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Rumsfeld Visits B-2 Bomber Base as Afghan Campaign Heats Up

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo., Oct. 19, 2001 – Amid news reports that U.S. ground troops are aiding anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld flew to this Missouri air base today to meet B-2 Spirit bomber pilots and support crews.

Speaking to reporters en route here, Rumsfeld praised the air base's service members and declared that the B-2's more than 40-hour missions to Afghanistan are "amazing."

The secretary declined to give specifics on reported U.S. ground operations in Afghanistan. He noted that providing operations information about U.S. air attacks or the involvement of U.S. troops could imperil lives, missions and damage national security.

"What we've decided to do -- and I think with very good reason -- is to characterize what's going on as certain things taking place from the air and certain things from time to time coordinated with the ground," Rumsfeld said.

During his daylong visit to the Missouri base, Rumsfeld will meet with 509th Bomb Wing airmen and women. He will also receive briefings on the B-2, a $1.3-billion bomber that's been in service since 1993. B-2s have participated in several missions over Afghanistan in the war against terrorism.

The B-2 is a stealthy "flying wing" aircraft that has a two-pilot crew and a 6,000-mile range. Round-trip sorties from Whiteman to Afghanistan and back have taken 40 hours or more. Whiteman is the Air Force's only B-2 base. There are about 21 B-2s, all of which are in active units.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageReporters swarm on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on his plane en route to Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Rumsfeld and party were on a one-day trip Oct. 19, 2001, to meet with B-2 stealth bomber pilots and support troops, and to receive briefings. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld talks to media at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The secretary visited Oct. 19, 2001, to meet the pilots and ground crews of B-2 Spirit bombers that have participated so far in six sorties against Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan. He praised their efforts in the war against world terrorism. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.   
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