Cultural Impact

The B-2 Bomber was fairly controversial in its development. The secrecy involved in both its building and its use made resolving any issues difficult, however. When the bomber was first being made, it lent itself to a myriad of complaints by groups ranging from scientists to government officials. Most of these complaints had to do with its overwhelming cost and its newness in design. Even some of the key designers, who based the aircraft on an older prototype by the same company, Northrop Corporation, struggled with pushing the design through due to its limited range. The biggest opponent to the operation, Joseph V. Foa, went after the B-2 in a published document condemning its limitations and lack of worth. He claimed that “the flying wing was the aerodynamically worst possible choice of configuration” for the B-2’s predecessor, the YB-49.[1] Even a decade after its reveal, people across the world feared what this aircraft meant. Studies after a B-2 Bomber crash strove to relieve the public of fearing the infertility of workers involved in cleaning up the nuclear bombs the B-2 was carrying. One study, within its abstract, explains that there was no risk of infertility and that the study was only done to relieve the public, since the news was so uproarious about the situation.[2] These sort of studies come out of the fearfulness and newness of military technology, specifically in terms of nuclear power and flight. Still, the military continued to produce these jets and develop their capabilities as assets necessary for national security.

Master Sgt. Val Gempis, Andersen Air Force Base, 2004, Wikimedia, accessed March 16, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:B-2_Spirit_050413-F-1740G-001a.jpg.
Master Sgt. Val Gempis, Andersen Air Force Base, 2004, Wikimedia, accessed March 16, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:B-2_Spirit_050413-F-1740G-001a.jpg.

Despite all of these concerns and hesitations, the B-2 and its development still gained substantial support from the government and the people. The cost was outrageous to build a single B-2, but the need for national security remained a high enough priority for some to overlook. In an environmental journal, a write-in notes the expense of the B-2 versus the budget of New York’s best management practice (BMP), an environmental organization. The issue was to move some of the BMP’s budget into monitoring the organization, although the writer disagreed with this notion. Still, he made no critique of the $1.2 billion B-2 budget; instead, he justified it by saying “we believe it works” – just as he believed the BMP works. The B-2 was more of an example than anything else for this environmental commentary.[3] In other words, the use of a B-2 Bomber was a given to this person. National security meant any cost to produce the jet was necessary. His only hope was that such a mentality could be translated into non-military programs like the BMP.

Bobbie Garcia, B-2 Spirit, 2015, digital, United States Air Force, accessed March 16, 2017, http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/FactSheets/Display/tabid/224/Article/104482/b-2-spirit.aspx.
Bobbie Garcia, B-2 Spirit, 2015, digital, United States Air Force, accessed March 16, 2017, http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/FactSheets/Display/tabid/224/Article/104482/b-2-spirit.aspx.

Going further, many descriptions of the aircraft for the general public make it into a novel creation, something that people should marvel at and appreciate. One article describes how many people will wait to see its liftoff, but practically no one will see it.[4] Another, published in 2013, details the experience a journalist has upon entering a B-2 for observation.[5] These articles are intended to show the American public what an incredible and powerful machine the B-2 Bomber is, inciting pride in those who are savvy enough to know about it.

The concerns and marvel etched into the B-2 Bomber for American society still carry out to today, thanks to the Cold War’s children putting so much stock in the national security that they believe the B-2 brings. With constant increases to the national concern for security over the decades since the B-2 was created, the B-2 Bomber’s legacy remains relevant and valuable to American society.

[1] Qtd. in Wayne Biddle, “Skeleton Alleged in the Stealth Bomber’s Closet,” Science 244, no. 4905 (1989): 650.

[2] Knud Juel, “Reduced Fertility after the Crash of a U.S. Bomber Carrying Nuclear Weapons? A Register-based Study on Male Fertility,” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 48, no. 10 (1995): 1261.

[3] “Raise your Voice,” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 60, no. 4 (Jul, 2005): 2-80A, 81A.

[4] O. Rhodes, “Stalking the B-2 Bomber,” Mechanical Engineering 110, no. 8 (1988): 34.

[5] Joe Pappalardo, “Beyond the B-2 Bomber,” Popular Mechanics 190, no. 5 (May 2013): 50.

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Written by Lindsey.