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News Release


Release No: 147-97
April 01, 1997


The U.S. Air Force's newest bomber, the B-2 Spirit, reached its Initial Operational Capability (IOC) today. General Richard E. Hawley, commander of Air Combat Command, made the announcement based on the 509th Bomb Wing's demonstrated ability to operate, maintain and support the bomber in the performance of its nuclear and conventional missions worldwide. This is a significant milestone in ensuring the future of national defense, Hawley said. The B-2's combination of low observability, large payload capacity, bombing accuracy and long range gives America a unique, unprecedented military capability. This combination allows the B-2 to penetrate sophisticated defenses and threaten an enemy's war-making capability. It gives the United States the capability to project power to any part of the globe within a matter of hours and deliver combat power with precision in support of warfighting commands, Hawley said. Today, our nation's deterrent force has been enhanced significantly. This is a high-leverage weapon system, said General Eugene E. Habiger, commander in chief of U.S. Strategic Command. The B-2, in concert with our total bomber force and our land- and sea-based ballistic missiles, sends a powerful message to would-be aggressors. The B-2's ability to evade radar and carry a heavy payload, coupled with the fact that it can launch from the United States and quickly reach any point in the world, make it an invaluable military asset. The IOC comes after highly successful tests of the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), and an interim weapon with similar capability called the GPS-Aided Munition (GAM). In October, three B-2s destroyed 16 targets using 16 GAMs from an altitude above 40,000 feet. Last month a B-2 released two inert JDAMs, marking the beginning of that weapon system's integration on the B-2. As the B-2 Spirit meets its Initial Operational Capability and is available across the entire spectrum of conflict, it is appropriate to acknowledge each member of the U.S. Air Force/B-2 industry team whose skill and determination have given our country the most advanced, most potent military aircraft ever produced, said Kent Kresa, chairman, president and CEO of Northrop Grumman Corporation. The women and men of Air Combat Command and the 509th Bomb Wing deserve special recognition for their integral role in proving the value of the B-2 in day-to-day operations. Together with their industry colleagues, they have made America safer today because of this extraordinary contribution to our national defense. Thirteen B-2s have been delivered to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. A total of 21 aircraft will be delivered by the year 2000. All B-2s will be assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing. Each B-2 can carry up to 16 GAMs or JDAMs. These 2,000 pound bombs have the capability to strike within 20 feet of a target. In the past the Air Force measured how many aircraft would be needed to destroy a single target and now, the Air Force can look at how many targets it can destroy with a single aircraft, Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, Air Force Chief of Staff, said recently. The B-2 Spirit is an integral part of the U.S. Air Force's bomber force, which also includes the B-1B Lancer and the B-52H Stratofortress. Together, this bomber fleet gives the nation the capability to rapidly respond to crises anywhere in the world with tremendous lethality, at minimal risk to American lives. This revolutionary advance in technology will help to ensure our national security well into the next century, Hawley said.

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