B-2 bomber's 'stealth' affected by heat, water, humidity
August 22, 1997
Web posted at: 11:00 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Air Force is delaying plans to
station any costly B-2 stealth bombers abroad, because the
planes must be housed in special climate-controlled hangars
to protect their radar-deflecting surface from bad weather.
The hangars are unavailable at the plane's overseas
destinations, officials said Thursday.
The decision came on the heels of a report from the General
Accounting Office, the auditing arm of Congress, which said
testing indicated the B-2 is sensitive to heat, water and
humidity, and that "exposure to water or moisture can damage
some of the low-observable enhancing surfaces on the
Of all practice runs between March 1996 and March 1997, only
26 percent were successful missions, with climate listed as
the primary reason for failures, the GAO said.
The Air Force already has received 15 of the 21 sleek fighter
planes it ordered, which cost more than $2 billion each.
Northrop Grumman Corp. builds the B-2s, which are based at
Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where they are kept in
special hangars. The sleek black aircraft have a wingspan of
172 feet (52 meters).
The GAO report comes at a time when the Senate and House of
Representatives are preparing to wrangle over whether to
spend more money on the bomber.
Air Force officials cited in the report said it was unlikely
that the bomber's moisture sensitivity would ever be
corrected completely, "even with improved materials and
The Air Force stressed that although any overseas basing of
B-2s was being delayed for perhaps two years or more while it
addressed the problem, the planes could still fly nonstop to
overseas targets from the United States.
Reuters contributed to this report.