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Stealth Bomber Completes First High-Speed Taxi Tests

Times Staff Writer

The B-2 stealth bomber underwent two high-speed taxi tests for the first time Thursday afternoon, the last milestone before the aircraft attempts to make its first flight, the Air Force said.

The bomber accelerated to about 132 miles per hour and lifted its nose gear off the runway at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, where it was assembled by Northrop. A previous taxi test Thursday was done at a slower speed and the nose gear did not lift off, Air Force officials said. The tests followed the completion of low-speed taxi tests conducted Monday.

Northrop test pilot Bruce J. Hinds and Air Force test pilot Richard S. Couch are expected to fly the aircraft for the first time as early as Saturday. Air Force officials said there would be no aircraft activity today, however.

The $70-billion bomber program, though generating a political controversy over its cost, has generated wide interest in aeronautical circles for its radical flying-wing shape, intended to elude enemy radar.

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