GREGG KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
A B-2 stealth bomber landed at Hickam Air Force Base on Monday for a brief visit, which ends today. It was parked in front of a C-17 Globemaster cargo jet.
Admiral touts B-2s
Keeping B-2 stealth bombers on Guam fulfills U.S. security obligations and demonstrates commitment to peace and stability in the region, says Rear Adm. Charles Martoglio, director of operations at the Pacific Command.
The bombers also serve as a deterrent, he told reporters yesterday.
Martoglio said the message the United States wants its potential adversaries to ponder is: "I will not win if I go to war against the United States today."
Martoglio was at Hickam Air Force Base to talk about the continued presence of bombers, especially the B-2, on Guam. For the past four years, B-2 bombers have been on a four-month rotation cycle.
The B-2 on display yesterday is one of four that have been at Andersen Air Force Base since Oct. 5 along with a maintenance crew of 280. It arrived at Hickam Monday and was scheduled to leave today.
Although journalists were allowed to crawl into the B-2's cockpit, which looked like interiors of the B-52 and B-58 bombers from the Cold War movies "Dr. Strangelove" and "Fail Safe," they were not allowed to photograph it. Nor were pictures allowed of the bomber's under carriage or rear portions.
Armed Hickam police manned a security ring around the $1.2 billion bomber and made sure that reporters and photographers only entered at one point.
Col. Scott West, commander of the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickam, said inert practice bombs, rather than ones that are dependent on global positioning systems, are used because they are safer and more reliable.
But no bombs were dropped during this visit, Martoglio said.
West said B-2 bombers have been using training ranges on the Big Island, flying from Guam, dropping non-exploding 2,000-pound dummy bombs at the Pohakuloa Training Area and then traveling onto Alaska for further training.
He said these training missions can occur as often as monthly.
Lt. Col. John Vitacca, who has been with the B-2 program since 1998, said some missions can last as long as 44 hours.
Pilots are able to get some sleep in the cramped quarters of the cockpit by laying out a sleeping bag in the space behind the pilot and co-pilot's seats, Maj. Geoff Romanowicz said.
Flying above 50,000 feet, the B-2 bomber is very stable and is designed to allow the pilot to concentrate on his combat mission -- like many of the Air Force's advance aircraft, Vitacca said.
B-2 Spirit Bomber
» Crew: 2
» First flight: 1989
» Home base: Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri
» In service: 22 aircraft
» Range: 6,000 nautical miles
» Length: 69 feet
» Speed: High subsonic
» Unit price: $1.2 billion
» Armament: Convention or nuclear weapons
Source: U.S. Air Force