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Showdown Iraq: B-12 Stealth Bomber

Aired October 30, 2002 - 12:16   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's move on to our "Guns and Ammo" segment, a closer look now at those B-2 stealth bombers and their possible role in a military action against Iraq.
CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is joining us now live by videophone from an air base in Missouri.

What's the latest news from news from there -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're at Whiteman Air Force Base, where it's a cold and rainy day.

A year ago, B-2 stealth bombers led the way when the U.S. led the assault against the Taliban and al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan, and they may lead the way yet in a future war against Iraq.

Right now, what's going on at this base, Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, is simply training for the global mission that these planes have.

And with me are two B-2 pilots, who we can only identify by their call sign. So, let me start with you, Major Pita. Tell me a little bit about why the B-2 is such a great plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we can use the stealth capabilities of this aircraft to fly anywhere around the world we need to. And we can kick out the teeth of the enemy, we can hit their eyes and ears and we can go kill our targets, as well as opening the way for the rest of the package behind us.

MCINTYRE: And 16 satellite guided bombs can hit 16 separate targets in one run.

Now, it's great to be able to fly anywhere from Whiteman Air Force Base, but wouldn't it be better to be a little closer to the place you want to attack?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. And we have proven in Kosovo and Afghanistan that we can do that long duration mission, and we can strike anywhere in the globe. But what we're looking at in the future, what we've been training to is the ability to forward deploy, and we're looking at three locations right now that we'd be able to employ the B-2. That would give us more sorties and ultimately more bombs on target on time.

MCINTYRE: And you're Air Force Captain Zulu, who is a B-2 pilot. Now, both of you read the papers, you watch CNN, you know there may be a war with Iraq. How do you feel about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ready to do whatever we need to, wherever we have to, if we need to. It's part of our duty.

MCINTYRE: How about you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I guess the way it's described by a lot of my family and friends is, you know, that no professional airman wants to go to war, but if you're called upon to do so by your country, then no warrior wants to be left behind.

MCINTYRE: Well, clearly, Wolf the B-2 pilots will not be behind. They'll be right in the front of any air assault, because of their stealth capability and the ability to hit multiple targets in a single bombing run.

And of course, the latest wrinkle is that the U.S. wants to forward-deploy these aircraft, and to do that, they have special shelters that enable them to maintain the planes. It's not that the planes can't fly in the rain. They're doing that today, so we know that's not the case. It's that they need special climate control in order to keep the planes maintained for their low observability, or radar-evading properties.

So, the U.S. is considering forward-deploying them at a base in Diego Garcia; also perhaps at a British base in the United Kingdom as well.

Wolf -- back to you.

BLITZER: Jamie, before I let you go, a lot of our viewers who remember the Gulf War remember those stealth fighters that were used, the F-117As, pretty effectively at that time, but these much bigger, more powerful B-2 bombers, also with a stealth capability. How much advance has the stealth technology become over this past decade?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, the B-2 is a big advance over the F- 117, which is really 1970s technology. Of course, the F-117 carries only two bombs. They're laser-guided bombs, they're very accurate, but they can be affected by clouds.

The B-2 can carry 16 of the JDAMs, the 2,000-pound satellite- guided bombs. And as we saw in Afghanistan, they can hit 16 separate targets very effectively. It really takes the place of dozens of planes. Just, you know, 10 years ago in the Gulf War, you would have had to have several dozen planes to do what this one plane can do in one mission flying from here in the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre, he's on the scene for us in Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri -- thanks, Jamie, for that report. We'll continue to check in with you as well. A very powerful, powerful bomber, that B-2 stealth bomber.


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