The Air Force’s fleet of B-2 Spirit bombers is temporarily grounded after one of the aircraft had an in-flight malfunction earlier this month.
On December 10, a B-2 had to make an emergency landing and was damaged on the runway at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. There were no injuries from the event, and no munitions aboard the aircraft, though the Air Force’s 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs announced days later there would be a “safety pause” of the fleet in order to inspect it further.
The 509th Bomb Wing said in a news release on Tuesday evening that the stand-down was directed by Air Force Global Strike Command, and that the B-2 fleet “can be flown if directed by the commander in chief to fulfill mission requirements.”
Master Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio, a spokesperson for the 509th Bomb Wing, confirmed on Tuesday that B-2 flights were currently paused as the fleet underwent an inspection, and said there is “no speculated end date for the safety pause.”
“Every incident is unique, and we are currently evaluating the incident and how we can mitigate future risk,” Del Vecchio said. “Normal operations will resume at the conclusion of the safety pause.”
An Air Force spokesperson said Tuesday that the Whiteman Air Force Base runway was currently closed due to debris; the 509th Bomb Wing’s news release on Tuesday says it will reopen as soon as the debris is cleared, and B-2 operations “will resume at the conclusion of the safety stand-down.”
The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role heavy bomber, meaning it can carry both conventional and nuclear munitions. The fleet of stealth aircraft is housed at Whiteman. According to the Air Force, the first B-2 was delivered at Whiteman in 1993, and quickly proved its combat effectiveness during Operation Allied Force, the NATO campaign against Serbia, and was later used in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
The B-2, as well as the B-1, are expected to be replaced over time by the Air Force’s new B-21 Raider, a new stealth bomber aircraft that was unveiled by Northrop Grumman earlier this month. The B-21 event was the first time a new US bomber was publicly unveiled since the B-2 Spirit in 1988.