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Stealth Planes Meet Public in Rare Spotlight

From Associated Press

The Air Force on Monday put the B-2 Stealth bomber and its other radar-evading aircraft under a rare public spotlight, kicking off a “Stealth Week” effort aimed at building political support for its most prized weapons.

Reporters and photographers were permitted to view the Stealth planes in an air-conditioned hangar at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, and the Air Force has invited members of Congress and their staffs to take a close-up look starting today.

The Administration wants to build 75 of the B-2s, but the House last week eliminated money for the four planes scheduled to be purchased in 1992. President Bush, who plans to visit the hangar today, has threatened to veto the 1992 defense budget unless money for the B-2 is included.

Many in Congress say the end of the Cold War and a need to reduce defense spending makes it unreasonable to devote so large a share of the public purse to the B-2, which costs $864 million a copy and has not yet proved in tests that it can perform as advertised.

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The B-2 arrived last week from its test base at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. It is built by Northrop Corp. in Palmdale.

On opposite sides of the hangar were a prototype of Lockheed’s F-22 Stealth fighter, which the Air Force says will be the mainstay fighter in the 21st Century, and the Lockheed F-117A Stealth attack plane, which won praise for its exploits in the Gulf War.

The Air Force also put on open display for the first time an Advanced Cruise Missile, a 21-foot Stealth missile. Northrop has been working on the missile in secret for five years in Hawthorne, Calif.


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