Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit first flew back in 1989 and it still is the most advanced strategic bomber the world has ever seen. Its wingspan in 52 meters and length – 21 meters. It can reach a speed of 1,014 km/h and has a range of 11 thousand kilometres, which can be further extended with air refuelling operations. It is quite impressive, but what comfort features does it have?
It might sound strange asking this question. I mean, there is an amazing piece of technology, capable of launching nuclear strikes and flying deep into enemy’s air space without even triggering the radars. B-2 can blend in with the colour of the sky and doesn’t even leave a trail of condensation. Its four General Electric F118-GE-100 non-afterburning turbofan engines are mounted deep inside the fuselage to minimize the IR signature and it doesn’t even have a tail. However, it is still piloted by people and people have their needs.
B-52 requires 5 people crew, B-1B is flown by a crew of 4. Meanwhile B-2 Spirit only packs a couple of pilots in its cockpit. It is because B-2 has a high degree of automation and can pretty much fly itself. This means that even those two pilots don’t have to stay sitting with joysticks in their hands.
While one pilot stays at controls, the other one can go to the toilet. Or to prepare a meal – there is a galley for that, which is also well-enough equipped for hot food preparation. So you just pilot the B-2 and wait for you colleague to bring coffee and some pasta.
During the development of the B-2 Spirit, a lot of research has been conducted on the sleep and energy cycles of humans. Engineers determined that some sleeping facilities may be required because of very long missions. Therefore, while one of the crew members is piloting the plane, another one can sleep in a camp bed. Then, we would assume, crew members would switch to allow another one to rest.
Sleeping on a strategic bomber is not a laughing matter. The issue is that missions require a tremendous amount of focus and awareness. People need to be prepared for adversity and changes in the environment. They simply cannot be sleepy, despite of the high levels of automation. At every moment of the mission they have to be ready to respond to orders and arising potential threats. It is not an easy job and there is a lot of responsibility involved.
Of course, we reserve our right to doubt whether it is possible to sleep in a B-2 Spirit when you’re on a mission. But at least you are working in a controlled climate, can use the bathroom and the galley. And the view is also something to adore and remember.