The “flying wing” concept began long before the U.S. Air Force built the B-2 bomber, but the research for that project came from the same company that began researching the concept — Northrup — since before World War II.
At the outset of the war, aircraft designer Jack Northrup convinced the Army Air Corps to fund development of his flying wing concept, which he hoped to turn into a heavy bomber. The War Department agreed and the N-9M (“M” for model — a restored aircraft is seen above) was the result. The plane had no vertical control devices and was shaped like a boomerang. After the pilot got used to the controls, the N-9M handled well. There was one fatal crash during testing.
By the time the war ended Northrup had enough research to build the XB-35. But the Army Air Corp, later renamed the U.S. Air Force, did not have any interest in the bomber or its jet-powered relative, the YB-49, so the project ended in the late 1940s.
That said, years later, when the Air Force began looking at the flying wing concept again, the service used a great deal of Jack Northrup’s research in developing the B-2 and it’s follow-on the B-21, which is still under development.