Long-duration missions, in which the bomber is refueled in midair, are “a challenge on your body and mind, staying sharp,” said an air force captain and B-2 pilot.
Under the service’s security rules, the pilot could only be identified by his radio call sign, “Flash.”
The captain, who did not participate in Thursday’s practice mission over South Korea, said flight doctors have devised special regimens to keep the plane’s two-man crew sharp.
They include 45-minute naps, on a cot in the back of the plane, that end half an hour before “critical events” such as in-air refueling or dropping ordinance, he said.
All 20 of the US’ B-2 bombers are based at Whiteman, and they saw combat during the US invasion of Iraq and the NATO mission that led to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s overthrow.
In the 1980s, the Pentagon had planned to buy 132 of the bombers, whose main mission was to penetrate the Soviet Union’s airspace undetected. The program was drastically cut back after the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989.
So elite is the B-2 pilot corps that more people have been in outer space than have flown the aircraft, “Flash” said.