• B-2 Spirit stealth bombers executed a mass fly-off earlier this week during a major exercise.
  • Photos show the bombers taking off from Whiteman Air Force Base. 
  • The Air Force's B-2 bombers bring tremendous firepower blended with low-observable characteristics.

More than half of the US Air Force's B-2 Spirit stealth bombers conducted a large-scale exercise earlier this week, staging a massive fly-off.

Photos show the aircraft — known for its flying wing design and ability to leverage its lower-observable, or stealth, characteristics to penetrate even sophisticated enemy defenses and unleash a devastating conventional or nuclear strike — taxiing on the runway before taking off.

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing taxis to the runway at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2024. Foto: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hailey Farrell

The B-2s were flying out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri on Monday, finishing off the annual Spirit Vigilance exercise aimed at demonstrating the base's B-2 capabilities and readiness. This year's exercise featured the largest mass fly-off of B-2s ever, with 12 of the 20 active aircraft involved. The second largest was eight aircraft in 2022.

According to the Air Force, the B-2, a two-man strategic bomber manufactured by Northrop Grumman, "brings massive firepower to bear, in a short time, anywhere on the globe through previously impenetrable defenses." It's stealth capabilities give it the ability to do what other aircraft, like the B-52 and B-1 bombers, can't.

Video footage from the recent exercise published by Whiteman Air Force Base, the only operational B-2 base, showed the B-2 bombers being prepared for takeoff before hitting the runway and flying off.

Decades after it was first fielded in the early 1990s, the B-2 remains relevant today.

The bomber first saw combat in the Kosovo War in 1999, striking Serbian targets with conventional munitions, and it has flown sorties over Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict zones.

Its stealth capabilities, payload capacity, and potential to execute long-range strike missions make it a formidable aircraft and deterrent for US rivals. For a long time, it was the only stealth bomber in the world, but the US is making progress on a new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, which achieved its first flight in November last year.

As a penetrating strike stealth bomber, the B-21, the US military has said, is expected to "form the backbone of the future Air Force bomber force."

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing takes off at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2024. Foto: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew S. Domingos

For now though, the B-2 is the go-to stealth bomber, as the aircraft is able to threaten an adversary's "most valued, and heavily defended, targets. Its capability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provides a strong, effective deterrent and combat force well into the 21st century," the Air Force said.

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