B-2 Spirit stealth bombers conduct elephant walk to warn North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

B-2 Spirit stealth bombers conduct elephant walk to warn North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

By Dario Leone
Nov 29 2022
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The B-2 Spirit capability to carry B61 and B83 nuclear bombs is a strong warning message against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The 509th and 131st Bomb Wings completed Exercise Spirit Vigilance 22, on Nov. 7, 2022 at Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB), Mo.

As told by Airman 1st Class Hailey Farrell, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs, in the article Spirit Vigilance: Defending the Homeland From the Heartland, Spirit Vigilance is a training exercise focused on enhancing the lethality and increasing the readiness of the Airmen who support and execute the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber mission.

“This is a reminder that the B-2 Spirit bomber is the visible leg of nuclear triad,” said Col. Geoffrey Steeves, 509th Operations Group commander. “Simply put, the B-2 is the world’s most strategic aircraft. It is the only aircraft on the planet that combines stealth, payload, and long-range strike. We are charged with delivering the nation’s most powerful weapons for our most important missions.”

B-2 Spirit stealth bombers conduct elephant walk to warn North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
B-2 Spirit stealth bombers assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base taxi and take-off during exercise Spirit Vigilance on Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri Nov. 7, 2022. 

Spirit Vigilance is one of a series of routine training and readiness exercises held by bomb wings across the Air Force Global Strike Command. The Vigilance series are regularly planned, multi-annual exercises conducted to continuously evaluate and enhance US deterrence capabilities.

Capt. Richard Collier, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron director of operations, said Spirit Vigilance is designed to test aircrews and Airmen under difficult conditions.

“We are displaying a capability here to rapidly generate and deploy [the B-2] under greater scrutiny and time restraints than the normal day-to-day flying mission,” he said. “Here we demonstrate to our near peer adversaries, as well as to ourselves, how well we can perform.”

Stealth aircraft are designed to operate covertly, but the B-2’s role in strategic deterrence depends upon its adversaries knowing exactly what it can do. Exercises like Spirit Vigilance serve to assure Allies and partners that the Airmen of the 509th Bomb Wing are ready to execute nuclear operations and global strike anytime, anywhere.

B-2 Spirit stealth bombers conduct elephant walk to warn North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
Airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing participate in a B-2 Spirit elephant walk, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Nov. 7, 2022. The elephant walk was a culmination of this year’s SPIRIT VIGILANCE exercise. The VIGILANCE an exercise series is an Air Forces Strategic-Air exercise that focuses on the training and readiness of Airmen directly involved in bomber operations, with a specific focus on a different component of bomber operations with each iteration.

As potential adversaries develop new technologies designed to counter US capabilities, every advantage gained becomes critical, Collier said. This includes out-strategizing competitors.

“When we think of near peers and peer adversaries, we have to think multiple steps ahead,” Collier said. “We have to maintain an advantage, and in everything we do, we are thinking, ‘How do we meet a threat?’ but also ‘how do we lean forward and think about the next threat?’ We’re not training for the past or the now, we’re training for the future. That’s how you maintain an advantage.”

As the National Defense Strategy shifts with a heightened focus on major power competition between the US and our near-peers the B-2’s role in deterrence only grows in importance.

“The B-2 stealth bomber has never been more relevant than it is now,” Steeves said. “It was conceived at the height of the Cold War but fielded at the same time the Soviet Union dissolved and the Berlin Wall fell. Now, 30 years later the B-2 finds itself in the world for which it was created — strategic competition. This exercise is a reminder that the 509th Bomb Wing and the 131st Bomb Wing are ready to execute their missions of executing nuclear operations and global strike, anytime, anywhere.”

B-2 Spirit stealth bombers assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base taxi and take-off during exercise Spirit Vigilance on Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri Nov. 7, 2022. Routine exercises like Spirit Vigilance assure our allies and partners that Whiteman Air Force Base is ready to execute nuclear operations and global strike anytime, anywhere.

Noteworthy Pyongyang has been widely advertising the successful test fire of its new ‘Hwasong-17’ intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the US mainland.

The B-2 Spirit is capable to carry nuclear warheads, including B61 and B83. “It is a strong warning message against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un” Bruce Bennett, a senior researcher at the US military thinktank Rand Corporation, told Voice of America.

As reported by the Dong-A Ilbo, in the US, there is growing skepticism about the possibility of China persuading North Korea to halt the latter’s provocations. According to the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, President Joe Biden said he was ‘optimistic’ as he pressured Chinese President Xi Jinping to dissuade North Korea from conducting nuclear tests or missile tests. However, (the reality) does not seem to be the case. “China and Russia’s protection is making Kim Jong Un bold, and Pyongyang is mocking global response ahead of its nuclear tests,” the newspaper said. “Washington should dump its trust in the UN and focus on mobilizing allies (to respond to the North).”

Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Bryson Britt, Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar and Airman 1st Class Hailey Farrell / U.S. Air Force

B-2 Spirit stealth bombers conduct elephant walk to warn North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
A B-2 Spirit stealth bombers assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing taxis to the runway at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri Nov. 7, 2022. The B-2 participated in Spirit Vigilance, a routine training exercise designed to test the wing’s readiness to conduct deterrence and combat operations.

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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