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  • The B-2 Stealth Bomber is probably one of the most iconic planes to have ever been built.

  • It's sleek flying wing design makes it practically invisible to radar and incredibly fuel efficient, allowing it to penetrate even the most sophisticated of enemy defenses.

  • But how did this incredible aircraft come into existence, and what technological advancements made it possible?

  • The rise of stealth aircraft can be tracked back to World War One, when the Germans attempted to use transparent canvas to make their planes difficult to spot.

  • That plan backfired, as the glossy canvas made the aircraft even more visible in sunlight.

  • The demand for stealth aircraft, as we think of them today, rose with the advancement of practical radar technology in the late 1930s.

  • The technology formed the backbone of Britain's early warning system during the Battle of Britain, saving uncountable lives from German bombing runs.

  • Let's see how the technology works.

  • Radar works by sending short pulses of electromagnetic energy in the form of radio waves outwards,

  • the antenna then switches to receiver mode and waits to detect the reflections of these radio waves off distant objects.

  • The radar now receives a blip on the screen called a radar cross-section, and it's size changes with the magnitude of radio waves returning to the antenna.

  • The Radar Cross-Section is a measure of how detectable an object is with radar.

  • The size of the object is just one factor, which can be mitigated with clever engineering.

  • The B-2 has a 52 m wingspan, yet it has been reported to have the same radar cross-section as a large bird.

  • So how does the B-2 manage to achieve this incredible feat?

  • The core concept behind the B-2 is reflection.

  • It was designed to reflect the radio waves away from the source, so that they never get the chance to be detected.

  • What is amazing is that every surface of the B-2 has been designed with this in mind.

  • The aircraft was designed with the aid of computational models and a supercomputer, which resulted in an incredibly complex curved shape.

  • This technology was not available during the development of the F-117 Nighthawk, resulting in its much simpler faceted flat panels.

  • The B-2's radar cross section is further reduced by its streamlined flying wing design, with its highly reflective engines embedded within the aircraft where radar cannot see it.

  • Even the engines air intakes and exhaust vents are located on top of the plane to ensure they cannot be detected by ground based devices.

  • But the flying wing has some unique flying characteristics that took many years for Northtrop to perfect.

  • One of the most notable is the lack of a tail rudder to control the yaw.

  • The B-2 instead uses a split rudders, on the tips of the left and right wing.

  • They act as airbrakes to slow either side of the wing, and cause a yawing motion.

  • But, when in use, the split rudders can increase the radar cross section of the plane.

  • So the B-2 can also use differential thrusting of its left and right engines to allow it be controlled when stealth is a priority.

  • Beyond the shape, the B-2 is also made with advanced composite materials capable of absorbing and dissipating incoming radio energy

  • The exact composition of the B-2 is classified, but we know that the skin is made from a carbon fiber reinforced plastic,

  • while the leading edge of the B-2 is likely painted with a paint which contains small particles of iron, which absorb electromagnetic energy and converts it to heat.

  • With these technologies combined the B-2 barely even registers on radar screens.

  • What is even more terrifying to think about is the fact the Nazi 's had created a very similar plane all the way back in 1944.

  • The Horten 229 incorporated many of the same principles as the B-2, long before the stealth technology that made the B-2 possible was fully understood.

  • Today, we can only imagine what the impact this plane would have had, if it was ready before the wars end.

  • Thanks for watching! And welcome to all my new subscribers.

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The B-2 Stealth Bomber is probably one of the most iconic planes to have ever been built.

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B2 US radar stealth aircraft wing radio cross

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    Jeff Chiao posted on 2022/02/16
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