Kit No. 4070
Decals: One version
Comments: Raised and engraved panel lines; option for open or closed landing gear doors; engraved detail in one of two bomb bays with separately molded 2,000 lb. GBU-32 bomb
The B-2 Spirit first flew on July 17, 1989, and the U.S. Air Force took its first delivery of what became a fleet of 21 aircraft on December 17, 1993. The B-2 bomber represents a revolution in aircraft design that can truly evade radar. Eighty percent of the aircraft is made of composite materials, including glass, carbon or graphite fibers that are woven into a cloth or tape-like format, molded into shape with a binding polymer and cured with heat. The end result gives the B-2 a very slight radar signature. Radar absorbent materials (RAM) are incorporated into the aircraft’s internal structure, while the internal load-bearing structure, what might be called the plane’s “skeleton,” consists of more traditional materials, such as titanium and aluminum. The B-2’s stealth capability allows it to replace the Boeing B-52 as America’s front-line strategic bomber.
The B-2 is a refinement of the flying wing design of Northrop Aviation, pioneered in the 1940’s by Jack Northrop’s piston-engined Northrop N-1M fighter and massive XB-35 bomber, and subsequently by the jet-powered version of the XB-35, the YB-49. Both the XB-35 and YB-49 had an identical wingspan to today’s B-2: exactly 172 feet. The technology to adequately control such aircraft under combat conditions did not exist in the 1940’s, for although the YB-49 was a marvel, one of the two prototypes crashed due to stability problems, leading to the cancellation of the program by the Air Force.
The design of the B-2’s four General Electric F-118-GE-100 turbofan engines, mounted internally in its wings, contribute to its stealth. The F-118 engine was derived from the F-101, which powered the Rockwell B-1 Lancer, a swing-wing strategic bomber which appeared in the 1980’s to complement the Air Force’s fleet of B-52 bombers. The F-118 burns more fuel at subsonic speed, but also requires less air, allowing for significantly smaller intakes. The F-118’s exhausts are built into the upper surface of the wings and are positioned well ahead of the trailing edge. The heat signature of the B-2’s exhaust is reduced by mixing it with cold air before it leaves the aircraft, helping to frustrate infra-red radars.
The B-2 has two separate bomb bays located in the center of the underside of the aircraft, containing either bomb racks or a rotary launcher designed by Boeing. The bomb bays can accomodate either nuclear weapons (the AGM-129 Cruise Missile; the B61 free-fall nuclear bomb; the B83 nuclear bomb, designed for low-altitude supersonic delivery) or a variety of conventional weapons, including loads of the standard Mk 82 500 lb. bombs; Mk 84 2,000 lb. bombs; the GBU-37 4,700 lb. “bunker buster” bombs which have been used against hard targets in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan; cluster bombs; or a variety of GPS (global positioning system) or JDAM (joint direct attack munitions) explosives.
The B-2 is reported to be even stealthier than the F-117 Nighthawk, which is documented to have successfully penetrated Iraqi air defenses during 1991’s Operation Desert Storm. The B-2 was first employed in combat during Operation Allied Force in 1999, flying from Whiteman AFB in Missouri to strike targets in Kosovo in the Balkans, flying only at night and timed to take advantage of the activities of electronic countermeasure (ECM) aircraft in the area.
Wingspan: 172 feet
Length: 69 feet
Height: 17 feet
Weight: 153,700 lbs. empty; 375,000 lbs. fully loaded
Powerplant: Four (4) General Electric F-118-GE-100 turbofan engines (non-afterburning)
Maximum speed: Classified (the U.S. Air Force has disclosed only that the B-2 is “capable” of, alternatively, “high subsonic speeds” or a speed of 680 mph. There is some evidence that the B-2 may also be capable of supersonic flight, given that at least one of its possible weapons loads is reportedly designed for delivery at such speeds)
Service ceiling: 50,000 feet
Range: 6,000 miles (without aerial refueling)
The B-2 is molded in black plastic and one clear part for the windshield, totalling 35 parts sealed in a clear plastic bag inside the box. There is no tray. There is provision for an open bomb bay and one separately molded bomb which appears to be in the 2,000 lb. class. The detail of the landing gear is fairly good considering the scale, and if you build this kit with landing gear deployed, you will need a nose weight of some kind directly behind the cockpit. Some websites out there claim this particular kit has a “detailed cockpit” — this is not so, but this also shouldn’t surprise any modeler familiar with 1/144 scale.
This kit at 1/144 scale is fairly simple. It has relatively few parts and comes together easily. The biggest challenge is hiding the lateral seams on the wingtips and along the somewhat bulbous intakes. The cockpit is very simple and consists of a one-piece tub and a rather large hood for the side-by-side instruments of the pilot and mission commander. There is an option to have one of the bomb bays open, and this bomb bay has two molded-in 2000 lb. bombs, along with a third bomb which is glued in. The kit is not terribly detailed but appears to have quite accurate lines, and would be a quick build but for the puttying, sanding and treatment of the surface afterwards. The lateral seams where the wingtips join the rest of the airframe are particularly time-consuming; repeated applications of putty were needed in these spots, for they do not have a lot of structural strength and are prone to hairline cracks. Even gap-filling glues like Zap-a-Gap will not cure this; it will take minute applications of Milliput to conquer the seams in this case.
Initially I tried airbrushing on Gunship Grey which the instructions called for, opting for the Model Master enamel variety, but this did not seem dark enough, so I switched to Tamiya’s German Grey acrylic and got what looked like a perfect shade. Tamiya acrylics often leave a fabric-like sheen on the surface of whatever you’re airbrushing, which was just the right look given the composite and radar-absorbent materials of which the B-2 is made.
For the engine exhausts, I used a mix of two Model Master enamels, Gloss Black and Burnt Iron. Next I airbrushed on a clear flat coat to seal in the paint job prior to the small amount of weathering I did to bring out the kit’s few engraved panel lines with a dark enamel wash. Next came a clear gloss coat to prep the B-2 for decals, which went on with a minor amount of solvent. A final coat of lacquer went on to seal the decals.
A nice little kit of the B-2, great for those who don’t mind trading a little detail for compact size, and haven’t the space for the larger but breathtaking Testors 1/72 scale version.
- B-2 Spirit in Action: Squadron Signal Publications, Aircraft Number 178, Copyright 2002.