With U.S. Air Force Nuke Wing Grounded, Rose Parade Gets Retro Plane

Due to a fire that grounded the nation’s nuclear fleet, the B-2 will be replaced at the Rose Parade by its 1974 cousin

A longtime tradition will be missing from America’s most traditional procession, as the B-2 bomber sits out this year’s Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game in Pasadena.

One of the multibillion dollar aircraft caught fire earlier this month at its home base in Missouri, and the entire fleet is grounded until an inspection is completed. The plane, along with the B-52, has formed the air leg of the U.S. military “nuclear triad” for decades, along with land- and submarine-launched missiles in case the world ever comes to an end. 

“We deeply regret having to make this decision so close to the event,” U.S. Air Force Col. Daniel Diehl said in a news release. “Although we are not participating in this flyover, we remain steadfast in our commitment to answer our nation’s call.”

The first B-2 roared over Colorado Boulevard 36 years ago to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Air Force. At the time, the plane was hugely controversial for cost overruns and performance issues. The world’s most expensive aircraft had to be stored in a climate-controlled facility as the high tech, top-secret composite skin could not be exposed to heat, rain, or dampness.  

This year’s parade—the theme of which is, “Turning the Corner”—will be held on January 2, in a nod to yet another longstanding tradition: never on Sunday. It will feature floats by the Shriners, Snapchat, and some crypto scheme promoted by the studio behind Robot Chicken, with former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords serving as grand marshal.

Maybe the Air Force will turn the corner on fixing those B-2’s by 2024 so we’re not stuck with this year’s temporary replacement, a Reagan-era B-1 bomber from South Dakota.

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