B-2 bombers plane
© U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hailey FarrellB-2 Spirit stealth bombers assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing taxi on the runway at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2024. Team Whiteman executed a mass fly-off of 12 B-2s to cap off the annual Spirit Vigilance exercise.
The U.S. Air Force just released photos of a pretty impressive display of airpower from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, where 12 B-2A Spirit stealth bombers executed a mass fly-off as part of exercise Spirit Vigilance on April 15, 2024. Spirit Vigilance is an annual exercise that allows Airmen to exercise their abilities to be always ready to execute global strike operations anytime, anywhere.

This is one of the largest, if not the largest, mass departures of B-2s in recent years, with 60% of the stealth bomber fleet involved. Until now, the largest was the mass fly-off of Spirit Vigilance 2022 with eight bombers. The video published together with the photos shows crews scrambling to their aircraft, before lining on the taxiway on their way to takeoff.

In a previous edition of the exercise, the Air Force said that Spirit Vigilance allows [them] to display the capability to rapidly generate and deploy the B-2 Spirit under greater scrutiny and time restraints than the normal day-to-day flying mission, demonstrating at the same time to adversaries how well they can perform.

While elephant walks and mass departures are now a common sight across air force bases across the world, it is uncommon to see one involving bombers, especially stealth bombers. The B-2, often defined as the visible leg of the US nuclear triad, is considered the world's most strategic aircraft as it is the only one on the planet that combines stealth, payload, and long-range strike.

"The B-2 stealth bomber has never been more relevant than it is now," said Col. Geoffrey Steeves, 509th Operations Group commander, during the 2022 edition. "It was conceived at the height of the Cold War but fielded at the same time the Soviet Union dissolved and the Berlin Wall fell. Now, 30 years later the B-2 finds itself in the world for which it was created — strategic competition."

Adding to the Spirit's already great deterrence impact, let's not forget that the B-2 is the only aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory currently capable to operationally drop the massive 30,000-lb (14,000 kg) GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The rarely seen MOP is a 20-foot long GPS-guided bomb said to be able to penetrate 200 feet of concrete before exploding, and the B-2 can carry two of them in its weapon bays.