$1.2 billion B-2 stealth bomber crashes

February 23, 2008 12:56:55 PM PST
A B-2 stealth bomber crashed Saturday at an air base on Guam, but both pilots ejected safely and were in good condition, the Air Force said. It was the first crash of a B-2 bomber, said Capt. Sheila Johnston, a spokeswoman for Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

Thick, black smoke could be seen billowing from the wreckage at Andersen Air Force Base, said Jeanne Ward, a resident in the northern village of Yigo who was on the base visiting her husband.

Ward said she didn't witness the crash but noticed a rising plume of smoke behind the base's air control tower.

She said crowds began to gather as emergency vehicles arrived. "Everybody was on their cell phones, and the first thing everyone wanted to know was did the pilots make it out in time," she said.

A board of officers will investigate the crash.

Each B-2 bomber costs about $1.2 billion to build. All 21 stealth bombers are based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, but the Air Force has been rotating several of them through Guam since 2004, along with B-1 and B-52 bombers.

The rotations are designed to boost the U.S. security presence in the Asia-Pacific region while other U.S. forces diverted to fight in the Middle East.

The B-2 was first publicly displayed in 1988 and took its first flight a year later. The first bomber was delivered to Whiteman in 1993.

The accident occurred 11 days after a Navy plane crashed into the ocean about 20 miles northeast of Guam's Ritidian Point. Four aircrew members ejected from the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft and were rescued by helicopter.

Guam is a U.S. territory 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii.


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