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The "Invisible" Plane? Breaking Down B-2 Spirit | Airplane Anatomy Ep. 5

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hey guys welcome back to Airplane Anatomy a series breakdown different airplanes from their history to their engineering to how they fly so today in episode 5 we're going to be talking about one of the most powerful but elusive aircrafts in the world and that is the Northrop Grumman b-2 spirits now the b2 was designed originally as a long-range bomber aircraft to carry both conventional and thermonuclear bombs now in order to do this it needs to be able to enter and leave enemy airspace without being detected especially by radar this is also known as stealth so today we're going to dive deeper into in simplified terms: how does radar work and also how our planes like the b-2 are engineered for stealth so let's get started the development of the b2 like many other military airplanes started during World War two so at that time the US had two main bombers in their fleets the first was from Boeing called the b-52 Stratofortress that was designed to fly at such high altitudes that it would be difficult to reach by anti-aircraft systems and the second one still in development at that time was the rockwell b-1 lancer which was designed to do the opposite so it was supposed to fly as such low altitudes and so quickly that it would be difficult to deduct however both of these airplanes had a big vulnerability to a new technology that was being developed in the 70s called radar so with radar also came a new race to build the very first stealth bomber in the world and at that time Nazi Germany actually came up with a design for such an aircraft called the Horten ho 229 which was strikingly similar to the eventual designs of the b2 however thankfully it was never put into service so around 1979 the us

started their advanced technology bomber program or 80b program which led to the eventual design of the b2 so what was this new groundbreaking technology called radar and how does it work in simple terms we can use radar to determine the position the heading and the velocity of an aircraft now radar is actually an acronym for radio detection and ranging and it might sound very complex however the concept behind it is actually very simple imagine you're holding a flashlight in a dark room when you point that light towards an object the light rays travel from that flashlight to the object and gets reflected by the object back into your eyes and depending on which light gets reflected back in how much this tells your brain what shape of the object it is and how far away it is now similarly radar emit intermittent radio waves that can travel for many more miles into a larger area an antenna is then transmitting these waves as a narrow beam in a particular direction now this is why a lot of antennas actually rotates to tracking movement in a larger area now these rays continue traveling until they hit something in which case they will be reflected back now the antenna then can switch to being a receiver to listen to the radio waves that are returning and since the waves travel at a constant speed which is the speed of lights we can actually use the length of time it took for the way to return to calculate how far away that object is and there are many different types of radar as well for example the Doppler radar can actually tell you the heading of the plane depending on the change in frequency from the received wave now this is similar it's your y2 pitch of a fire truck siren changes as it approaches you and drives away from you now you may have noticed that there is an important assumption that we make in order for radar to work and that is that the waves gets reflected back to where they originated from however this is not always the case because there are ways for objects to actually absorb the radar waves or deflect them away from where they came from and this forms the concept of stealth one way that the beats who actually deflects radar waves away from its origin is by using what is called a continuous curvature design now in this design the radii along each point on the surface actually changes in order to deflect the waves at all different directions so this actually means that it required a tremendous amount of computing power in order to even come up with the simulations for this design and this was also the reason of why b2 was such an innovative plane for its time on top of that the engines were actually especially designed to be embedded within the aircraft with s-shaped engine inlets that were actually placed on top of the wing instead in order to reduce its radar signature from the ground now all of this in combination with many other classified features the B to actually have a reader signature of just 11 square feet about the size of a large bird however all of these features weren't always active during flights and pilots actually had to manually press a button labeled a p en pen four penetrates in order to turn on these features and literally disappear with a button now how cool is that two companies competed to produce what would eventually become the b2 the first was an aerospace manufacturer company called Northrop corporation that paired up with Boeing in order to compete against the design submitted by Lockheed and Rockwell so Northrop at the time had actually developed two flying wings by the name of YB 35 in Y V 49 that were very similar in design to the b2 and so this was the design that eventually won against Lockheed and Rockwell now the b2 is typically referred to as a flying wing and that is because it doesn't have a traditional fuselage or even each heel section so on typical airplanes the tail section contains the rudder which affects yaw movement of the airplane so without a tail section the beat's who actually relies on what is called a split rudder system that is located on the outer trailing edges of each wing so how this split rudder system works is by slowing down basically applying speed brakes on only one side of the aircraft and essentially creating that yaw movement this was accomplished by what is called a fly-by-wire system in which the pilot inputs are interpreted by a computer which then translates them into a series of actions for each flight surface so in this way the plane actually behaves as the pilot intends it to you even though some of the physical flight surfaces might be different both the design and the production of the beats you were of course carried out in top secrecy so Northrop actually created front companies to order materials with and employees also had to get top-secret clearance from a special branch of the Air Force and also underwent random polygraph tests as they worked there was also such thing as b2 espionage where two employees of Northrop actually decided to sell secrets of the b2 program to other countries so when they were caught one was sentenced to life in prison and the other 132 years in max security jail so that was definitely a Wikipedia rabbit hole that I would highly recommend now Congress originally intended to order 132 of b2 planes however at the end of the Cold War they decided to bring that down to only 21 now this means that on average the cost of development and production for each plane was around 33 billion dollars today however with that price tag of course the b2 became one of the most powerful stealth bombers today with its service ceiling of 50,000 feet and it's max cruising speed of 09 five Mach it's also able to stay in the air for six hours without refueling so this enabled its you at one point to have a crew of two operate a mission for over 70 hours without needing to touch down on the ground so there is definitely no dispute that this is a extremely powerful airplane however it has been a very long time since its original development and of course technology has advanced so much since then as a result Northrop Grumman has announced that they are working on a new stealth bomber by the name of b21 Raider that is to enter service around 2023 and of course the details around its design and production are highly classified thank you so much for making it to the end of this video I hope you really enjoy the b-2 spirit as much as I did and that it's your new favorite stealth airplane so don't forget to give a like for this video and also subscribe to my channel I've got a lot of great and content coming up for you guys and I would love to see a comment from you on what you want me to cover next in my next episode of airplane Anatomy and so for now I will see you next week you

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