WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
How does the 80-ton, 172-foot-wingspan B-2 Spirit stealth bomber stay undetected on radar?
It takes crews of Airmen with specialized training to come together.
Low observable (LO) Airmen with the 509th Maintenance Group (MXG) and 131st Maintenance Squadron (MXS) at Whiteman Air Force Base work side-by-side to complete specialized, technical work that enables the B-2’s stealth capabilities.
“LO at Whiteman is responsible for ensuring the Air Force's only stealth bomber maintains its capabilities to remain undetected by potential adversaries while also powering Nuclear Deterrence,” said Master Sgt. Damien Ferguson, 509th MXG LO flight chief.
LO technicians like Staff Sgt. Tyler Beverlin, 131st MXS, restore the stealth coatings that give the B-2 a minimal signature on radar.
“We spend most of our time taking paint off, sanding through coatings and finally finding the discrepant material,” he said. “It is very technical work that requires us to train people one on one.”
Meanwhile, experienced LO Airmen utilize special equipment that inspects the aircraft more thoroughly so work can be prioritized for the shop, said Ferguson.
Teamwork is necessary for mission success in the LO shop.
“We are total force integration (TFI) throughout all maintenance done on the aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Roger Bell, 131st MXS work lead. “We have active, Guard, and DoD (civilians) all working at the same time.”
From the start of the duty day to the end, Airmen are collaborating with fellow service members in different units.
Ferguson said the LO team is constructed of service members with different components, active-duty Air Force and the Air National Guard (ANG), with the goal of utilizing the experience that each one offers.
“Whether that be years of B-2 expertise or a different perspective from personnel that have worked on other stealth platforms,” he said.
This collaboration between active duty and ANG LO flights has created a healthy atmosphere in the LO shop making it function fluidly.
“With the amount of TFI that happens within the LO Flight, there is a great working relationship amongst the leadership,” said Ferguson. “It is pretty seamless on managing the workflow and job assignments. If there are issues, then each entity has their key personnel who work through any issues that may arise.”
Training is no different for these Airmen either. Active-duty trains ANG and vice-versa to ensure standards are met. The specialized training requirements show how the ANG plays a key role in everyday operations.
Having experienced, certified Airmen in no-fail career fields like LO is a key component to its overall success.
“We have 18 full time technicians and seven of them came from active duty,” said Bell. “It takes 18 to 24 months for a technician just to become certified. We are keeping that continuity and knowledge full time when someone stays instead of losing it when people separate or experience a permanent change of station.”
Airmens' collaboration and dedication toward goals show some of the best results the Air Force has to offer such as keeping the B-2 Spirit mission ready.