Why B-2s didn’t take out bin Laden


B-2s weren't used to kill Osama bin Laden because the ordnance required to ensure bunkers were demolished "would be the equivalent of an earthquake." (Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

If you haven’t yet, read Nicholas Schmidle’s piece in the New Yorker about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. It’s a fine piece of reporting with a bunch of details you’re guaranteed to be reading for the first time.

And since this is an Air Force blog, it’s worth mentioning the service receives a brief mention. Schmidle talks about the intental debate about how to take down bin Laden. Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs vice chairman Gen. James Cartwright favored sending B-2s to bomb the compound, which would obviate the risk of having American troops operating on Pakistani soil. From the story:

“But the Air Force then calculated that a payload of thirty-two smart bombs, each weighing two thousand pounds, would be required to penetrate thirty feet below ground, insuring that any bunkers would collapse. ‘That much ordnance going off would be the equivalent of an earthquake,’ Cartwright told me. The prospect of flattening a Pakistani city made Obama pause. He shelved the B-2 option and directed McRaven to start rehearsing the raid.”


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  1. Robert Grant on

    Because B-2s and all of those smart bombs would triple the national debt. A handful of Seals and a few helicopters were more effective, MUCH cheaper, and confirmed their kill.
    We have got to fight the enemy with fewer dollars and more brains.

  2. Its very true. That many GBU-31s would level many of those communities. It was certainly more effect that using these bombs. The SEALs were more precise than that many weapons.

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