Runway At Whiteman AFB Remains Closed After B-2 Bomber Accident

The airstrip serves as Whiteman AFB’s only runway, and the Air Force’s prized B-2 fleet is based there along with other aircraft.

byEmma Helfrich| PUBLISHED Dec 12, 2022 5:24 PM
Runway At Whiteman AFB Remains Closed After B-2 Bomber Accident
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The U.S. Air Force has confirmed that Whiteman Air Force Base’s only runway is still out of commission after a B-2A Spirit stealth bomber experienced an in-flight malfunction and had to make an emergency landing on Saturday. A fire occurred and the aircraft was confirmed to have been damaged. 

The Missouri base is home to the 509th Bomb Wing where all of the service’s 20 B-2 Spirit stealth bombers are primarily housed. It also has only one 12,400-foot runway. Knowing the impact this closure could have on the wing’s day-to-day operations, as well as the other aircraft based there, including A-10 Warthogs of the 422nd Fighter Wing and MQ-9 Reapers, The War Zone reached out to Whiteman to inquire about the status of the closure. They responded as follows: 

“To answer your questions, the Whiteman AFB runway is closed. Recovery teams are working around the clock to minimize further disruptions. We remain steadfast to answer our nation's call and execute our mission,” read Whiteman AFB’s response.

Represented aircraft based out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Credit: U.S. Air Force

The War Zone followed up once more to ask if Whiteman was able to provide additional information in regard to how long the runway would be closed, the extent of any damage, as well as if new details had emerged following the weekend incident with the B-2. Whiteman AFB responded by saying that what was initially offered was all that they had for now, but that “more information will be released as it becomes available.”

Before receiving an official confirmation from the Air Force, a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) published by the FAA on Dec. 10 stated that Whiteman’s runway had been closed. NOTAMs are intended to alert pilots of potential hazards or other factors that have cropped up along flight routes or at specific airports and are mostly temporary in nature. The NOTAM for Whiteman states that the runway will remain closed until Friday, Dec. 16, though it could be lifted or extended at any time as that is not a hard date.

All that The War Zone presently knows about Saturday's emergency B-2 landing can be read about in our initial report here. While details are still sparse at this time, the 509th Bomb Wing's public affairs department did respond to our initial inquiry on Saturday with this statement:

"A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit experienced an in-flight malfunction during routine operations today and was damaged on the runway at Whiteman Air Force Base after it successfully completed an emergency landing. There were no personnel injuries. There was a fire associated with the aircraft after landing, and the base fire department extinguished the fire. The incident is under investigation."

40% of the B-2 bomber fleet executing an ‘Elephant Walk’ on Whiteman Air Force Base's only runway. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryson Britt

Where the B-2 involved currently rests on the airfield and its general condition is also unknown as is the extent of the damage to the aircraft.

With only 20 Spirits in the inventory, even just one damaged bomber is still a prominent cause for concern, as has been demonstrated by the Air Force’s reaction to bombers that have been damaged in the past. Pair that with the premier bomber base’s only runway now seemingly being closed until further notice, and it’s looking like Spirit operations will take a hit as the year closes out. Another similar incident happened in September of 2021 and that B-2 is still undergoing repairs.

Whiteman AFB is slated to receive the B-21 Raider as the installation’s B-2 Spirits get phased out in the coming decade.

This story is developing and The War Zone will be sure to provide you with any updates as they emerge, especially in regard to the state of the runway and the B-2 in question. 

Contact the author: Emma@thewarzone.com

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