The US Air Force has grounded all 20 B-2 Spirit bombers until further notice amid an ongoing search for potential safety defects following an accident, Air Force Times reported.
The decision to ground the entire fleet of nuclear bombers followed an emergency landing accident of a bomber on December 10 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, after an undisclosed in-flight malfunction, the report said on Monday.
The Air Force is currently investigating the accident, and the bombers will resume normal operations once the safety inspections are concluded, the report added.
The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of firing both conventional and nuclear munitions. Its stealth characteristics make it difficult to detect with conventional infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual, and radar systems, according to the Air Force. The aircraft can fly approximately 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers) without refueling.
Earlier in December, Northrop Grumman unveiled the new nuclear-capable B-21 Raider stealth bomber, the world’s first sixth-generation aircraft that will soon be delivered to the US Air Force.
As per earlier reports, a fire broke out following the landing of the B-2 bomber. A base spokesperson confirmed that Whiteman’s fire department suppressed the flames.
The 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs office said, “A US Air Force B-2 Spirit experienced an in-flight malfunction during routine operations today and was damaged on the runway at Whiteman Air Force Base after it completed an emergency landing.”
Meanwhile, Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) will not be participating in the 2023 Rose Bowl Game flyovers. Instead, B-1B Lancer bombers from Ellsworth AFB will carry on the tradition.
Whiteman AFB will have a safety break of B-2 flights in order to examine the fleet post the accident. “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,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Daniel Diehl, 509th Bomb Wing commander.
The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons. It has a unique ability to breach an adversary’s defenses and threaten its most valuable and well-defended assets, thanks to its long-range and low-observable features.
On November 22, 1988, the first B-2 was taken out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, and put on public display. The aircraft made its first flight on July 17, 1989.
The stealth bomber has played a significant role in representing the air power of the United States and has frequently been deployed to other friendly countries.