The Entire B-2 Stealth Bomber Fleet Can’t Fly Right Now

The entire U.S. Air Force fleet of Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit strategic bombers of the 509th Bomb Wing will remain grounded at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The decision was made after one of the aircraft experienced an in-flight malfunction and was forced to carry out a successful emergency landing on the base’s only runway. A fire erupted aboard the stealth bomber after landing, damaging the aircraft.



The U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command ordered a fleet inspection following the incident. As a result, the traditional flyover scheduled for the 2023 Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game will instead be carried out on Jan. 2, by B-1B Lancer bombers from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.

“Our number one concern is the safety and security of our personnel and fleet. We deeply regret having to make this decision so close to the event, but we are committed to returning to Pasadena in 2024,” U.S. Air Force Col. Daniel Diehl, commander of the 509th Bomb Wing, said in a statement. “Although we are not participating in this flyover, we remain steadfast in our commitment to answer our nation’s call.”

Broken Spirit

Following the Dec.10 incident, which occurred a little more than one year after another B-2A suffered a landing incident at Whiteman AFB, a NOTAM (NOtice to AirMen) was issued to close the runway at the base until Dec. 16. That has been extended until Dec. 31, which will prevent the B-2 from being readied to fly over the Rose Parade.

According to the Aviationist, this latest incident was even more significant than the one last year, which still caused damage to the airframe to the tune of at least $10.1 million. It has been reported that the recently damaged bomber could be out of service for at least two years while it undergoes repairs.

B-2 Spirit in the Sky

The U.S. Air Force has a total of just twenty B-2 Spirits. The 509th Bomb Wing and the Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing both operate the B-2 Spirit out of Whiteman Air Force Base.

Since its introduction in 1997, the Northrop Grumman heavy bomber has often been the first to fight. It was designed to penetrate anti-aircraft defenses and can deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons.

It is also the only acknowledged aircraft that can carry large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration. In addition, the B-2 can carry up to sixteen B-61 or megaton-yield B-83 nuclear gravity bombs on the rotary launchers inside its two bomb bays. The aircraft’s avionics are even hardened versus the electromagnetic pulses generated by nuclear blasts.

The B-2 has a crew of two pilots, a pilot in the left seat and a mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B Lancer’s crew of four and the B-52 Stratofortress’s crew of five.

The Spirit fleet will remain operational until the mid-2030s. The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider, which was officially unveiled to the public earlier this month, will first supplement and eventually replace the B-2, by which time the Spirit will have been in the sky for just around 35 years.

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