B-2 Stealth Bomber Catches Fire After Emergency Landing

B-2 Spirit elephant walk, at Whiteman Air Force Base.
Airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing participate in a B-2 Spirit elephant walk, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Nov. 7, 2022. (U.S. Air Forces photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar)

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber caught fire at Whiteman Air Force Base on Saturday following an emergency landing, a little more than one year after a B-2 ran off a Missouri runway.

Master Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio, a spokesman for Whiteman's 509th Bomb Wing, told Military.com in an emailed statement Monday that there were no injuries as a result of the sudden landing or subsequent blaze.

"A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit experienced an in-flight malfunction during routine operations Dec. 10 and was damaged on the runway at Whiteman Air Force Base after it successfully completed an emergency landing," Del Vecchio said. "There was a fire associated with the aircraft after landing, and the base fire department extinguished the fire."

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Del Vecchio told Military.com that Saturday's incident is currently being investigated. No other details about the emergency landing or fire were provided.

There are only 20 B-2 bombers in the Air Force's fleet, meaning putting one of them out of commission can cause a notable impact to bombing missions.

The last major incident with a B-2 happened in September 2021, when stealth bomber rolled off the runway at Whiteman. No one was injured, and the bomber didn't catch fire. More details emerged about that incident in a March 17 report from Air Force Global Strike Command.

That plane, assigned to the 393rd Bomb Squadron of Missouri's 509th Bomb Wing, was also known as the Spirit of Georgia. A photo of the mishap was widely shared on social media, showing a jarring image of the massive aircraft slumped into the ground after appearing to have had its landing gear collapse.

That report revealed that the damage estimate to the plane was around $10 million, but further review is still needed. Air Force Col. Robert Cocke, the investigation board president, wrote in the report that the crash likely happened because lock springs on the landing gear failed to provide "sufficient pressure" to maintain a locked position.

No error was attributed to the pilot or crew. But the report said that "there is no requirement for routine replacement of the lock link" springs. The last time the bomber went through in-depth inspection was 2014, according to investigators.

Each B-2 bomber costs approximately $1.157 billion, according to an Air Force fact sheet.

Saturday's incident follows another bomber fire that happened with a B-1B Lancer at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas last April.

The B-1B bomber was parked on the flight line when it erupted in flames during "routine maintenance," the base said in a press release at the time. The incident sent two people to the hospital.

The Air Force unveiled its latest bomber, the B-21 Raider earlier this month. It's the first new bomber in the American military's fleet in more than 30 years.

The Pentagon plans to build 100 B-21s, more than the Air Force's B-2 and B-1B fleets combined, although typically aircraft production targets are scaled back as programs mature.

Six B-21s are currently in development. The average unit cost for each bomber is around $700 million, according to an Air Force fact sheet.

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at thomas.novelly@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

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