The only runway at Whiteman Air Force Base was reopened on December 21 after being closed for more than ten days because of an emergency landing by a B-2 bomber.
The airbase was closed on December 10 following the emergency landing of a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber due to an in-flight malfunction. The plane afterward caught fire on the runway.
Whiteman’s emergency reaction teams put out the fire. The runway and taxiway at the airbase were blocked by the damaged aircraft, and both were shut down due to the accident.
According to Whiteman’s press statement, the runway reopened on December 21, allowing A-10 Thunderbolt II and T-38 Talon flight operations to resume. The base is primarily home to the United States Air Force’s fleet of 20 B-2 bombers.
The facility also houses the A-10 Thunderbolts of the 422nd Fighter Wing and T-38As. These aircraft are deployed there to support B-2 aircrew training. Additionally, MQ-9 Reapers are stationed at Whiteman.
The B-2 aircraft were placed on an indefinite safety stand-down by the Air Force Global Strike Command on December 16 to conduct a fleet inspection.
Taking a look at @planet imagery collected earlier today, the B-2 Spirit that crashed on Dec 10 is shown at an angle on the only runway at Whiteman AFB, MO. This can be compared to a B-2 in a similar location on the runway just over two months ago. https://t.co/vk0hgnWmr5 pic.twitter.com/F2rKaPwugr
— Amelia Smith (@ameliairheart) December 19, 2022
Consequently, the planes were effectively grounded, and their flyovers of the 2023 Rose Bowl and Rose Parade were canceled. However, the fly-past performance will now be replaced by B-1B Lancers from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
“Our number one concern is the safety and security of our personnel and fleet. We deeply regret making this decision so close to the event, but we are committed to returning to Pasadena in 2024,” Col. Daniel Diehl, 509th Bomb Wing commander, said in a press release.
Meanwhile, according to the press statement, the B-2 fleet can be flown if instructed by the commander-in-chief to complete mission requirements.
The reopening of Whiteman’s runway suggests that recovery efforts for the wrecked B-2 have progressed to a point where the runway has been restored. The extent of the incident’s damage to the B-2 and its chances of recovery are still unknown.
Past Incident Involving B-2 Stealth Bomber
The incident involving a B-2 also occurred in September 2021, more than a year ago, when the stealth bomber rolled off the runway at Whiteman. In that incident, the aircraft didn’t catch fire.
Later, the Air Force Global Strike Command report gave more details about the incident. The report said that the B-2’s damages were estimated to have cost roughly $10 million.
The investigative board’s president, Air Force Col. Robert Cocke, said in the report that the disaster was most likely caused by lock springs on the landing gear failing to deliver “sufficient pressure” to retain a locked position, leading the wheels to collapse under the aircraft.
The pilot and crew were not at fault for any errors. Furthermore, the research stated that “routine replacement of the lock link springs” was not required. Investigators say that the bomber last underwent a thorough inspection in 2014.
Nevertheless, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder recently told reporters that the United States has a wide range of capabilities, notably in the strategic bomber fleet.
According to Ryder, the US also has the B-52, with conventional and nuclear capabilities. He said he is confident that the US will maintain the bomber capabilities needed to deter rivals and, if required, engage in war.
The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber carrying conventional and nuclear missiles. The bomber marks a significant technological advancement in the US bomber modernization effort. The B-2 can deliver immense firepower in a short amount of time anywhere in the world.
Due to its low visibility or “stealth” characteristics, it can penetrate the opponent’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most precious and well-defended targets. Additionally, it provides a powerful, potent fighting force and deterrent.
On November 22, 1988, the first B-2 was moved from its hangar at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, and placed on public display. The plane took its first flight on July 17, 1989.
In early December this year, the Air Force unveiled the B-21 Raider, the first bomber in the American military’s arsenal in more than 30 years. The Pentagon intends to manufacture 100 B-21s, which will be more than the total number of Air Force B-2s and B-1Bs.