B-2 Spirit of Kansas: The most expensive crash in USAF history

Eric Sof

On Feb. 23, 2008, B-2 Spirit of Kansas crashed on the runway shortly after takeoff. The aircraft was one in a flight of four B-2s returning to Whiteman AFB, Mo., following deployment on Oct. 5, 2007. It’s considered the most expensive crash in USAF history.

Crash at the airbase on Guam

A B-2 Spirit of Kansas (ser. no. 89–0127) stealth bomber crashed at an airbase on Guam, but both pilots ejected safely and were in good condition. Thick black smoke could be seen billowing from the wreckage at Andersen Air Force Base at the time. The aircraft was destroyed, a hull loss valued at US$1.4 billion.

The crew successfully ejected, but the airframe was a total structural loss. During the crash, the port wing caught the ground and broke off, resulting in the aircraft tumbling; spilled fuel lit the plane on fire and destroyed the rest of the airframe beyond saving. Because of the crash, there was a two-month operational hold on further B-2 operations. At the same time, the Air Force investigated the crash and developed new procedures to avoid other B-2 aircraft losses during routine operations like takeoff and landing.

B-2 Spirit of Kansas Down: The First Operational Loss of a B-2 Stealth Bomber
B-2 Spirit of Kansas Down: The First Operational Loss of a B-2 Stealth Bomber (Photo: USAF)

The crash itself was attributed to rain-damaged sensors giving the pilots inaccurate information about the aircraft’s ground speed during takeoff, causing them to rotate at speed below takeoff speed. Spirit of Kansas is the only B-2 lost in operation, and it was the most expensive crash in USAF history.

Stealth bomber

The Northrop (later Northrop Grumman) B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, is an American heavy penetration strategic bomber featuring low observable stealth technology designed to penetrate dense anti-aircraft defenses a flying wing design with a crew of two.

The bomber can deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons, such as eighty 500 lb (230 kg)-class (Mk 82) JDAM Global Positioning System-guided bombs or sixteen 2,400 lb (1,100 kg) B83 nuclear bombs. The B-2 is the only acknowledged aircraft that can carry large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration. Each B-2 bomber costs about $1.2 billion to build.

The B-2 bomber can evade most radar signals making it difficult for defensive systems to detect, track and attack. It has a range of 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers) without refueling. The B-2 bombers have been used for Afghanistan, Iraq, and Serbia missions.

The USAF named the B-2 Spirit aircraft after various states because there were procured only 21 of them.

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2 thoughts on “B-2 Spirit of Kansas: The most expensive crash in USAF history”

  1. The world is so advance with technology that is not a crash but fire by Americans enemies those kind of flyght should be always protected with strong mechanism in front of them for sure protection to avoid more loses

  2. The United States Air Force are some of the best pilots in the world. Substandard pilots don’t fly the B-2 bomber! Thank goodness these two well trained aviators were on board when this accident occurred. I’m glad they were able to eject and tell the story of what happened to their aircraft. It is my understanding moisture was allowed to get into the flight control cannon plugs which resulted in the loss of ability to control the fly-by-wire system. That is what I seem to recall hearing was the cause of the accident anyway. The pilots ejected, clearly, in the nick of time. Well done and I thank goodness for their safety and ability to crew another aircraft. Every single one of our service members, and their families, deserve a huge thank you for their dedicated service to our great nation!