HomeNewsArticle Display

IQT Behind the scenes: Developing combat ready B-2 pilots

A B-2 Spirit is prepped for launch in a flight line dock on July 17, 2019, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. Whiteman AFB is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the inaugural flight of the B-2 in 1989. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas M. Barley)

A B-2 Spirit is prepped for launch in a flight line dock on July 17, 2019, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. Whiteman AFB is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the inaugural flight of the B-2 in 1989. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas M. Barley)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

It takes a village to put a B-2 Spirit in the air. The same can be said to train a B-2 pilot.

Before a new set of pilots take to the skies in the stealth bomber, they are required to complete a rigorous Initial Qualification Training course.

“IQT sets the foundational knowledge and skills required to be combat ready B-2 pilots,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Nolan Brock, 13th Bomb Squadron Detachment 12 Training Squadron commander. “Our end goal in Det 12 is to set that firm foundation. If the student pilots don’t have a firm foothold from the beginning, the rest of their training will be much less effective.”

The first IQT course at Whiteman Air Force Base began in late 1994 and graduated in early 1995. Since then the course has been developing and training elite ranks of stealth pilots. The current IQT program for the B-2 is a six-month training course that consists of 266 hours of academics, 30 exams, 46 simulator missions and 10 flights in the aircraft.

Behind the scenes many man-hours are spent planning and preparing for each IQT course, with L3 Harris, Northrop Grumman Aircrew Training and members of the 13th BS working together to make each iteration of IQT successful.

L3 Harris’ military training sector serves as the primary contractor on the B-2 training system program, providing secure high-fidelity training solutions and services that enable realistic warfighter training. The team supports the training simulators, including system software, hardware, courseware and classroom and academic instruction.

The simulators offer the student pilots an opportunity to get familiarized with the cockpit of a B-2 before actually stepping foot on the flight line, while increasing safety and proficiency for pilots, maintainers and operators.  

“The primary purpose of a flight simulator is to provide immersive flight training to practice, learn and enhance a pilot’s skills,” said Adam Knisley, L3 Harris B-2 CLS Site Manager. “Pilots know the value of maintaining high proficiency and simulators allow them to do just that. A single sortie in the B-2 can run hundreds of thousands of dollars, the simulator can provide a nearly 100% realistic training without the added cost of fuel, armaments, or the involvement of other real world asset support.”

Fitting into the IQT puzzle, is Northrop Grumman. As an integral piece, they are responsible for leading in classroom instruction to student pilots.

Northrop Grumman is the primary contractor for the development, construction, fielding and maintenance of the stealth bomber, according to Scott Land, B-2 Spirit Aircrew Training manager. NG has been training test pilots since the stealth bomber began test flights in California in 1989.

“To keep all of the aircraft flying, Northrop Grumman has a team of 11 people embedded in the 13th Bomb Squadron,” said Land. “This team conducts student training in the classroom, as well as hands-on cockpit procedures trainers and the weapons systems trainers. This training lays the foundation for the instruction the students receive from the 13th Bomb Squadron cadres to make them fully trained B-2 pilots.”

After completing each course, students take a written exam to evaluate their comprehension of the material, after which they immediately start training on the next operational capability, like propulsions, electrics and fuel systems. Students then transition to the flight phase of training, where they train in the simulators and aircraft with the 13th BS instructor pilots, who prepare them to execute training sorties.

“The B-2 has continuously evolved over the last 30 years,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew Kousgaard, 13th BS director of operations. “As the aircraft’s capabilities evolve, we incorporate that into our training. We’re training our student pilots to do things now that 30 years ago, the aircraft couldn’t do. We’re adapting along with the aircraft. The 13th Bomb Squadron wants to provide the 393rd Bomb Squadron with fully qualified and capable B-2 pilots, so that they can then prepare them to be combat mission ready pilots.”

The comprehensive teamwork between L3 Harris, Northrop Grumman Aircrew Training and members of the 13th Bomb Squadron has enabled America’s premier bomb wing to produce world-class pilots who can meet their mission challenges anytime, anywhere.