Military, Modern Day, News

B-2 Stealth Bomber in Emergency Landing: Runway Closes After Fire

  • On 10th December, a B-2A Spirit Stealth Bomber made an emergency landing at Whiteman Air Force Base.
  • The incident caused the closure of Whiteman’s sole runway for over ten days.
  • A satellite image from 18th December showed a crashed bomber on the airstrip.
  • Whiteman AFB announced the runway’s reopening on 21st December.

On 10th December, 2022, a B-2 Stealth Bomber made an emergency landing at Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) in Missouri. The unfortunate event led to the closure of Whiteman’s only runway for over a week. Recovery operations went on for over ten days.

A satellite image from 18th December showed that even 8 days after the B-2 still lay damaged on the airstrip.

Authorities started the recovery operation soon after the incident, however they initially gave no date for the work’s completion. After remaining closed for 11 days, the AFB runway reopened on the 21st December.

A B-2 Bomber
A B-2 Bomber in all its impressive glory.

B-2 Emergency Landing

The B-2 bomber had to make an emergency landing at the Missouri base because it experienced an in-flight malfunction during regular operations.

According to the 509th Bomb Wing’s public affairs department, a fire also broke out due to the stealth aircraft’s unusual landing. However, Whiteman’s emergency response crews promptly extinguished the fire.

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Additionally, the division confirmed that no injuries occurred during the incident, and that the bomber had no active munitions when it landed.

Following the incident, Whiteman’s base issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) the same day that the 12,400-foot long runway would be closed indefinitely.

The public affairs department also disclosed that officials are investigating the matter but didn’t give further details on how the closure may affect day-to-day operations.

“Because the incident is under investigation, we are not releasing any further details on the nature of it, but we will be able to release it once the official investigation is complete,” said Master Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio, superintendent for 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs.

 despite the official silence for now, a satellite image of the crashed bomber does show its left wing has been noticeably damaged.

B-2 Fleet Grounded

The Airfield issued a press release on 16th December, stating that the base had put an unspecified safety pause on the whole B-2 fleet for investigation.

“We don’t have a speculated end date [for the safety pause] at this time, “said Del Vecchio.

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As a result, the Spirit Aircraft will not partake in the previously planned 2023 Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game flyovers. Instead, B-1B Lancer Bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, will fill this role.

On 21st December, the Missouri base announced the reopening of its sole runway. The AFB’s press release said the runway “reopened Dec. 21 for A-10 Thunderbolt II and T-38 Talon flying operations to resume.”

B-2 Bombers
B-2s on Whiteman AFB’s single runway during an exercise a few weeks ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryson Britt)

The B-2 Stealth Bomber

The B-2 is one of the most significant bombers the US possesses and it’s deemed among the world’s safest aircraft. Northrop Grumman built the B-2, inventing all its parts from scratch which include many complex tools, a software laboratory, composite materials, special test equipment, and 3-D modelling and computer systems.

The Spirit aircraft has seen many combat missions. It was used in Operation Allied Force in Serbia, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, and twice in Operation Odyssey Dawn and Operation Odyssey Lightning in Libya.

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The B-2 made its combat debut in Operation Allied Force. Two Spirit aircraft flew from Missouri to Kosovo. Their flying time was over 31 hours. They attacked various targets and remained the most effective aircraft during the operation.

Today, a B-2 Stealth Bomber costs over a billion dollars. However, it is impossible to estimate the bomber’s repair cost because officials have refused to comment on the situation.

Interestingly, another B-2 aircraft also crashed in September 2021 at the Whiteman base. However, the damage resulting from this most recent crash landing seems much more serious.

Costing tens of millions of dollars, the bomber involved in last year’s incident is still undergoing recovery. The inquiry revealed issues with the aircraft’s hydraulic system and landing gear that forced an emergency landing.

As a result of the ordeal, people are questioning whether having a single runway at Whiteman AFB is a smart move. We shall see!