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Initial Flight of Stealth Bomber Reset for Today

From Times Wire Services

The Air Force has rescheduled for today the maiden flight of the B-2 stealth bomber.

The Air Force said Sunday the first flight test of the most expensive airplane in military history is scheduled at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. The sleek, wing-shaped aircraft was expected to fly for 2 hours and 20 minutes before landing at nearby Edwards Air Force Base.

The $530-million bomber--first in a planned $70-billion fleet of 132 aircraft to be built by Northrop--was rolled out and readied at dawn Saturday, but the first flight was called off “in accordance with normal safety procedures” because of low fuel-pressure readings, Air Force Col. Doug Kennett said.

Kennett said only that the problem was located in a device called the heat exchanger in the fuel system and was repaired on Sunday.

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“I had our technical people try to explain it to me and it went right over my head,” Kennett said.

Northrop officials were unavailable for comment.

The bomber went through its final shakedown Thursday, reaching a speed of 130 m.p.h. and lifting its nose wheels off the ground in high-speed taxi tests.

The B-2 program has already consumed $23 billion, with one plane in the hangar, five more at various stages of production and five more approved and paid for.

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The Senate Armed Forces Committee on Friday approved President Bush’s $305.5-billion defense spending request for 1990, but stipulated that no new money be spent on the B-2 until it completes its first test flights.

The B-2 is designed to evade enemy radar with its unusual shape and radar avoidance systems.


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