In the presence of members of Congress and the media, the Northrop B-2 “stealth” bomber is shown publicly for the first time at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.
The aircraft, which was developed in great secrecy for nearly a decade, was designed with stealth characteristics that would allow it to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses unnoticed. At the time of its public unveiling, the B-2 had not even been flown on a test flight. It rapidly came under fire for its massive cost–more than $40 billion for development and a $1 billion price tag for each unit.
In 1989, the B-2 was successfully flown, performing favorably. Although the aircraft had a wingspan of nearly half a football field, its radar signal was as negligible as that of a bird. The B-2 also successfully evaded infrared, sound detectors, and the visible eye.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the original order for the production of 132 stealth bombers was reduced to 21 aircraft. The B-2 has won a prominent place in the modern U.S. Air Force fleet, serving well in bombing missions during the 1990s.