The unbelievable way the B2 Spirit refuels is engineering at its finest

  • The B-2 Spirit is a US Air Force stealth bomber
  • It can refuel in mid-air
  • The B-2 has the capacity to drop thermonuclear weapons and avoid detection

Published on Mar 18, 2024 at 9:04 PM (UTC+4)
by Tom Wood

Last updated on Mar 19, 2024 at 7:14 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is a true feat of engineering, and never is this more apparent than when it refuels in mid-air.

If you know anything about military aircraft, you’ll probably recognise the iconic shape of the B-2 Spirit.

Known as the Stealth Bomber, the Spirit is a vital part of the US Air Force military arsenal.

They first flew in 1989, and were introduced into service in 1997, remaining active until today.

READ MORE! Rare aerial footage of world’s only long-range Stealth Bomber flying

As well as having an iconic aerial profile and being able to do some serious damage with thermonuclear warheads, the B-2 Spirit is packed with features that help it remain undetected whilst it carries out missions.

However, perhaps the most impressive thing about it all is how the plane refuels mid-flight.

Machines like this take up quite a lot of fuel, as you can probably imagine, so they need to be able to take that on board as efficiently as possible.

When cruising, the B-2 – built by Northup Grumman – must refuel every six hours, taking on board 45,000kg of fuel each time it does.

To make that happen, the B-2 has a hole in the very top that allows for in-air refuelling from another aircraft.

The fuel plane stays at a constant distance and speed above the B-2 whilst that fuel intake spins around and allows a nozzle to enter.

Then, one it is done, the magic really happens.

The fuel delivery hose goes back to the fuelling craft, and the B-2 bomber’s fuel intake swivels around and completely blends back into the top of the aircraft.

That’s because if it didn’t the plane might be detectable by anti-aircraft systems or radar, and they can’t have that happen, can they?

It’s pretty remarkable really.

When a video showing the B-2’s refuelling process was shared online, people were queuing up to express their awe at this mechanical marvel.

One person commented: “The way it disappears is unbelievable.”

Another wrote: “Just goes to show how advanced modern radar technology is, it’s good enough to detect the plane from that tiny port, so it has to be covered.”

A third pointed out: “Fun fact, when this port is opened, it’s radar signature triples.”

A fourth comment simply reads: “Precision engineering.”

Well, it certainly is that.

There are only around 80 pilots out there that fly the B-2, meaning that you’re unlikely to ever manage to catch one in real life – not least because they fly so high up.

After all, they are stealth jets – not being seen is what they do.


Tom Wood

Tom started his journalism career soon after completing a Masters degree at the University of Salford. Since then, he’s covered a bit of everything – sport, celebrity and world news.