photo by Keith Weinhold
It was a once in a lifetime experience and, in October of 2010, I was invited to visit Whiteman AFB near Knob Noster, Missouri for a private tour of Oscar-01. Oscar-01 is a decommissioned Minuteman II Launch Control Center and the only one of its kind ever located within the boundaries of an Air Force Base perimeter. Allow me to clarify that the tour of Oscar-01 was not unique since the Air Force does permit periodic public tours. As such it was not a once in a lifetime experience.
The actual thrill of a lifetime started the minute I entered the simulator building for the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber. I was granted a special tour involving one hour in the B-2 simulator “piloting” the Stealth Bomber with an experienced B-2 pilot by my side. This was an honest to goodness L-3 Communications, B-2 mission simulator. B-2 pilots have spent as much as 24 hours at a time in this simulator rehearsing mission profiles that can last even longer (as much as 40+ hours in the case of one known mission).
Basically, I was able to take off, fly for a bit and land. I was allowed to operate the flight stick, rudder pedals, throttle, landing gear and autopilot. The takeoff and landing were actually easier than I thought they would be, pretty straightforward. I tried aerial refueling from a KC-135 but it’s just impossible! I was not allowed to release any weapons or receive any threats (although they were nice enough to put a mushroom cloud in my path at one point). Much like driving a Corvette with only the “valet key”, displays related to weapon systems and radar were not activated for me. Still, for this non-pilot, it was a peek into the inner sanctum of our nation’s elite bomber force and one of the true privileges of my exploration of Cold War facilities.