A B-2 Bomber, probably the coolest aircraft ever created after the Lockheed A-12, has crashed for the first time ever. Its name was the Spirit of Kansas and it was one of the 21 US$1.2 billion Northrop Grumman stealth plane ever manufactured. It fell to the ground right after take-off for "unknown reasons" at the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Both pilots ejected to safety and, although there's no video footage of the actual crash, the mess on the runway was huge:
The B-2 Spirit follows the same ideas pioneered by John Knudsen Northrop, who founded Northrop to pursue his flying wing designs, and the Nazi Horten Ho-IX, one of the most advanced planes at its time, designed by the Horten brothers.
The Ho-IX, also called Gotha Go 229 or Ho 229, took of for the first time in 1944 and was the only plane to meet Luftwaffe's chief, frustrated transvestite and absolute nutter Hermann Göring 1000-1000-1000 performance standards: the Horten was capable of transporting 1,000 kilograms of bombs over 1,000 kilometres at 1,000 kilometres an hour.
Fortunately, it never reached production and most airframes were destroyed by US forces to avoid the Soviets getting their paws all over them. The U.S. VIII Corps of General Patton's Third Army captured one, however, and its low-drag, no-unnecessary surfaces live now in the B-2.
Unlike the experimental Horten and the flying wing designs that Northrop designed in the 40s (like 1948's Northrop YB-49, a jet-based variation of the 1946's YB-35 strategic bomber) the Spirit became fully operational.
The B-2 bombers are amazingly efficient: like its 20 sister vessels still in service, the Air Vehicle-12 Spirit of Kansas was capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear bombs to any target around the world in a few hours, with just one refueling. Powered by four General Electric F118-GE-100 turbofans capable of 17,300 pounds of thrust each, the aircraft can reach 410 knots (760kph) at a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet.
Another advantage of its simple design —coupled with its radar-absorbing coating, called Alternate High-Frequency Material—is that their radar profile is extremely low. Pair this with its operational altitude and these planes are extremely hard to detect and shoot down. That's the reason why this crash, which no known reasons yet, is so exceptional. That and the effect of watching US$1.2 billion dollars disappearing in an crater in a concrete runway.
According to the Air Force, an investigation is currently under way about why the Spirit of Kansas went to Oz at Guam. But don't worry, taxpayers, I'm sure you will get a cool 3D simulation of how it all happened from the Wizard in Chief, General Dorothy and Commander Toto, at the Pentagon. [Military.com, Ho-XI at Wikipedia, Jack Northrop at Wikipedia, Air Force — Main photo by Bobbi Garcia for the AFFTC]