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Team Whiteman demonstrates readiness during Spirit Vigilance

  • Published
  • By Phill Stuart
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The 509th Bomb Wing and 131st Bomb Wing capped off the most recent iteration of exercise Spirit Vigilance by performing a mass fly-off of 12 B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, April 15 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

Twelve B-2 Spirit stealth bombers assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing conduct a fly-off during exercise Spirit Vigilance at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2024. Held by Air Force Global Strike Command bases across the enterprise and focusing on the training and readiness of Airmen, these exercises are regularly planned and are conducted to continuously evaluate and enhance U.S. deterrence capabilities. (U.S. Air Force video by Senior Airman Bryson Britt)
Spirit Vigilance is one of a series of routine exercises held by Air Force Global Strike Command bases across the enterprise that focus on the training and readiness of Airmen. These exercises are regularly planned and are conducted to continuously evaluate and enhance U.S. deterrence capabilities.

“I'm proud of the dedication shown by our Airmen and civilians in ensuring the success of this exercise,” said Col. Keith Butler, 509th Bomb Wing commander. “Exercises are both critical to our readiness and a powerful tool to demonstrate to the world that the B-2 is a credible and reliable strategic deterrent.”

Visual displays of power can serve as a reminder to potential adversaries of the overwhelming air power that the B-2 can bring to bear.

“As the world's most strategic aircraft, the B-2 has an outsized effect on Great Power Competition,” said Col. Geoffrey Steeves, 509th Operations Group commander. “The 509th and 131st Bomb Wings are charged with delivering the nation’s most powerful weapons, and the B-2 is the only aircraft on the planet that combines stealth, payload, and long-range strike.”

According to Chief Master Sgt. Frank Espinoza, 509th Maintenance Group wing weapons manager, exercises like this are valuable for Airmen and for the wing’s mission.

“Overall, exercises focused on rapidly generating airpower, play a crucial role in enhancing our readiness, responsiveness, and effectiveness, while also promoting deterrence, reassurance, and interoperability among allied and partner nations,” Espinoza said.

While the B-2 itself is a powerful deterrent, Steeves emphasized that the people behind it are just as important to the mission.

“Our Airmen are responsible for making this platform lethal,” Steeves said. “In addition to the operators charged to fly into combat, our mission requires defenders to protect the aircraft, medics to maintain our health and maintainers to make sure this platform remains combat ready. Our Airmen set us apart from our adversaries. We trust and empower them to creatively solve problems and ensure mission success.”

As the Air Force shifts its focus toward Great Power Competition, the mission at Whiteman AFB plays a vital role in the nation’s defense strategy.

“The B-2 stealth bomber has never been more relevant than it is right now,” Steeves said. “It was conceived at the height of the Cold War but fielded at the same time the Berlin Wall crumbled and Soviet Union collapsed. Now, more than 30 years later, the B-2 is fulfilling the role for which it was created: great power competition.”

The Airmen with the 509th and 131st Bomb Wings validated the B-2’s role in that competition during Spirit Vigilance.

“The American public and our international partners can rest assured that we possess unparalleled air power to support them,” Butler said. “Moreover, we effectively deter our near-peer competitors by consistently showcasing our ability to deliver overwhelming global strike capabilities anytime, anywhere.”