Re: The B2 is worth more than its weight in gold WAS 1929 deja vu

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Fri Apr 28 2000 - 14:48:34 MDT

ok you win.

John Clark wrote:

> Michael should love this post, I'm picking up bad habits and quoting up the wazoo.

good post john.... ;)

> The book "The B2 Spirit" by Walter J Boyne (an Aviation Week Editor) was
> published just last month, it's clearly pro B2 and yet in the introduction I find this:
> "With all the R&D costs now allocated to just 21 aircraft the unit cost has risen
> drastically to the point opponents now call each aircraft -not just the program- a
> 2 billion dollar blunder".
> I also find that the B2 does not weigh over 400,000 lb as Michael said, the empty weight
> is only 125,000 lb and even at maximum takeoff weight it's only 336,500 lb. So when I
> said the B2 was literally worth its weight in gold I was not engaging in hyperbolae I was
> actually being too conservative, even if you count a full load of fuel and bombs and crew.
> As I said the military mind is not concerned with cost. Oh well, at least we have the stealth bra.

My estimate was based on a) I knew that it was designed to carry 100,000 lb in munitions internally, b) from my
USAF experience, I know that for the types of missions the B-2 is built for, fuel demands would be roughly equal
to payload size at the very least, up to a couple times the payload size for less efficient vehicles, and c)
most all military aircraft have an empty to gross weight ratio of between 1:1.5 up to 1:3. My recollection based
on R&D period weight estimates when I was in ROTC seemed to jive with this. The fact that a lot more composite
technology wound up being used than was probably originally estimated probably accounts for the low vehicle

Beyond the Stealth Bra:
John, you and I sitting here couldn't possibly account for all of the technological carryovers from the stealth
program to civilian industry. Most of these technology transfers are in the form of new materials, new
manufacturing methods, etc. and not actual consumer products. Mundane things like better paint primers,
adhesives, etc. are each in and of themselves minor things. Together they are actually rather large
contributors. The electroluminescent laptop display found in many laptop computers was developed for the stealth
bomber, for example, because they needed advanced display systems for the cockpit that did not use CRT or other
technologies that produced large magnetic fields or emitted radio waves.

The original point of this particular argument though, is that military R&D is or is not an excellent way to
push technological advancement. I still say it is. Possibly not as good as our current economy is, but its
better than anything else. Every chip we currently use is based on original generation designs that needed to be
compact, durable, and light for use in many military applications, from air-to-air missiles to ICBMs to torpedos
and tanks. If we had not had a need to decipher the Enigma and Purple military codes, or design the atomic bomb,
it would have taken at least another decade before anyone would have cared enough to invent the first computers.
If there wasn't the need for the fastest fighter aircraft on the battlefield, the jet engine would have
languished in wind tunnels for another decade as well. If Germany hadn't needed a large ballistic missile to lob
a ton of TNT at a whack on London faster than radar could spot them, Robert Goddard's designs for liquid fueled
rockets would have languished in the patent archives, never scaled up to large sizes neede to reach space, and
he would have died of TB in 1945 anyways as another forgotten nutty professor, and we probably wouldn't have
reached the moon to this day. No weather satellites, no communications satellites, no space probes, and no
Iridium. If Eisenhower hadn't had a need to get photographic reconaissance of the soviet union after the Powers
incident, the Corona program would never have been developed, and re-entry technology would have languished for
years, we also would not have developed such high resolution camera technology, so earth resources satellites
would never have been developed and oil exploration and archaeology would both have not gotten to where they are
today as a result.

No cell phones.
No cryptography
No computers
No satellites
etc etc etc

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