This monday was bad to the Bone, as a USAF B-1B bomber crashed in Montana after its four crewmembers ejected to safety. The Bone came down in an uninhabited area near Broadus and was totally destroyed. The aricraft belonged to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth AFB.
The two pilots and two weapon system officers were taken to hospitals but none of them were seriously injured. The cause of the crash has not been reported. Ellsworth airbase has temporarily shut down flights until maintenance and operations group commanders ensure that they can safely resume.
The cost of a B-1B bomber is $283 million. The aircraft that crashed was built in 1985. The last time a B-1B was destroyed in a crash was on 12 December 12. All crew survived that crash as well.
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.