The U.S. Air Force Showed Off 8 B-2 Stealth Bombers At Once

B-2 Elephant Walk from 2022
June 12, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: B-2Elephant WalkMilitaryB-2 Stealth BomberStealth

The U.S. Air Force Showed Off 8 B-2 Stealth Bombers At Once

Back in 2022, B-2 Spirit stealth bombers carried out a training exercise at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, an important 'elephant walk'.

 

Summary and Key Points: The U.S. nuclear triad—comprising land-launched missiles, strategic bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles—remains central to America's deterrence strategy, ensuring second-strike capability even if one leg fails. Amid rising tensions with North Korea, the U.S. demonstrated its nuclear readiness with an "elephant walk" of eight B-2 Spirit stealth bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base.

B-2 Bomber

 

-The B-2, capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons, underscores America's strategic deterrence by showcasing its unmatched stealth, payload, and long-range strike capabilities.

-The exercise highlighted the importance of continual development and readiness of the nuclear triad to maintain a strategic advantage over adversaries like China and North Korea.

U.S. Showcases Nuclear Readiness with B-2 Stealth Bomber Exercise

The three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad — land-launched nuclear missiles, strategic bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles — have remained a top priority for the U.S. military for nearly seven decades.

As the crux of America’s deterrence strategy, these three elements lend to the military’s mutual assured destruction doctrine, especially as the Biden Administration worries about arms builds ups from China and North Korea in Asia.

Simply put, if another nation launches a nuclear attack targeting the U.S, the U.S. military would respond with a massive retaliation using its own nukes.

This second-strike capability is assured by the three different legs.

B-2 Bomber

Even if one leg fails to launch, the U.S. has two other means to strike. 

Elephant Walk: Air Force Showed Off 8 B-2 Stealth Bombers At Once

Late in 2022, the North Korean government threatened that the deployment and presence of U.S. bombers, aircraft carriers, or missile submarines around the Korean peninsula would meet the criteria for nuclear retaliation.

These remarks followed the surfacing of the USS Kentucky at the Port of Busan, marking the first visit by an American nuclear submarine to the peninsula since the 1980s.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also accused the Biden administration of meeting with its South Korean counterparts to discuss plans to use nuclear weapons against North Korea. 

The escalating rhetoric by Pyongyang highlights the importance of America’s nuclear triad.

The good news is that America and its allies have lots of non-kinetic ways to respond. 

For example, back in 2022, B-2 Spirit stealth bombers carried out a training exercise at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, an important 'elephant walk'.

As described by 509th Operations Group commander Col. Geoffrey Steeves, the Spirit Vigilance drills served as reminder that “the B-2 Spirit bomber is the visible leg of the nuclear triad, adding that “the B-2 is the world’s most strategic aircraft. It is the only aircraft on the planet that combines stealth, payload, and long-range strike. 

“We are charged with delivering the nation’s most powerful weapons for our most important missions.”

He added: “We are displaying a capability here to rapidly generate and deploy [the B-2] under greater scrutiny and time restraints than the normal day-to-day flying mission,” Steeves said. “Here we demonstrate to our near peer adversaries, as well as to ourselves, how well we can perform.”

B-2 Bomber

“When we think of near peers and peer adversaries, we have to think multiple steps ahead,” Collier said. “We have to maintain an advantage, and in everything we do, we are thinking, ‘How do we meet a threat?’ but also ‘how do we lean forward and think about the next threat?’ We’re not training for the past or the now, we’re training for the future. That’s how you maintain an advantage.”

In total, 8 B-2 Spirit stealth bombers were put on the tarmac as a warning, as no nation on Earth has anything like the B-2. Not even China or Russia. 

B-2 Bomber: The Visible Leg

Stealth airframes are designed to operate undercover, but the B-2 is different.

The bomber’s role in strategic deterrence relies on America’s adversaries knowing exactly what it can do. Capable of all-altitude attack missions at long ranges, the Spirit can fly to any point in the world within a matter of hours. The stealth bomber can carry a payload of up to 40,000 pounds, including conventional weapons and nuclear weapons. Over the years, several key improvements have been incorporated into the B-2, including a Rockwell Collins TCN-250 tactical air navigation system and a Ku-band active electronically scanned array antenna. 

According to Airforce Technology, the Air Force in 2008 began a program to give the Spirit the capability to attack moving targets using precision-guided weapons. 

In light of the growing North Korean threat, the continued development and enhancement of the B-2 and other elements of America’s nuclear triad is essential to national security. As explained by Col. Steeves, “When we think of near peers and peer adversaries, we have to think multiple steps ahead. We have to maintain an advantage, and in everything we do, we are thinking, ‘how do we meet a threat?’ but also ‘how do we lean forward and think about the next threat?’ We’re not training for the past or the now, we’re training for the future. That’s how you maintain an advantage.”

About the Author: Maya Carlin 

Maya Carlin is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin. Email the author: [email protected].

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