Final checkout work has begun on the Air Force's first Stealth bomber and the aircraft will be displayed for the first time during a "roll-out" ceremony in mid-November, the service announced Thursday.
The Air Force also said that the new bomber, designated the B-2, will be powered by four General Electric Co. jet engines; will be an unusually short plane because of its unique design, and will be flown by a crew of two, reflecting the technology that has gone into its development.The B-52 bomber requires a crew of six and the new B-1B bomber is flown by a crew of four.
Today's statement on the Stealth bomber marked the second step in a process begun last April, when the Air Force finally began to lift a decade-long veil of secrecy by releasing an artist's sketch of the plane.
Officials said then that they anticipated the first flight of the plane would occur this fall and that additional details, including a new estimate of cost overruns, would be revealed this summer.
The Air Force said today it was not yet prepared to release the new cost estimates. But it said it still anticipated the bomber would make its first flight this fall, despite the fact the first plane won't be rolled out from its production plant until mid-November.
The first B-2 won't fly on that day of its public unveiling, but preparations for that next milestone will be very close to completion by then, the service said.
"The B-2 will roll out in mid-November at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif. Additionally, the contractor is currently well into the assembly phase of aircraft No. 2," a statement said.
The Northrop Corp. is the prime contractor for the plane.
The Stealth bomber takes its nickname from the fact it is designed to fly without showing up on radar.
It resembles a "flying wing" in shape, without a conventional fuselage in the center. A small cockpit bubble rises on top of the flying wing and inlets for the jet engines are placed to each side of the cockpit, also on top of the wing.