A $2.1 billion dollar Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit flew over the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on Tuesday. The stealth bomber whizzed through the sky — at a fraction of its 628 mph top speed — just as thousands of college football fans finished reciting the national anthem.
Attendants caught a glimpse of the futuristic jet as it glided over the stadium. But a boom operator who has requested to remain anonymous for the U.S. Air Force got the best view of the B-2 before the flyover even happened. That’s because he was tasked with refueling the jet moments before the game. He caught the whole thing on camera posted it on Reddit Wednesday.
“My squadron gets tasked with specific air refueling missions,” they tell Inverse. “We knew about [this mission] three weeks back. But being from Ohio I thought it would be appropriate for me to go on this mission.”
The eye-popping video taken from atop the aircraft garnered 1,100 upvotes on Reddit and more than 26,000 views on YouTube. He shot the whole thing from the back of a KC-10A Extender, a beastly aerial refueling tanker capable of taking off at a max weight of 590,000 pounds. It can carry roughly 53,000 gallons of fuel and fly for a full day before having to land.
So why didn’t the B-2 need to refuel before a seconds-long appearance at the Rose Bowl? Simple, it had been in the air for a long time. Indeed, it rarely lands anywhere else other than its home base a the Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, so it’s no surprise that it required a last-minute refueling.
The stealth bomber is the cream of the crop among a class of aircraft that all tend to be treated like carefully guarded divas. They’re covered in a low-observable coating, which allows them to absorb radar to stay off the grid. Because the upkeep is so intensive — and to keep the secrets behind its stealthiness under wraps — the boom operator explained that they can only be served at the Whiteman base.
“Parts of the aircraft are still not disclosed to the public but someone way above myself has decided to strategically place the aircraft at that base,” he said. “It can actually land anywhere from what I understand but as far as maintenance goes, it can only be serviced at home station.”
In a 2017 combat mission, 2 B-2s were dispatched to an ISIS camp in Libya that kept them in the sky for 34 hours straight and required 15 mid-air refuelings. Extremely cutting-edge, but high maintenance military technology.