The B-2 Spirit, long range bomber is considered to be the flagship of the United
States long range strike arsenal. Able to fly from its home station at Whiteman
Air Force Base, MO to any target around the world undetectable makes it the most
lethal and survivable aircraft on the face of the planet. Using stealth technology
it is virtually undetectable by all radar systems. The large payload of the B-2
allows the aircraft to hit 16 individual targets every sortie.
In Operation Nobel Anvil during the Bosnian Civil War, the B-2 proved itself when
it flew from Whiteman and struck targets in Bosnia then flew back to Whiteman. Again
in the second Gulf War, B-2’s hit vital targets in Iraq from Air Force bases in Guam.
The long range combined with the large payload of the B-2’s showed that the United
States no longer needed to have bases close to a warzone and could virtually strike
any target in the world from bases within the continental US.
The B-2 was designed by Northrop Grumman and the first aircraft known as AV-1 took
its first flight on July 17, 1989.
The second aircraft, AV-2, did not fly until October 19th of the same year. Having
to solve many problems that are associated with the radical design of the aircraft
the B-2 was not rated fully mission capable until 1994. Cloaked in a veil of secrecy
the B-2 remained a black project until 1990 when a painting of the aircraft was released
to the media. Because of the high cost of the program, $110-$120 billion dollars,
many in the media complained that it was too expensive.
Overall twenty-one aircraft were built for the US Air Force. Currently the fleet
is made up of twenty aircraft due to a crash that occurred in February 2008. Known
as the Spirit of Kansas, the aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from Anderson
Air Force Base, Guam. It was the first crash in the B-2’s 19 years in operation.
Since 1989, the B-2 has racked up more than 14,000 sorties and has accumulated more
than 75,000 flying hours. The 509th Bomb Wing, which is made up of 19 B-2’s, is
currently stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, MO. The one other B-2 is stationed
at Edwards AFB, CA for testing and upgrading.
The F-22 Raptor is the deadliest fighter in the skies today. Using a combination
of stealth and advanced aerodynamics the F-22 is the most capable fighter aircraft
in the US arsenal. The “first see, first shoot, first kill” mentality of F-22 pilots,
allows them to infiltrate enemy skies without being seen by enemy radar and destroy
both ground and air threats allowing non-stealth aircraft to enter the warzone without
fear of retribution.
Using advanced avionics systems the F-22 Raptor can be used in a variety of missions
to include ground strikes, air dominance, intelligence gathering, surveillance, reconnaissance
and electronic attack.
The F-22 was developed by Locheed Martin, when the US Air Force put out a request
for a new completely stealth fighter to replace its aging F-15 Eagle force. Beating
out its competition from Boeing Aerospace the Raptor was adopted and the first one
was delivered January 14, 2003 to Edwards Air Force Base, CA.
Since then Raptor squadrons have been assigned to Tyndall AFB, FL; Nellis AFB, NV;
Holloman AFB, NM; Hickam AFB, HI; and two at Elmendorf AFB here in Alaska. The F-22
proved itself when in 2008 Novosti, a Russian organization, reported that two Alaskan
F-22s intercepted two Russian “Bear” bomber over the Bering Sea and shadowed them
along the border of US airspace. The F-22s were invisible to the Bear’s radar systems.
The latest in technology was created again by Locheed Martin as part of a Department
of Defense competition for an affordable stealth fighter to replace the US Air Force’s
F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Navy’s F-18 Hornet, and the Marines AV-8B Harrier Jumpjet.
Winning over many international and domestic aerospace firms Locheed debuted the
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that would later be known as the F-35 Lightning II.
The F-35 was melded the needs of all three branches and met all the requirements.
For the USAF the F-35 was a small capable fighter. The USN was given a fighter
that could face the stresses of carrier landings and small decks. To meet the Marines
requirements, Locheed developed a revolutionary vertical takeoff system known as
a STOVL engine. In this engine, the actual aircraft engine changes configuration
to allow for a vertical takeoff. It then changes to a normal jet engine configuration
and is as capable as the other two versions of the F-35. This new engine eliminated
the need for two separate engines as was seen in the Harrier.
Still in development and test trails the F-35’s true capabilities are yet to be determined.