Maintainers keep B-2s soaring during deployment

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mikal Canfield
  • Kenney Headquarters Public Affairs
Maintaining the world’s most advanced multi-role bomber isn’t an easy job. It requires Airmen work long hours to ensure every inch of airframe is ready to launch at a moment’s notice. Anything less would jeopardize the safety of the aircrew, or in the case of this unique aircraft, compromise the stealth capabilities key to its global strike mission.

This mission doesn’t change just because the unit is deployed. If anything, it puts additional demands on the Airmen responsible for the maintenance of the B-2 Spirit bomber.

“Some of the unique challenges of performing aircraft maintenance at Andersen are operating at a base other than Whiteman (Air Force Base, Mo.) and supporting the aircraft with parts that are in the states,” said Master Sgt. Kelly Costa, 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron lead production superintendent.

Sergeant Costa is one of 207 B-2 maintainers who are deployed here from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman. The B-2s are deployed to Andersen to help promote regional security and preserve regional stability while providing the U.S. Pacific Command with a continuous bomber presence in the region.

There’s wasn’t a lot of time to get settled in, either. Within days of arrival, maintainers had to ensure the aircraft were ready to participate in Polar Lightning, a 4,500-nautical-mile mission to a training range in Alaska.

Fortunately for the maintainers, this wasn’t their first deployment to Andersen. Lessons learned from previous deployments made a smooth transition possible.

“We brought more material and equipment that we didn’t have last year,” said Senior Airman Monty Williams, a 36th EAMXS aircraft structural journeyman who works low observable maintenance on the B-2. “Our work is unpredictable; we can’t bring our entire support section from our home station.”

Fortunately for the maintainers, they are used to ensuring the aircraft are always ready to go, so that aspect of the job hasn’t changed much from what they do every day at Whiteman.

“Operations tempo has not changed since our folks are used to a high tempo,” Sergeant Costa said. “Our maintenance folks are well-trained professionals who know how to perform their job but have to deal with the challenges of equipment and lack of equipment they are used to.”

Security can be a challenge, too. Having one of the world’s most advanced weapons systems requires a different level of security than other aircraft.

“Security is something you get used to, and eventually you do not think of it as a hindrance but rather standard operations,” said Capt. James Temple, 393rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge.

“The biggest disadvantage with security is that not every B-2 maintainer has the clearance to work on the aircraft without an escort," Captain Temple said. That leaves a limited pool of personnel to work certain types of maintenance jobs.”

The B-2 also has special safety considerations.

“Working around aircraft is an inherently dangerous business but as professionals we are able to significantly reduce that risk by using the proper equipment and following technical data,” Captain Temple said. “The B-2 poses a unique safety hazard because all the doors have blade seals. These thin metal strips seal the gap when doors, such as the weapons bay doors and landing gear doors, close. Over time they sharpen and can easily cut maintainers who are not careful.”

Even with all the challenges, the B-2 maintainers love their job, whether it is at home or at a deployed location.

“The best part about being a B-2 crew chief is working on my jet all night so it can make its next day sortie,” said Senior Airman Cory Cahill, 36th EAMXS. “Our mission is to keep the jets ready to go whenever, wherever.”