Tag Archives: B-2 Spirit

Are We Seeing B-21 Raider Development and Testing Activity at Area 51?

With New Projects in Development, and New Construction, The Area is Ramping Up.

We’re not sure what is happening inside (and close to) the restricted Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), but after visiting the area earlier this month, we are reasonably certain something significant is taking place right now. The massive area, reported to be 4,531 square miles, is one of the most secure national security sites and is closed to the public.

Earlier this month we drove the remote roads along the perimeter of the NTTR between Las Vegas, Nevada and Beatty, Nevada on the way to and from the Jedi Transition low-level flying area in Death Valley National Park. While this is one of the emptiest, most barren stretches of paved highway in the U.S. in just a few hours we made a number of interesting observations.

Sometime after 3:00 AM across from Creech AFB we saw a military-aged male with a beard in civilian clothes and a medium-sized piece of luggage or large lunch box board an airport-style shuttle bus and drive away on Highway 95 west of Creech. The vehicle drove a significant distance west and north on the highway before we lost sight of it. There is almost nothing out there. On the trip back that night we saw an F-117 fuselage covered by a tarp being transported on a flatbed truck in the dark west-bound on Highway 95. Earlier in the day someone had gotten photos of it by the side of the road.

In less than 24 hours, on one stretch of road at the outskirts of a massive 4,000+ mile testing range, we saw that much activity.

Moreover, the following day, on Nov. 14, an authority on the area referred to only as “G” of lazygranch.com, shot photos of an F-117 flying with a two-seat F-16. The very same day, in the afternoon a similar (or maybe the same with a diffirent configuration) two-seat F-16, carrying the Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAS-42, an IRST (Infra Red Search and Track) pod (theoretically capable to detect stealth aircraft by their IR signature), with sparse markings was photographed flying through the Jedi Transition. The photo was good enough that we could identify a patch worn on the right shoulder of each of the aircraft’s flight suits. The patches suggest the crew are associated with the famous “Red Hats” opposing forces test unit and the 53rd TEG Det 3, the unit thought to have replaced the 4477th “Red Eagles”, another opposing force simulation and testing unit.

Separate and additionally from those sightings near or around Tonopah Test Range, journalist Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone, has been a keen observer of the Nevada Test and Training Range. Rogoway reported on the appearance of several new construction projects at Area 51, notably, a new “U” shaped taxiway, vehicle roadway and most interestingly, a large aircraft hangar.

The new, large finished hangar within the square taxiway. (Photo: Ufo Seekers)

If you compare satellite imagery of Area 51 beginning in 1984 you see a progression of small changes followed by the significant addition of a long, second, parallel runway. Work on the second runway began in 1990 and seemed complete in about 1992. From 1999-2000 several new buildings appeared in satellite photos. In 2001-2002 an intermediate vehicle road connecting taxiways and runways was built. And most recently, in 2013, a major new construction project began at the southwest corner of the area. Soon after, in July 2014, the U.S. Air Force issued a request for proposal for a new, long range, low-observable strike aircraft. The project became the LRS-B. From 2014 to 2016 a large, new hangar was built at the southwestern corner of the facility. The structure appears to be nearly large enough to house an aircraft the size of the current B-1B Lancer bomber.

The latest satellite photos show what appears to be new engine test facilities, and most significantly, the southern taxiways and hangar in new-looking condition. Comparing the satellite photos of the facility going back to 1984, the two most significant, visible expansions are the second runway in 1990 and the new southwest square taxiway and hangar building beginning in 2014.

An analysis of satellite images over time reveal the major construction projects at Area 51/Groom Lake since 1984 including the most recent hangar and taxiways. (Photo: GoogleEarth)

The following video takes you on a “sightseeing tour” of Groom Lake from Tikaboo Peak:

Noted aerospace imaging expert Al Clark told TheAviationist.com, “In the general Groom Lake image our best reference is one of the F-16s parked on the west side of the base. The F-16 length is approximately 50-feet. Building number one, which is almost directly west of the F-16s is approximately 120’x120’. It looks to be an engine test/run-up hangar. The building that is more interesting is approximately 250-feet wide by a length of 275-feet. This is interesting because the B-2 wingspan is only 172-feet, so this is [possibly] designed to house large aircraft, in my opinion possibly the B-21 Raider. To the southwest of that structure it looks like what could be a weapons storage facility. The smaller bunker is approximately 75-feet long by 30-feet wide, and the larger bunker is approximately 75-feet wide and 100-feet long. Those are fairly large weapons bunkers. The general placement of the munitions depot tells me that there is something pretty volatile in it because they are keeping it away from the main base at Groom Lake.”

Is what we are seeing evidence of the LRS-B program development and the B-21 Raider? While there are likely several other major developmental programs underway including a new manned or unmanned reconnaissance and strike platform (the RQ-180 spy drone is one of them), LRS-B and B-21 are the most mature and most talked about in official channels and, as a result, most conclusions point to something related to their development out at Area 51 in the new hangar.

Prior to her departure from the office, former Air Force Secretary Deborah James told media, “Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen.” Her comments about the LRS-B program and B-21 acknowledge both the capability and necessity of the program, and may suggest the urgency of it as the Air Force maintains its small fleet of B-2 Spirit low-observable long range strike aircraft against a growing demand for its unique capability.

That might mean we are seeing the B-21 Raider development program take shape right under our noses at Area 51. Or this is what they want us to believe.

We Have Found Ultra Rare Footage Showing A B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Dropping A 30,000-Pound Bunker Buster Bomb

This Is Probably The First Clip Showing The B-2 As It Drops The GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is the only aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory currently capable to operationally drop the massive 30,000-lb (14,000 kg) GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator (even though the testing of the MOP involved a B-52 back in 2009, the weapon’s intended platform is only the B-2).

The 14-ton GBU-57 is a 20-foot long GPS-guided bomb said to be able to penetrate 200 feet of concrete before exploding: for this reason it is considered the weapon of choice in case of attack on buried targets (such as the North Korean bunkers).

Whilst there are just a few images showing the GBU-57 carried by or next to a B-2 (we published one of these in 2013, here) you will hardly find any video of the B-2 dropping one of the two MOPs the stealth bomber can carry in its internal bomb bay.

However, we have spotted a clip of a MOP released from the B-2’s bomb bay in a recently published video from the 393rd Bomb Squadron, one of the units that operate the Spirit stealth bomber as part of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base Missouri.

The impressive size of the MOP is pretty evident in the footage (skip towards the end of the video).

The MOP is sometimes mistaken with the 11-ton, parachute deployed, GBU-43B MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast) also known as “Mother Of All Bombs”. The MOAB is the largest conventional air dropped weapon ever employed by the U.S. military: a U.S. Air Force Special Operations MC-130 Combat Talon II dropped the GBU-43B on an ISIS cave complex target in Afghanistan, for the very first time on Apr. 13, 2017.

 

Three B-2s and “several” B-1s have deployed to Guam to deter China and North Korea

The U.S. Air Force has just deployed three B-2 Spirits stealth bombers to Guam. They have joined the B-1s already there. Not far from the troubled waters of Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

On Aug. 9, three B-2 Spirit bombers with the 509th Bomb Wing, have deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam, to conduct extended deterrence operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific theater, where China is conducting a pseudomilitary campaign of expansion into the East and South China Seas.

For instance, the most recent satellite imagery shows China continues to show intention of militarizing the Spratly Islands.

The stealth bombers, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, are due to be involved in what the U.S. Pacific Command defined a “short-term deployment” during which they will conduct “local and regional training sorties, and will integrate capabilities with key regional partners, ensuring bomber crews maintain a high state of readiness and crew proficiency.”

The last time the B-2s deployed there was in March this year when three B-2 stealth bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing, flew to Guam amid growing tensions with North Korea.

Interestingly, the B-2s have joined the “several” B-1B Lancers (“Bones” in accordance with the nickname used by their aircrews) that arrived in Guam on Aug. 6, marking the first B-1 deployment there in a decade.

The aircraft, belonging to the 28th Bomb Wing from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, have replaced the B-52s in supporting the U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) Continuous Bomber Presence mission.

“Andersen welcomes the B-1 squadron, and we look forward to working together to provide safety and security to the region, our partners and our allies,” said Brig. Gen. Douglas Cox, 36th Wing commander in an Air Force release. “The B-52s did an amazing job the past few years, and we know the B-1s will continue CBP excellence going forward.”

The B-1 units bring years of repeated combat and operational experience from the Central Command theater to the Pacific. The aircraft should have just received some additional cockpit upgrades during works conducted after the Bones returned stateside in January 2016, after a 6-month deployment worth 3,800 munitions on 3,700 targets in 490 sorties in support of Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS, during which the B-1s carried out Close Air Support and Air Interdiction missions delivering a wide variety of PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), including JDAMs on Daesh positions.

Noteworthy, unlike the B-52 and the B-2, the B-1B had been taken out from the Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) rotation at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base because it can’t carry any kind of nuclear weapon. So, the Lancer deployment in the regions brings a conventional heavy bomber within striking distance of China and North Korea.

Still, Pyongyang accused Washington of planning a pre-emptive nuclear strike, after the US announced it was deploying B-1 bombers in the Pacific for the first time in a decade.

B-1 in Guam

Will the B-1s also deploy to Australia, even closer to Beijing or Pyongyang than Guam?

Back in March, Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force, told to Reuters that the U.S. could deploy long-range bombers to Australia as concerns over China’s military expansion in the Asia-Pacific area continue to grow.

At that time, high-level discussions were in progress to deploy B-1 bombers in northern Australia and to expand B-52 bomber missions in the region a move that was aimed to add more pressure on China. Now that the Stratofortress bombers have been replaced by the Lancers it’s unclear whether the U.S. Air Force has achieved an agreement with the local government and plans to fly any B-1s from there.

Lancers deployments on the Australian continent were considered in the past but none of these rumors ever turned into the real thing.

Anyway, U.S. Strategic Command’s assets are particularly active lately: whilst B-52s support Operation Inherent Resolve from Al Udeid in Qatar, B-52s were deployed to RAF Fairford, UK, in May and June, where the bombers participated in U.S. European Command Exercises BALTOPS and SABER STRIKE. Additionally, earlier this month, five B-52s and B-2s from all three of the U.S.’s strategic bomber bases took part in “POLAR ROAR,” flying simultaneous missions to the Arctic, the Baltic Sea and Alaska. During their last deployment to Guam, B-2s performed a running crew change at RAAF Tindal airbase in Australia on Mar. 22.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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While B-2s deploy to the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. is considering moving B-1 bombers to Australian soil

U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific theatre grows.

On Mar. 10, the U.S. announced the deployment of three Air Force B-2 stealth bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to the Asia-Pacific region amid growing tensions with North Korea.

Although the U.S. Air Force has not disclosed where the aircraft will be based, it is quite likely that the aircraft will operate out of Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam, strategically located in the Pacific, that has already hosted U.S. bombers involved in extended deterrence missions in the region.

On the previous day, Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force, told to Reuters that the U.S. could deploy long-range bombers to Australia as concerns over China’s military expansion in the Asia-Pacific area continue to grow.

In fact, as reported by FoxNews.com, high-level discussions are in progress to deploy B-1 bombers in northern Australia and to expand B-52 bomber missions in the region, even if details such as the duration of the rotations and the number of personnel involved are still being hammered out.

Pickart added that these deployments would not only provide training opportunities for U.S. airmen but they would also deliver Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Pacific Command leaders “a credible global strike and deterrence capability to help maintain peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”

The talks about the chance to rotate bombers through northern Australia come in the wake of a freedom of navigation exercise conducted by the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) and its Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in the South China Sea, where China is militarizing the region to guard its excessive territorial claims.

However an agreement between the two nations about bomber rotations in Australia would put USAF B-1B Lancers within striking distance of the South China Sea, most likely a move that would add more pressure on China, as already highlighted by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei “Cooperation among relevant countries should protect regional peace and stability, and not target the interests of third parties.”

Noteworthy while the U.S. Air Force conducts B-52 missions from Australia periodically, doesn’t fly any B-1s from there.

Moreover, as we have explained, this is not the first time that U.S. take in consideration the chance to base the Lancers on the Australian continent, but any previous rumour about this possibility never turned into the real thing.

Nevertheless an eventual deployment of the B-1B in Australia could finally bring back the Lancer in the Pacific Region.

In fact, unlike the B-52 and the B-2, the B-1B has been taken out from the Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) rotation at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base because it can’t carry any kind of nuclear weapon.

On the contrary giving its conventional bombing role the Bone has been heavy tasked in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

B-1B Australian soil

Image credit: Senior Airman Kate Maure and Airman 1st Class Peter Thompson / U.S. Air Force

 

 

Freaking awesome photo of the B-2 Stealth Bomber doing the Rose Bowl flyover

The B-2 Rose Bowl flyover as seen from  above.

As already reported, on Jan. 1, 2016, a B-2 Spirit belonging to the 509th Bomb Wing from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, opened the 102nd Rose Bowl Game between the Big Ten Conference West Division champion Iowa Hawkeyes and the Pac-12 Conference champion Stanford Cardinal, at the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California with a flyover.

The jaw-dropping air-to-air image showing the Stealth Bomber during the flyover (from above) was taken by Mark Holtzman, a California native with over 25 years of experience as both a photographer and pilot, founder of West Coast Aerial Photography, a company specialising in aerial photography based in Los Angeles.

[By the way, you can buy a print of the photo here].

Take time to visit Mark’s blog at www.photopilot.com/blog or his galleries at www.markholtzman.com you’ll find other cool images as this photo of the 2011 Rose Bowl flyover performed by U.S. Navy F/A-18s out of Lemoore or this one of 2009 Rose Bowl flyover by another B-2.

Image credit: Mark Holtzman

H/T Isaac Alexander for the heads-up!

 

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