The most expensive aircraft of all time, the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit bomber is temporarily grounded. On Friday, the US Air Force (USAF) reported that the fleet of aircraft of the type was subjected to a “safety pause” in flights while the planes are inspected.
The decision was taken after the incident with a B-2 that made an emergency landing on December 10 at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
Information about the temporary suspension of B-2 flights appeared in a USAF statement, in which it admits the absence of the aircraft in the overflights of the 2023 Rose Bowl Game, scheduled for January 2, 2023, in Pasadena, California.
“Our number one concern is the safety and security of our personnel and fleet. We deeply regret having to make this decision so close to the event, but we are committed to returning to Pasadena in 2024,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Daniel Diehl, 509th Bomb Wing commander. “Although we are not participating in this flyover, we remain steadfast in our commitment to answer our nation’s call.”
With no Spirit available, the USAF will send the Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic bomber.
A B-2 bomber was damaged in a fire after performing an emergency landing at Whiteman Air Force Base, where stealth bombers are based.
In a statement, the USAF reported on the day of the incident that the aircraft “experienced an in-flight malfunction during routine operations and was damaged on the runway at Whiteman Air Force Base after it successfully completed an emergency landing”.
According to the Air Force, the aircraft’s crew was not injured and the incident is under investigation.
Shaped like a flying wing, the B-2 is one of three USAF strategic bombers, along with the B-1B Lancer and the veteran Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.
Of the 21 Spirit bombers produced, 17 are currently active – a single plane was lost in an accident in 2008. Each is valued at around $2 billion.
On December 2, 2022, Northrop Grumman rolled out the B-21 Raider, a stealth bomber that will be the successor to the B-2 (and also the B-1B). The introduction of the new aircraft into the USAF fleet is expected towards the end of this decade.