another major contractor, responsible for aircrew training devices (weapon system trainer and mission trainer) was Hughes Training Inc. (HTI) - Link Division, formerly known as CAE - Link Flight Simulation Corp. Northrop Grumman and its major subcontractor HTI, were responsible for developing and integrating all aircrew and maintenance training programs.

On 21 March 1996 President Bill Clinton directed that the remaining B-2 Spirit test flight aircraft be upgraded to a fully operational aircraft using funds from a Congressional addition to the FY96 defense budget for the multi-role bomber. The B-2 upgrade was expected to cost about $493 million and would increase the B-2 inventory to 21 aircraft. This upgrade was contingent upon Air Force negotiations of a mutually agreeable firm-fixed price contract with Northrop Grumman. The upgrade included replacing the landing gear, a new avionics suite, and modifications to the aircraft structure, fuel system, and weapons bay doors. It would be primarily accomplished at the Northrop Palmdale facility and was estimated to take about three years. The total R&D and procurement for the B-2 program in then-year dollars is $44.4 billion.

In the early 1990s the Northrop workforce peaked at 13,000, though by early 2001 only 1,200 employees worked on the B-2 in Palmdale, doing maintenance and upgrades. Northrop had estimated that it would cost between $2 billion and $4 billion to reopen the production line, including nonrecurring costs. Each new aircraft would cost about $500-700 million for a production run of 40 aircraft. In the late 1990s both Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney were among those publicly supporting production of more B-2s. During the 2000 presidential campaign some Bush advisors suggested considering resumption of B-2 production.

In 2001 Northrop Grumman Corporation offered to build 40 more aircraft at a cost of $735 million apiece, a reduction from the $2.2-billion unit cost of the existing fleet.


Each stealth bomber has at least three designations. The Air Vehicle [AV] number [eg, AV-1], indicative of the aircraft's construction sequence within the stealth bomber program. The tail number [eg 82-1066] is part of the general Air Force numbering system in which the first two digits are the year in which the plane was authorised, and the last four digits are the aircraft's unique serial number. The planes also have both formal and informal names, which is an unusual [though increasingly common] practice. For a long time we had a bit of difficulty providing robust correlation among these three designation systems, since Whiteman AFB and Dave Hastings did not have their stories straight on Spirit of Ohio and Spirit of Arizona. While we think that we have finally gotten these ducks lined up, any additional corrections would be vastly appreciated.

Following the naval precedent in which battleships, and subsequently whatever ship the Navy regarded as its capital ship [currently ballistic missile submarines, but it was nuclear powered cruisers for a while] were named after states, operational B-2 aircraft are named after states, with the annoying exception of Spirit of Kitty Hawk. States so honoured are generally those with a close association [operational, political, or otherwise] with the program. This would seem to place an upper limit of 50 on the number of aircraft that can eventually be expected to be produced, though one imagines that additional states can be admitted to the Union if the need arises.

Test aircraft have a somewhat less illustrious, and less definitive, naming system. Sources vary as to the names that have at times been used in connection with these aircraft, and we provide all names that have been reportedly associated with these vehicles [with the less certain names in [] parentheses]. As they enter operational service, these aircraft were given more dignified state names.

See Production list

Total B-2 production is 21 aircraft. All of the development aircraft have been be updated to production standard and delivered to the USAF's 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

After consolidation in the US defence industry during 1993-1998, the following are now the main contractors on the B-2 program:

Northrop GrummanPrime contractor, integrator, forward fuselage, intermediate fuselage structures, edges and LO systems
BoeingOuter wings, center fuselage, landing gear, rotary weapons launchers, airframe components
General ElectricF118 engines
Raytheon SystemsAPQ-181 radar, weapons system trainers, EW system components
Lockheed MartinFlight control system, APR-50 DMS, mission computers
Rockwell CollinsCommunications equipment
Orbital SciencesData storage system
RosemountAir data system
Allied SignalAPU

AV-7 to AV-16 were built to Block 10 standard (B-2A-10-NO). This limited the B-2 to carrying 16 B83 free-fall nuclear weapons or Mk84 900kg iron bombs, and restricted its employment to missions of two to three aircraft flown from Whiteman, but with the option of recovering to a friendly base. AV-12 thru AV-16 were upgraded to Block 20 standard in 1996/97.

AV-17 to AV-19 were built to Block 20 standard. This gave the aircraft the ability to carry up to 36 cluster bomb units or 16 900kg JDAM inertially-guided bombs. In parallel with JDAM the GPS-Aided Targetting System (GATS) was installed. Block 20 also allowed for partial low-level terrain following and a deployable mission-planning system to allow multi-aircraft deployments to forward bases.

AV-20 and AV-21 were built to the definitive Block 30 standard. This allowed 80 Mk82 225kg bombs, Mk62 mines or 37 Mk117 340kg fire bombs to be carried. A Milstar satellite communication system was added, and the mission planning system was fully functional.

In November 1995, the first B-2 to arrive at Whiteman (88-0329) returned to Palmdale to be upgraded to Block 30 standard.

While in Air Force service, primary maintenance responsibility for the B-2 is divided between Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB for avionics software (contractor); Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill AFB for landing gear and trainers (contractor); and the Northrop-Grumman facility at Air Force Plant 42 at Palmdale for periodic depot maintenance.

It appears that no more B-2s will be built. A heavy bomber industrial capabilities study released on July 11th 1995 supported the Department of Defence's position that it was not necessary to preserve the capabilities to build future B-2s.

In May 1996 the Air Force decided to have AV-1 upgraded to operational configuration, thus bringing the operational fleet to 21 aircraft.

(NB aircraft with serials in blue are those I have personally seen).

AV-182-1066B-2A-30-NOFatal Beauty, Spirit of AmericaRolled out at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California on 22 Oct 1988; first flight 17 Jul 1989 from Palmdale to Edwards AFB; operational as test aircraft with 6520th TS / 6510th TW, AFMC, Edwards AFB; unit was redesignated 420th TS / 412th TW on 02 Oct 1992; used for flight envelope expansion, night flights, night refuelings, and RCS-testing; placed in flyable storage at Palmdale in Mar 1993, with 81 sorties flown in 352.6 flight hours; modified to B-2A-30-NO standard and used as an operational aircraft. Was named Spirit of America on 14 Jul 2000. Del to 509th BW the same day.
AV-282-1067B-2A-30-NOThe Ship From Hell, Murphy's Law, Spirit of ArizonaNicknames were acquired because anything that could go wrong did; first flight 19 Oct 1990 from Palmdale to Edwards AFB; operational with 6520th TS / 6510th TW; to 420th TS / 412th TW on 02 Oct 1992; heavily instrumented and used for flutter, loads, landing gear and weapons bay door tests; flew 98 sorties in 496.4 flight hours until Dec 1993; the aircraft was to have been used as a development aircraft with some stealth features omitted. Later decision saw the aircraft being updated to Block 30 standard for operational use. Del to 509th BW 07 Dec 1997. 18th aircraft delivered to 509th BW. Was named Spirit of Arizona on 20 Mar 1998. Flew Global Power mission to RAF Fairford 10 Mar 1999. Flew 7 missions during Operation Allied Force in 1999. As at 04 Apr 2003 had flown 4 Operation Iraqi Freedom missions. Arr RAF Fairford 11 Aug 2008.
AV-382-1068B-2A-30-NOThe Ghost, Spirit of New YorkFirst flight 18 Jun 1991 from Palmdale to Edwards AFB. Operational with 6520th TS / 6510th TW (to 420th TS / 412th TW on 02 Oct 1992). First aircraft with complete avionics. Used for radar, navigation, offensive and defensive systems testing: Feb 1993 tested Northrop ZSR-63 defensive avionics suit; Nov 1993 tested Hughes AN/APQ-181 LPI (Low-Probability-of-Intercept) radar. Named Spirit of New York on 10 Oct 1997, but remained at Edwards for testing. It spent most of 2002 being upgraded to Block 30 standard.
AV-482-1069B-2A-30-NOChristine, Spirit of IndianaNickname was acquired because it seemed possessed; first flight 17 Apr 1992; operational with 6520th TS / 6510th TW; to 420th TS / 412th TW on 02 Oct 1992; used as weapons trials aircraft; released on 03 Sep 1992 first inert 2000 lb Mk84 bomb from 6500m near Edwards AFB; also used for avionics, armament, climatic, and low-observable testing; modified to B-2A-30-NO standard and used as an operational aircraft; named Spirit of Indiana on May 22nd 1999. Del to 509th BW the same day. 20th aircraft delivered. Arrived at RAF Fairford on 23 Jul 1999 to take part in the Royal International Air Tattoo. Returned to Whiteman 25 Jul 1999.
AV-582-1070B-2A-30-NOFire and Ice, Spirit of OhioFirst flight 05 Oct 1992; used for low-observable comparsion with AV-1; to McKinley Climatic Laboratory, Eglin AFB, FL, for 6 month of environmental tests; modified to B-2A-30-NO standard and used as an operational aircraft. Del to 509th BW on 18 Jul 1997. Named Spirit of Ohio on 18 Jul 1997. 14th operational aircraft.
AV-682-1071B-2A-30-NOBlack Widow, Spirit of MississippiSpent 6 months on ground for Tech Order validation (ie it was taken apart and put back together so that a workshop manual could be written); first flight 02 Feb 1993 from Palmdale to Edwards AFB, lasting about 2 hours; operational with 420th TS / 412th TW; modified to B-2A-30-NO standard for use as an operational aircraft. Delivered to 509th BW on 23 May 1998 and named Spirit of Mississippi the same day. 19th operational aircraft.
AV-788-0328B-2A-30-NOThe Pirate Ship, Spirit of TexasLeased back to Northrop for electromagnetic compatibility and emission security trials, completed Aug 1993; Delivered to 509th BW on 31 Aug 1994. Named Spirit of Texas on 24 Sep 1994; 3rd aircraft delivered. Returned to Whiteman as Block 30 in Oct 1998.
AV-888-0329B-2A-30-NOSpirit of MissouriDelivered and named on 17 Dec 1993; 1st aircraft delivered to 509th BW; this aircraft flew to the Paris Air Show on 10-11th June 1995. Upgraded to Block 30 November 1997.
AV-988-0330B-2A-30-NOSpirit of CaliforniaDelivered 17 Aug 1994; named on 31 Mar 1994; 2nd aircraft delivered to 509th BW. Returned to Whiteman as Block 30 in Jul 1998.
AV-1088-0331B-2A-30-NOSpirit of South CarolinaDelivered 30 Dec 1994; named on 15 Apr 1995; 5th aircraft delivered to 509th BW. Upgraded to Block 30 April 1998.
AV-1188-0332B-2A-30-NOSpirit of WashingtonDelivered 29 Oct 1994; named on 29 Oct 1994; 4th aircraft delivered to 509th BW. This aircraft performed two flypasts at Farnborough International 1996. Upgraded to Block 30 December 1998.
AV-1289-0127B-2A-30-NOSpirit of KansasDelivered 17 Feb 1995; named on 13 May 1995; 6th aircraft delivered to 509th BW. Upgraded to Block 20 September 1996. Landed at RAF Fairford during RIAT on 19 Jul 1997. Returned to Whiteman as Block 30 in Dec 1998. Made two flypasts of RAF Cottesmore during RIAT on 28th and 29th July 2001. Crashed at Andersen AFB 23 Feb 2008. Had accumulated 5176 flight hours in 1036 sorties.
AV-1389-0128B-2A-30-NOSpirit of NebraskaDelivered 28 Jun 1995; named on 03 Sep 1995; Upgraded to Block 20 July 1996. Upgraded to Block 30 1999. 7th aircraft delivered to 509th BW. Flyby at RAF Fairford/RIAT on a nonstop Global Power mission, 21 Jul 2002. Arr RAF Fairford 11 Aug 2008.
AV-1489-0129B-2A-30-NOSpirit of GeorgiaDelivered 14 Nov 1995; named on 11 Dec 1995; 8th aircraft delivered to 509th BW. Upgraded to Block 20 May 1997. Upgraded to Block 30 1999.
AV-1590-0040B-2A-30-NOSpirit of AlaskaDelivered on 24 Jan 1996; named on 27 Jul 1996; 10th aircraft delivered to 509th BW. Upgraded to Block 20 March 1997. Upgraded to Block 30 2000. Arr RAF Mildenhall 25 May 2000 for Air Fete. Dep Mildenhall 29 May 2000.
AV-1690-0041B-2A-30-NOSpirit of HawaiiDelivered on 10 Jan 1996; named on 27 May 1996; 9th aircraft delivered to 509th BW. Upgraded to Block 20 November 1996. Upgraded to Block 30 September 1999.
AV-1792-0700B-2A-30-NOSpirit of FloridaDelivered 03 Jul 1996; named on 23 Oct 1996; 12th aircraft delivered to 509th BW. Upgraded to Block 30 December 1999. Flyby at RAF Fairford/RIAT on a nonstop Global Power mission, 20 Jul 2002. On 19 Jul 2003 it perormed a flyby at RAF Fairford, recovered to Mildenhall, did another flyby on 20 Jul and then returned to Whiteman.
AV-1893-1085B-2A-30-NOSpirit of OklahomaDelivered 15 May 1996; named on 14 Sep 1996; 11th aircraft delivered to 509th BW. Upgraded to Block 30 Jan 2000.
AV-1993-1086B-2A-30-NOSpirit of Kitty HawkDelivered 30 Aug 1996; named on 16 Dec 1996; 13th aircraft delivered to 509th BW; performed a flypast at RAF Mildenhall Open House on 24 May 1997. Upgraded to Block 30 May 2000. Performed flybys at RAF Fairford 17th/18th July 2004.
AV-2093-1087B-2A-30-NOSpirit of PennsylvaniaDelivered 05 Aug 1997; named on 05 Aug 1997; 15th aircraft aircraft delivered to 509th BW. Redelivered to 509th BW on 26 Jan 2010 after PDM at Palmdale.
AV-2193-1088B-2A-30-NOSpirit of LouisianaDelivered 10 Nov 1997; named on 10 Nov 1997; 17th aircraft delivered to 509th BW.

Aircraft in order of delivery to Whiteman AFB

Del #SerialAV #DeliveredDate NamedNameLast seen by me
188-0329AV-817 Dec 199317 Dec 1993Missouri-
288-0330AV-917 Aug 199431 Mar 1994California-
388-0328AV-731 Aug 199424 Sep 1994Texas-
488-0332AV-1129 Oct 199429 Oct 1994Washington-
588-0331AV-1030 Dec 199415 Apr 1995South Carolina-
689-0127AV-1217 Feb 199513 May 1995Kansas29 Jul 2001 RAF Cottesmore
789-0128AV-1328 Jun 199503 Sep 1995Nebraska21 Jul 2002 RAF Fairford
889-0129AV-1414 Nov 199511 Dec 1995Georgia-
990-0041AV-1610 Jan 199627 May 1996Hawaii-
1090-0040AV-1524 Jan 199627 Jul 1996Alaska27 May 2000 RAF Mildenhall
1193-1085AV-1815 May 199614 Sep 1996Oklahoma-
1292-0700AV-1703 Jul 199623 Oct 1996Florida20 Jul 2003 RAF Fairford
1393-1086AV-1930 Aug 199616 Dec 1996Kitty Hawk18 Jul 2004 RAF Fairford
1482-1070AV-518 Jul 199718 Jul 1997Ohio-
1593-1087AV-2005 Aug 199705 Aug 1997Pennsylvania-
1682-1068AV-310 Oct 199710 Oct 1997New York-
1793-1088AV-2110 Nov 199710 Nov 1997Louisiana-
1882-1067AV-207 Dec 199720 Mar 1998Arizona-
1982-1071AV-623 May 199823 May 1998Mississippi22 Oct 1994 Edwards AFB
2082-1069AV-422 May 199922 May 1999Indiana25 Jul 1999 RAF Fairford
2182-1066AV-114 Jul 200014 Jul 2000America-