A B-2 bomber damaged in a runway excursion about a year ago at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri was ferried to Palmdale, California, where it was built, showing the scars of its gear collapse. Photographer Tom Jordan caught the plane landing showing the obviously temporary repair. The half-billion-dollar aircraft was stitched up with speed tape and sported a big patch near its nosegear to make it flyable to Plant 42, the Air Force’s top-secret manufacturing facility, for proper repairs according to MSN. The wrinkled composite with its toxic radar-reflective coating is expected to cost about $10 million to repair.
The flying wing, named Spirit of Georgia, is one of just 20 Spirits that form the pointiest tip of the U.S.’s airborne nuclear arsenal, and was making an emergency landing at Whiteman, the B-2 fleet’s home base, after a hydraulic issue that occurred when the crew deployed the landing gear. When the aircraft touched down, worn-out springs in the left main gear failed to keep it locked and the plane veered onto the grass. It was the plane’s third training sortie of the day and the two pilots were not hurt.
Palmdale Plant 42 was 8 miles from our home in Lancaster. Many planes were built there, including the Space Shuttle. (Before the SCA Boeing 747 was configured, the only way NASA could transport the Enterprise was by truck. I watched the vertical fin slowly creep north on 10th Street East during that operation) What was great about that location was the landing pattern for the west runway. Every plane–new and old–landing on that runway would fly right over our house. One time, a T-43 being tested at Palmdale barely cleared our roof antenna as the pilot buzzed Lancaster at 200 feet AGL. A B-70 Valkyrie was also flown low and slow over the town. The B-2 turned out to be a white elephant, and every prediction about its operational anomalies has come true. 2 Billion a pop for a bomber is simply out of the realm of cost effectiveness.
Cost effective is a relative term when it comes to military hardware, especially if you are talking about cutting edge technology equipment. The B-70 you mentioned was an incredible aircraft for its time, but was bombastically expensive and never saw production because precision guided missiles rendered it obsolete. Manned nuclear bombers are of questionable value in this day when drones and cruise missiles can perform most tasks without endangering any crew members. When you have the largest and most sophisticate military in the world, you are going to have lots of things that cost an astronomical amount of money. The real question is whether it fulfills a critical need that justifies its cost, both in terms of acquisition and ongoing maintenance and support. I agree that the B-2 is certainly on the fence in that regard.
There are considerations that arise when commanders deploy those resources. Bombers are hideously expensive to operate, and this particular version started out life as being hideously expensive to acquire. That combination will give pause to mission planners about risking such hardware in the first place, unless the target is of high value. That’s why they’re not deploying the F-22 (Another vindication of Eisenhower’s admonition..) during these banana wars in the Middle East. The planes will only be used when planners KNOW they’ll be flown on milk runs.
The XB-70 was a test bed to explore supersonic flight with large aircraft, employing innovate concepts for sustaining those speeds, and controlling the aircraft during low and high speed flight regimes. We saw the low speed part when they flew the plane lazily over our town to give us a gander of that elegant plane. It was never meant for production, but tons of data would be derived from that program to apply to operational bombers. I knew the F-104 pilot who collided with the B-70. I almost drowned in his pool.
According to Brookings, based on 1996 dollars, the average cost for the atomic bombs (Gadget, Little Boy, Fat Man and one unused) were $5 billion a piece. Estimates related to developing the atomic bomb in the USA employed around 100k people. Russia employed approximately 500k people. Costs are ignored when a dire need to find a solution to end WWII and implications of Hitler developing one hastened America’s atomic bomb program.
“2 Billion a pop for a bomber is simply out of the realm of cost effectiveness.” But most things are when dealing with the military industrial complex! For instance about 1500 dollars for a 155mm howitzer round.
Man, I’d like to read that ferry permit.
Worn out gear down lock spring.
Just wondering how many cycles it took to wear those springs out.
The spoilers and flaps deployed at high angles on the wingtips are surprising to me. Obviously it works but it’s one more unusual thing on an unconventional airplane.