One of America’s $2 Billion B-2 Stealth Bombers Takes Damage in Emergency Landing

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber has suffered damage after performing an emergency landing following a training sortie at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, with airspace around the facility subsequently cordoned off under a a circular temporary flight restriction. 

The aircraft was confirmed to have  experienced an in-flight malfunction during a routine training mission. The B-2 is the most expensive combat aircraft in the world with the bombers costing $2 billion each, and only 20 are currently in service with the 21st having been destroyed in an accident at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base in 2008. 

The aircraft have intercontinental ranges allowing them to strike targets across the world from bases on U.S. soil, and due to their very complex maintenance and requirement for special air conditioned hangars they cannot be housed on overseas bases. The aircraft have seen a number of close calls in which they have almost been destroyed in the past, including a fire in 2010 also at Andersen Air Force Base which severely damaged a B-2 and required almost two years of repairs to return the aircraft to service.

The B-2 is the only post-Cold War bomber in U.S. service, and files alongside an ageing fleet of B-1B and B-52H jets the former which are expected to be retired in the near future. The aircraft are prized for their stealth capabilities which allows them to penetrate well defended enemy airspace and drop gravity bombs in a way the B-1B and B-52H never can. 

This is particularly valuable for tackling fortifications, such as those protecting North Korean nuclear sites or military bases or those the Koreans built for Iran, with the U.S. Air Force’s top penetrative non-nuclear weapon the GBU-57 being deployed exclusively by the B-2. 

The bomber has been something of an operational nightmare for the Air Force, however, due to its extremely high maintenance requirements and costs and to the delicate nature of the airframe, including an inability to withstand rain which was the cause of the accident and loss of a bomber in 2008. 

The B-2 and B-1 are expected to be phased out of service in the 2030s and replaced with B-21 Raider stealth bombers - a program which has faced delays but which may produce an aircraft that is more practical and easier to maintain than the B-2. 

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