Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

B-2 Bomber Shows It Can Weather Rain Pentagon Eager to End Uprising against Program

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

B-2 Bomber Shows It Can Weather Rain Pentagon Eager to End Uprising against Program

Article excerpt

The great, angular bat that is the B-2 stealth bomber was in the middle of the washing it gets three times a year when a bus load of reporters wheeled up to the hangar entrance on Friday.

This was no coincidence.

Airmen in rain gear scrubbed with brushes while suds slipped off the razor-edged front of the $2 billion plane, and Col. Bill Hood squared his stance on the wet concrete as he prepared to speak. The entire point of flying about 50 Washington journalists from Andrews Air Force Base into central Missouri for a daylong briefing with the men and women of the 509th Bomb Wing was this warbird bath. "We have an airplane in for its scheduled wash," Hood said above the slap of water running off the plane onto the hangar floor. "When we've fini shed our wash, it will be fully mission capable with its stealth characteristics intact." In that setting, an important point was being made in the Pentagon's effort to quell an uprising against the $44 billion B-2 program. Last month, the investigatory arm of Congress issued a report saying tests showed the radar-foiling skin of the bomber goes bad in the rain. The General Accounting Office report also said every hour of flight time requires 124 hours of repair time, and concluded that America's revo lutionary new bomber was so fragile it could be deployed in "only the most benign environments." But the Pentagon certainly wasn't conceding any of those points Friday. In fact, Air Force officials insisted that the GAO report referred to test results from an early version of the plane that already has been replaced. They said the B-2 now requires only about 100 hours of repair time for each hour of flying, and that number will keep dropping because the early years of an advanced weapons system always demands heavier maintenance. …

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