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.
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.
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.