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1/25/2018 7:38:29 AM
Posted: 12/15/2003 7:53:27 AM EST

A decade of B-2 stealth bombers flying from America's heartland
Monday December 15, 2003
Associated Press Writer

KNOB NOSTER, Mo. (AP) To motorists enjoying the peaceful, rural scenery along meandering U.S. 50 in western Missouri, a stealth bomber's sudden appearance can be startling.

Knob Noster Police Lt. Jane Logan just chuckles.

``You always know the visitors and tourists, because they are pulled over on the highway shoulder to get a good look at it. But folks around here have gotten used to seeing that plane, and we like it,'' Logan said.

The plane is the B-2 Spirit, the world's most expensive aircraft at more than $1.3 billion apiece. All 21 of the United States' batwing-shaped B-2 bombers are based next door to Knob Noster at Whiteman Air Force Base.

On Wednesday, the town and the base will mark the 10th anniversary of the B-2's arrival at its Missouri headquarters, a mission that re-energized Whiteman, where the end of the Cold War also concluded its role as home of nuclear-tipped missiles.

The B-2 was untested in combat when the first one eased down to its new home in 1993. And there were doubts about its cost, its versatility, even whether heralded radar-evading technology would work in rainy weather.

Then came combat missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and, this year, Iraq, all providing endurance tests of the machine and its corps of two-person flying teams and support personnel. In October 2001, a B-2 flew the longest nonstop combat mission in history 44 hours making a round-trip from Missouri to strike targets in Afghanistan.

``The B-2 10th anniversary is a very exciting time because it's going to mark a maturation of the B-2. We have now sent this aircraft and its folks to war three times ... in all three of those conflicts, the B-2 has yet to be detected,'' said Col. Doug Raaberg, commander of the B-2s at Whiteman.

Raaberg likes to say that the B-2's main role is ``kicking in the door'' of targets with a combination of swiftness, stealth and precision munitions. The B-2 is now equipped to carry 80 precision-guided bombs, including the 5,000-pound ``bunker busters'' that laid siege to Saddam Hussein's fortified hideouts.

In an interview at his base office, Raaberg said the B-2 ``is to always be at the leading edge of somebody's plan, and as part of that, we have demonstrated a capability to deploy, employ which means do combat operations and then be able to redeploy. We've done that now over 10 years.''

Because of that record, Raaberg said the Air Force is ready to declare the B-2 ``fully operational'' as a weapon, ``which sends a signal to combatant commanders that they can rely on the B-2, as they have already, anytime, anywhere, to do anything.''

Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, landed the B-2 mission for Whiteman and is a frequent visitor to the base, where he has personally peered inside the top-secret cockpit.

``This mission is about America's strength and America's role in preserving freedom,'' Skelton said recently. ``And Whiteman and Missouri are a great team.''

Skelton recently hosted his committee's chairman, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., during a Whiteman visit. And Hunter said there is bipartisan ``awe'' about the B-2's performance in the decade since arriving in Missouri from a Northrop Grumman plant in California.

Hunter said during his visit last March that the B-2 fleet should be more than doubled because ``combining stealth capability with precision munitions is an advantage that we should build on.''

That kind of talk pleases folks in Knob Noster, where the B-2 is so familiar that students scarcely notice the rumbling of takeoffs that can be heard inside public school buildings north of Whiteman's runways. Seventy percent of local students are military dependents,

In town, visitors can buy T-shirts with an image of the B-2 as well as plaques, sculptures and other gifts shaped like the batwing aircraft.

The surrounding communities will be invited to the base Dec. 17 to watch a B-2 re-enact the arrival flight from a decade ago, and a banquet and ball will be held that night at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg.

Raaberg said he's delighted that the 10th anniversary of the B-2's arrival will be marked on the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight just south of Kitty Hawk, N.C.

``There is not just a historical thread there. It's a strong cord through history. Just think: we went from two men on sand dunes in North Carolina flying the first plane, and now we have two people on a B-2, leading missions for America,'' Raaberg said.

On the Net:

Whiteman Air Force Base: http://www.whiteman.af.mil

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Link Posted: 12/15/2003 8:02:32 AM EST
I went to school near the Whiteman air base and saw one of these planes in flight late one afternoon while driving. It was neat-o.
Link Posted: 12/15/2003 8:18:53 AM EST
I used to drive all through MO,never even bothered to look and see all the missile silos that were there,damn they had alot,the movie THE DAY AFTER,was based on the Whiteman-KC area.
Link Posted: 12/15/2003 9:28:23 AM EST
A little off topic but worthwhile fact is that Northrup Grumman has said recently that it could start producing B2s again for about 720 mill a plane. Any one hear anything about whether Uncle Sugar has any interest in procuring anymore? As much as I love the B-52 I think we need to seriously look at upgrading our Heavy bombers. About 20 to 30 more block 30 B2's plus upgrades would be an excellent compliment to the FA-22's coming on line.
Link Posted: 12/15/2003 8:03:22 PM EST
bump for night crew.
Link Posted: 12/15/2003 8:24:28 PM EST
720 million per plane to restart the B2 assembly line? I think that would be kind of low considering that they disbanded the work force? and did Boeing mothball all the tooling? What about the sub contractors? Are most of them still in business? and do they still have the tooling?
Link Posted: 12/15/2003 8:44:21 PM EST
Having been an Engineer on that program, I can positively state that it won't be coming back. The tooling was mothballed and most of it is realistically worthless junk! A $750mil/plane figure is completely fraudulent.
Link Posted: 12/16/2003 3:03:53 AM EST
lets face it guys no matter what gee whiz stuff they come up with. The BUFF will be here to stay.
Link Posted: 12/16/2003 3:20:48 AM EST
sounds like a place to go when on vacation, one of the wonders of the world.......
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