The entire fleet of U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers was grounded on Monday, in response to potential safety defects on the aircraft.
The Air Force confirmed a stand down of the B-2 fleet in an emailed statement to American Military News.
The decision to ground the fleet came after a B-2 came after an unspecified in-flight malfunction forced a B-2 crew to make an emergency landing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri on Dec. 10. The base said “there was a fire associated with the aircraft after landing, and the base fire department extinguished the fire.”
The Air Force did not directly announce the B-2 fleet had been grounded, but said that B-1B Lancer bombers from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota would replace a B-2 for the flyover at the upcoming Rose Bowl football game on Jan. 2.
“Whiteman Air Force Base will not be participating in the 2023 Rose Parade or Rose Bowl Game flyovers. Instead, B-1B Lancer bombers from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, will carry on the tradition,” the Air Force’s 509th Bomb Wing said in a press release. “Whiteman AFB will have a safety pause of B-2 flights in order to inspect the fleet following an incident Dec. 10, 2022, in which a B-2 Spirit was damaged on the runway at Whiteman AFB after successfully completing an emergency landing.”
“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 509th Bomb Wing commander Col. Daniel Diehl. “Although we are not participating in this flyover, we remain steadfast in our commitment to answer our nation’s call.”
According to an Air Force fact sheet, the Air Force has just 20 of the B-2 bombers in service.
The aircraft entered service in 1997.
The B-2 bomber is capable of carrying out both conventional and nuclear strikes and makes up a key component of the U.S. strategic bomber fleet.
The Air Force plans to incrementally replace its B-1 and B-2 fleets with the newly unveiled B-21 Raider. The B-21 Raider is a stealth bomber with a similar flying-wing shape as the B-2 Spirit. Both the B-2 and the B-21 were developed by Northrop Grumman.
The decision to ground the B-2 bombers is not the first time the Air Force has sidelined an advanced aircraft fleet. Earlier this year, the Air Force grounded a majority of its F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter jets over a potential defect with the aircraft’s ejection seats.
This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.