USAF names final B-2 bomber "Spirit of America"

Nearly 6,000 people were on hand here July 14 to witness the naming of the Air Force's 21st and final B-2, "Spirit of America."

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LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (AFPN) -- Nearly 6,000 people were on hand here July 14 to witness the naming of the Air Force's 21st and final B-2, "Spirit of America."

"It's a big day for us," said Gen. Mike Ryan, Air Force chief of staff. "The B-2 will continue to be one of our frontline bombers way into the future. We'll continue to need this airplane. We'll upgrade its capabilities; it's going to be around a long time."

Gen. John Jumper, Air Combat Command commander, presided over the naming ceremony, which featured a fly-over by another member of the B-2 fleet -- "Spirit of Kitty Hawk."

"The B-2 here today, which we proudly christen 'Spirit of America' will help the Air Force gain and hold the ultimate high ground through air dominance during any future conflict," said Jumper, who served as commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe during Operation Allied Force when the B-2 made its operational debut. "The 'Spirit of America' will ensure that our flag will always fly proudly over our great land. It's a spirit that burns bright throughout American history."

The B-2 was used extensively in NATO operations in Kosovo. Flying 30-hour missions, the B-2 was highly effective because of its ability to deliver satellite-guided munitions in any weather conditions.

Also attending the ceremony were Northrop Grumman President and Chief Executive Officer Kent Kresa, Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton, Virginia Congressman Herb Bateman, and Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun.

"The 'Spirit of America' reflects not only the very best of the men and women of the Air Force, but of America," Skelton said. "Kosovo showed us what I've known for a long time ... it works. I have a lot of pride in my heart for this aircraft."

Nineteen of the previous 20 B-2s are named after states; the exception is the B-2 representing North Carolina, which is named "Spirit of Kitty Hawk" in honor of the Wright Brothers historic flight.

The aircraft christened "Spirit of America" today was the first B-2 to fly. The aircraft was known as Air Vehicle 1 when it flew its initial sortie on July 17, 1989, traveling from Palmdale, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. It was also the first B-2 the nation saw when it received its first glimpse of the stealth bomber during a rollout ceremony on Nov. 22, 1988, in Palmdale.

AV-1 was used for initial flight readiness and low-observable signature testing as part of a Flight Test Program and was retired in March 1993 because it was never intended to become part of the Air Force's 20-aircraft fleet. The aircraft received a new lease on life in early 1996 when the Air Force increased its fleet of B-2s to 21.

The B-2 stealth bomber, based at Whiteman AFB, Mo., is capable of delivering conventional and nuclear munitions anywhere on the globe. Its combination of low observability, large payload capacity, near-precision munitions and long range give it a unique ability to penetrate sophisticated defenses and deny an enemy's war-making capability.

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.

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