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Air Force Suspends B-2 Training

August 6, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Air Force has suspended training missions for its B-2 stealth bombers because of problems with the aircraft’s crew ejection system, the service said today in a statement.

All eight of the service’s bombers are based with the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Each aircraft cost $2 billion.

The statement said the suspension was temporary and precautionary. It would not interfere with the aircraft’s ability to be deployed in combat, should that be necessary, the statement said.

The Air Force said the suspension was due to ``a potential problem associated with initiators which operate the air crew ejection system.″ It said the potential flaw had been discovered ``during routine acceptance testing.″

``Each aircraft has eight initiators and all will be replaced as a safety precaution. Each aircraft will resume peacetime training as soon as replacement parts are installed and inspections are complete,″ the statement said.

Earlier this year, small holes were discovered on one of the wings of one of the bombers. At the time, officials said they expected it could cost up to $500,000 to repair the damage.

The warplane was designed in the 1970s and 1980s to be able to dodge Soviet radar in a potential conflict. It is covered with specialized materials that enable it to absorb or deflect radar signals and thus avoid detection.

But so far, none of the B-2 bombers has flown on a combat mission. The Air Force plans to build 21 in all.

The first B-2 entered service at Whiteman in December 1993.

The huge warplane can drop either nuclear or conventional bombs. It is normally housed in specially configured hangars at Whiteman, and has special maintenance crews that care for its high-tech armament and stealth characteristics.

In April, two of the bat-winged aircraft went to Guam on a training exercise, the first long-term overseas deployment of the warplane.

The exercise consisted of dropping weapons on a bombing range, flying low-level missions, and having ground crews work on the planes in an unfamiliar environment.

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