It sounds like a big contradiction: stealth bombers with nuclear weapons not to attack the enemy, but to defend the territory of the United States. But that is what they more or less have become since the first and only Air National Guard (ANG) wing flying with the B-2 Spirit is now certified to conduct nuclear missions.
The 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, concluded a six year transition from an F-15 Eagle fighter unit to a B-2 strategic bomber outfit with a nuclear consent in the first week of August 2013. It marked the first time in history of the Guard that a bomb wing has been certified in the delivery of nuclear weapons. That goes all the way back to 1636 when regional home militias of the young United States were organised in what is officially since 1903 the National Guard, with the ANG being the air component of the United States’ homeland defences.
In 2008, the wing had fewer than 60 members stationed at Whiteman AFB, when they conducted the first all-Guard B-2 sortie, which included both the launch and operation of the aircraft. Today, nearly all 800 members are based at Whiteman AFB, with completely integrated maintenance crews and almost three times the number of qualified pilots. The 131st Bomb Wing is associated with the active US Air Force 509th Bomb Wing, thereby sharing expensive resources such as the B-2 bombers themselves.
The first so-called ‘combat total force integration mission’ the wings conducted came in March 2011, when three B-2s flew over Libya, dropping 45 joint direct attack munitions to destroy hardened aircraft shelters and thereby according to a press release “crippling Muammar Gaddafi’s air forces and helping enforce the United Nations’ no-fly zone”. The six aircrew members who flew that mission included both active duty and Guard pilots, demonstrating the first real-world combat mission the B-2 conducted since Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger with source information of the US Air National Guard