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The motorcycle that thinks it's a stealth bomber

Northrop Grumman celebrates 20 years of the B-2 Spirit aircraft with a two-wheeled ride built by the team behind the American Chopper TV show.

Northrop Grumman

Remember how Tom Cruise's flyboy character in Top Gun seemed as at home riding the roadways on a motorcycle as he was jockeying an F-14 in the air?

Maverick is probably the kind of guy Northrop Grumman had in mind when it came up with the "visual centerpiece" of its 20th anniversary celebration of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. Actually, the more immediate entertainment industry tie-in is with the TLC series American Chopper--Northrop tapped Orange County Choppers, the Newburgh, N.Y., motorcycle shop behind the TV show, to design and build a bike to do homage to the B-2.

The first flight of the B-2 bomber took place in July 1989, just a few years after Top Gun became a box office and home video powerhouse. Northrop plans to fete the aircraft throughout the year, so the B-2 Stealth Bike will be making the circuit of trade shows, air shows, and other events. Also, the 2009 premiere of American Chopper will feature an episode on the design, development, and production of the B-2 bike.

The defense contractor didn't offer up any details about the bike's engine or its road-handling ability. Its focus was on the design elements. For instance:

Its gas tank and extended front cowling are shaped to resemble the B-2's unique cockpit and fuselage; major components are painted to match its color.

And the less obvious:

Each side of each wheel contains five machined aluminum B-2 models positioned in the shape of the Air Force star, each model engraved with the tail number of one of the 20 B-2s in the current fleet.

All in all, a bit cheesy, really. But hey, I drive a Camry, watch HBO, and served in the Army, not the Air Force.

Over at Wired's Danger Room blog, Noah Schachtman rightly cracked wise about the bike: "Forget the Blackwater cufflinks and the attack helicopter Hawaiian shirt. The contest for most awesomely bad defense trinket is official over."

See also: "Photos: A brief history of stealth aircraft"