Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
Dec. 17, 2003
Bathing in the rays of striking ceremonial lighting, the B-2 "Spirit of Freedom" stood proudly and elegantly in the U.S. Air Force Museum's newest hangar as officials formally inducted the stealth bomber into the institution's aircraft collection Dec. 16.
Museum, Air Force and Northrop Grumman senior leaders participated in the official dedication ceremony, officially christening the bomber the "Spirit of Freedom" by removing a red drape from one of the aircraft's gear doors to reveal the name.
Participating officials included Charles D. Metcalf, director of the museum; Lt. Gen. Richard V. Reynolds, vice commander of Air Force Materiel Command; Scott Seymour, president of Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems; and Col. Rick Matthews, director of the B-2 System Program Office at Wright-Patterson AFB.
With the official dedication ceremony, the Air Force's national museum becomes the first place to permanently exhibit the stealth bomber to the public. The 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., offers a monthly public tour of operational B-2 aircraft from April to October.
According to Metcalf, the addition of the B-2 will help the museum better inform the public of the Air Force's current capabilities and the importance of air power to national security.
"With the B-2 on display here, our nearly 1.3 million visitors can gain a clearer understanding of the weapon systems they so often read or hear about," said Metcalf. "They can see the result of their tax dollars in something that is transforming warfare by enabling us to hit high-value, heavily defended adversary targets with precision weapons, all while keeping our air crews more safe."
The B-2 "Spirit of Freedom" is on display in the museum's new 200,000-plus square-foot Eugene W. Kettering Building, housing a gallery of aircraft from the Cold War to the present. The stealth bomber joins other modern aircraft recently added to the museum, such as the B-1B and the Predator and Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to tell the story of the current and emerging U.S. Air Force.
"Aircraft like the B-2, our F-117 stealth fighter, our YF-22 prototype and others help us provide a bridge from the past to the present and beyond," said Metcalf. "Our growing modern aircraft collection is allowing us to take our mission beyond just history and toward focusing more on today's Air Force as it continues to make history."
The addition of the B-2 to the museum is the culmination of an intensive three-year restoration project, perhaps the most challenging restoration effort the museum has ever faced. Restoration staff had to use ingenuity to reassemble the aircraft in the absence of available special tools and had to fabricate parts to replace security-sensitive components.
The B-2 originally arrived from Palmdale, Calif., in seven separate C-5 shipments. Never built to fly, the aircraft had to be disassembled for shipment to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and to the museum's restoration facility because it originally served strictly as a ground-based test article to evaluate the airframe's integrity in varying degrees of stress.
"If it weren't for our restoration team, we wouldn't have been able to have this ceremony," said Metcalf. "They took an aircraft that came to them in pieces and put together one of the world's largest jigsaw puzzles. We call them our miracle workers, and that's exactly what they are."
The B-2's dedication took place on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight and the tenth anniversary of the delivery of the first B-2 to Whiteman AFB. Matthews, the ceremony emcee and B-2 System Program Office director, noted the significance.
"The first time I saw the B-2 is still etched permanently in my mind; it was so different," said Matthews. "I wondered, as I'm sure many did, how this bat-winged vehicle could even fly, but it did. And it looked graceful.
"My guess is those who saw the Wright brothers and their new machine about 100 years ago felt the same way."
Along with being a featured museum display aircraft, the stealth bomber will maintain utility as a test article, as it will be available to B-2 System Program Office officials for airframe testing when the need arises.
(937) 255-4704, ext. 332
Public Affairs Division