Stealth Bomber Will Fly Through 2058
Senior leaders from across the Air Force visited Whiteman AFB,
in Missouri to discuss the future of the B-2 Spirit bomber. The
General Officer Steering Group for B-2 Sustainment met at the base
September 8 to discuss challenges and solutions for keeping the B-2
fleet healthy and operational for years to come.
Ann Mitchell, the Air Force Global Strike Command director of
Installations, Logistics and Mission Support, led the group.
The GOSG has been held regularly since Global Strike Command stood
up two years ago. It brings together, at the general-officer level,
almost every organization involved in the B-2 program, from Global
Strike Command to Air Force Material Command, operators and war
fighters, maintainers and logisticians. These senior members of the
group do not attempt to find technical solutions or get stuck in
the weeds of the program. Instead they provide guidance and
priorities for the B-2 enterprise as a whole, and vet major
decisions affecting the weapons system, Mitchell said.
As with other aircraft, the B-2 program faces tough sustainment
issues, Mitchell said "The B-2 has a particular set of challenges
because of the fleet size," she said. "With only 20 aircraft, every
aircraft that's not working is 5 percent of the fleet."
When Defense Department officials envisioned B-2 program in the
1980s, it was with a fleet of more than 100 aircraft. Program cuts
following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and assorted cost
overruns, led to the fleet size being reduced to only 21 planes.
One of those, the Spirit of Kansas, was lost in an accident in
2008. "The fleet size dynamic, as well as the fact that it's a
20-year-old plane presents unique challenges in supportability.
Many parts are beginning to fail for the first time. We have to
find sources for those new failures," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said she anticipates the B-2 will join other venerable
platforms with multi-decade service lives. "The B-2 is programmed
to fly to 2058," she said. "So we have to figure out aggressive
means to maintain the B-2's capabilities well into the future. Look
at the B-52: it's 50 years old. All aircraft are now required to
last a long time."
Air Force operators have extensive and growing experience with
older aircraft. In addition to the B-52, both the KC-135
Stratotanker and T-38 Talon trainer are entering their fifth decade
ANN salutes Capt. John Severns 509th Bomb Wing Public