12/17/2004 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFPN) -- The B-2 Spirit now has a new home away from home.

Officials at Royal Air Force Fairford in the United Kingdom recently unveiled two climate-controlled permanent hangars specifically designed for the B-2. The new 50,000-square-foot facilities allow specialized low-observable-surface maintenance to be performed.

"Low-observable maintenance is the backbone of the B-2," said Col. Chris Matson, 509th Maintenance Group commander. "Having the LO dock at Fairford allows us to do this critical process faster and better."

LO maintenance is essential to maintaining the specialized coatings that cover the aircraft's composite and metal skin. Applying these coatings, and ensuring they cure correctly, must be done in a climate-controlled environment, said Master Sgt. Brian Tobin, 509th Maintenance Squadron.

Forward basing B-2s at Fairford saves about 16 hours of flight time across the Atlantic Ocean and will enable the bombers to reach targets sooner, Colonel Matson said.

"Staging the B-2 closer to potential theater engagement areas will provide a deterrent to adversaries of the United States," said Lt. Col. Tom Bussiere, 325th Bomb Squadron commander. "The completion of the B-2 shelter is a step in the right direction in making RAF Fairford a fully operational B-2 forward operating base."

The $19 million hangar complex was completed seven months ahead of schedule, officials said.
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