USAF grounds B-2 Spirit strategic bomber fleet pending safety review

U.S. Air Force photo

The United States Air Force ordered a grounding of the B-2 Spirit strategic bomber fleet following an emergency landing that damaged one aircraft. 

On December 10, 2022, a stealth bomber requested an emergency landing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, United States, after experiencing an in-flight malfunction, the 509th Bomb Wing public affairs wrote in a statement to AeroTime at the time. The aircraft caught fire and suffered damage.  

The USAF is currently reviewing the fleet for any potential safety defects. An investigation into the incident was opened.  

“Every incident is unique, and we are currently evaluating what went wrong and how we can mitigate future risk,” 509th Bomb Wing spokesperson Beth Del Vecchio told Air Force Times in a statement. “We will resume normal operations once a safety investigation has been concluded.” 

AeroTime reached out to the 509th Bomb Wing for comment.

The Northrop Grumman B-2 is one of the three strategic bombers operated by the United States Air Force, along with the supersonic Rockwell B-1 Lancer and the venerable Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.  

Whiteman Air Force Base is the main air base of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, where 19 aircraft are currently flown by the US Air Force 509th and 131st Bomb Wings. 

Valued between $1 and $2 billion per aircraft, the fleet is even more precious to the USAF, as due to budget constraints, only 21 of the 132 planned aircraft were built. 

Questioned by Air Force Times, the USAF declined to say whether the bomber involved in the incident had resumed flying. 

The B-2 (and the B-1) should eventually be replaced by the B-21 Raider. Unveiled by Northrop Grumman on December 2, 2022, this new strategic bomber reuses some of the B-2’s general characteristics with a sleek flying wing design. 

A hundred copies of the upcoming B-21 are expected to be eventually ordered, which is more than the fleets of B-1s and B-2s combined.  

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