by Staff Sgt. George Hayward
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFNS) -- Drawing parallels between Alaska and the Air Force's newest stealth bomber, officials christened a B-2 the Spirit of Alaska in a ceremony here July 27, 1996.
An estimated 3,500 people from the base and local communities attended the ceremony as defense officials unveiled the aircraft, with its name emblazoned on its landing gear doors.
Lt. Gen. Lawrence Boese, commander of 11th Air Force at Elmendorf Air Force Base, said Alaska's strategic location and role in national defense were key to naming the stealth bomber for the state.
Boese joined U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, Alaska, and Gen. Richard Hawley, commander of Air Combat Command, for the dedication ceremony at Eielson.
"The spirit of aviation and the exploration of Alaska go hand-in-glove as Alaskan pioneers used aviation to help them penetrate the rugged back country," Hawley told the audience gathered inside the Thunderdome on Eielson's flight line.
The aircraft is the 10th B-2 named for a state. All are assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo. The ACC wing will eventually fly a fleet of 21 B-2s.
"With the addition of the Spirit of Alaska to the powerful B-2 fleet, this state leaves one more mark on the world -- a tribute to its citizens and their many contributions to our country's defense and security," said Kent Kresa, chairman of the
board, president and chief executive officer of Northrop Grumman Corporation, which built the aircraft.
The stealth bomber can evade radar as it delivers payloads of conventional or nuclear weapons. With a crew of two and a payload of more than 40,000 pounds, it can fly more than 6,000 nautical miles without refueling.
"The B-2 ... has a war fighting capability that combines long range, large payloads, stealth and new precision weapons in one aircraft," said Kresa.
Kresa adds that combination lets the B-2 "... perform critical missions in heavily defended areas, placing fewer airmen in harm's way, making the B-2 the most advanced and survivable aircraft in our nation's arsenal."
The ceremony was punctuated by two fly-bys of the B-2 Spirit of Hawaii. The Spirit of Hawaii was christened May 27 in ceremonies at Hickam AFB, Hawaii.
Press release by the United States Air Force