Stealth Bomber Crashed

B-2 Bomber Crashes on Guam; Pilots Safe

Almost 5% of the entire B-2 fleet was just lost in an accident.

Comments

  1. Given the fact that EA-6B just crashed coming out of that base a few days earlier, I’m thinking the problem was probably not with the pilots, though they’ll get blamed anyway. It’s fortunate they didn’t have a relief crew stuffed away in the back of the cabin like they often do for long missions. They’d have died for sure.

  2. This is fairly tangential to the B-2 crash discussion, but in the past we have had some discussions on the merits of an all metal, possibly steel, Mach 3 bomber with shape stealth only, and no signature reducing coatings or edges. Aviation Daily has some information on the F-22 relevant to my contention that the coatings are more of a problem than they’re worth:

    The Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) is faulting Lockheed Martin’s two fifth-generation fighter programs, the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, citing worries about the effort needed to maintain the Raptor’s stealth and plans to drop two test aircraft from the JSF’s System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. ‘The F-22 completed an aggressive array of follow-on testing to include enhanced mission capabilities,’ the recently released DOT&E 2007 annual report said about the aircraft, for which the Pentagon budgeted about $3.8 billion in procurement in fiscal 2008, or about $190 million per copy. ‘However, inspection and repair of low observables continues to impact F-22 maintainability,’ the report said. ‘Test results demonstrated that maintaining the low-observable signature continues to require significant effort and accounted for half of the overall maintenance man-hours.’ The DOT&E also noted that it’s too soon to draw conclusions about the stability of the F-22’s low observable signature or how effective the signature assessment system is, adding ‘It is likely any trends will not be realized until further data becomes available during FY08 testing.’ – Aviation Daily, today

    Also in today’s article is a comment about the survivability of the composite structure of the F-35. As I mentioned a couple of times previously, the F-22 was force to go from having all composite spars to alternating composite and titanium spars due to live fire testing with 20mm HE rounds. This article says:

    Live fire tests also showed the threat penetration of composite material aircraft skin are more likely to cause fires than predicted, DOT&E reported. ‘The program is considering removal of shutoff valves for flammable liquid cooling system and engine fueldraulics,’ the repot said. ‘The removal of these valves will increase the likelihood of in-flight fires and possible aircraft loss.’ – Aviation Daily, today

    As I understand it, the B-2, being an earlier version of 2nd generation stealth, has significantly more problems with coatings and edges than the F-22. And, of course, composites bring a hell all of their own including susceptibility to lighting, water, and hail damage, as well as not standing up well to live fire, and being difficult to repair. Repairs are also costly in terms of weight added to the airframe. All of this factors in to why I am an advocate for a Mach 3 bomber as the LOW COST option for the USAF’s next bomber.

  3. The composites and coating on the F-22 limit its high end speed and if F-22 that takes any combat damage will have its stealth impaired. I’m not sure that shape alone will give you enough stealth. (Especially if the plane is manned.) Stealth shaping and aerodynamics don’t always go together. The again, I do not subscribe to the school that says your bomber has to overfly the target. So a reduce signature bomber without all the man hours dedicated to stealth maintenance is attractive. Current research on surface plasmon resonance can make the whole point moot. True invisibility is infinity better then stealth. I don’t see anything in the air with PSR tech for a while yet, but I could see limited aspect PSR to conceal limited areas. On the battle damage front, I think it would interesting to see if we could install magnetic memory foam structures in the wings of plane. It would reduce weight, increase strength, and allow for a limited self healing ability.

  4. The vast majority of stealth is shaping. Coatings only attenuate a couple of dB and they are the most delicate, expensive, and difficult to maintain part. As far as shaping and aerodynamics, stealth shaping had an interesting effect on aerodynamics technology. I’m not really going to go into it, but stealth really opened some eyes when it came to understanding a number of aerodynamic phenomina. It forced airplane designers to work harder and they discovered that stealth shaping wasn’t necessarily incompatable with good aerodynamics. It was a problem on the first generation stealth aircraft like the F-117, but is not today with the better computing power we have available. The biggest problem we have today is that there are no more aircraft designers. In my company they give the job of designing the airplane to some junior CAD monkey that knows a little bit about surfacing from the class he took at tech school. When I first entered the aerospace industry ‘real engineering’ was design. Today a ‘real engineer’ is an analyst. Like everything else, we’ve got the cart before the horse. An analyst can get you a better airfoil shape for your wing, but they can’t decide how best to layout an airplane. Consequently we have committees to do that job. A bunch of people who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground get together in a room and argue about what should be where like they have a reason to have an opinion. It would almost make you believe we were the ones who lost the Cold War. Meanwhile this generation’s Kelly Johnsons stack requirements into neat little theoretical piles and dream about being able to do the work they wanted to do when they were in college.

  5. There’s some more information about the crash today:

    One of the pilots of the B-2 stealth bomber, Spirit of Kansas, reported a fire at takeoff from Andersen AFB, Guam which was followed quickly by loss of control of the bomber, according to a senior Air Combat Command official. The stealth bomber rolled uncontrollably to the right and fell between the taxiway and the ramp at 10:45 am Feb. 23 Guam time just after passing the control tower. It was attempting a takeoff toward the seaward end of the runway. The two pilots ejected with one being hospitalized. A dark plume of smoke rose from the crash site and civilians outside the base reported a second explosion about 30-min. after the initial impact. – Military News

    Makes me wonder if they didn’t locate the 3 computers that control the flight surfaces a little bit closer together than they should have. Maybe they hired the guy who put all three hydraulic circuits in the DC-10 close enough together that a single uncontained compressor disk rupture could take them all out to do locate their flight control computers?