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Deployments in the Persian Gulf

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber prepares to hook up with a KC-135 Stratotanker to refuel during a mission supporting NATO Operation Allied Force in 1999.  
509th Bomb Wing

Home base: Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri

Destination: Unknown but possibly Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean

Aircraft: B-2 Spirit stealth bombers

Units: The 509th Bomb Wing is based at Whiteman, the B-2's only operational base. The wing's units include the 325th and 393rd Bomb Squadrons and 14 other support and maintenance squadrons.

Duties: For the first time, B-2 bombers will fly missions from an overseas base instead of the long, round-trip flights it has previously made from Whiteman Air Force Base.

Air Force officials declined to tell CNN where the aircraft were deploying to. However, shelters especially designed for the B-2 have been set up at Diego Garcia in the central Indian Ocean, which is used by the U.S. military as a stopping-off point for its bombers.

The giant half-dome shelters are an essential part of the bomber fleet as the B-2 requires a controlled environment for repairs on the aircraft's delicate skin that allows it to fly undetected by radar.

Since its debut in the 1999 air war over Kosovo, the B-2 has flown combat missions exclusively from Whiteman, logging sorties that have at times exceeded 40 hours.

Forward basing of the B-2 would allow it to drop more bombs because of lower fuel load. The bombers can hold up to 40,000 pounds of munitions and hit up to 16 different targets in one bombing run.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.
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