The last time we discussed America's B61 nuclear bombs, was in the aftermath of Erdogan's staged coup, after Turkey shut the power and suspended all operations at the local Incirlik NATO airbase, where over 50 of the same nuclear bombs are stored. Now it appears that particular nuclear bomb is about to get a long overdue facelift. According to a statement by the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Obama administration has given the go-ahead for work on upgrading the B61 airborne nuclear bomb, as the Pentagon is eager to embark on a multi-billion-dollar scheme to improve the US nuclear arsenal.
The decision by the NNSA authorized the program to enter a post-engineering phase, which comes after four years of work to, in technical terms, "preserve a critical element of the U.S. nuclear triad and the extended deterrent." As a result, the first upgraded bombs are set to roll out by 2020. The B61 has been the principal US airborne nuclear bomb since 1968, when the first version was commissioned. With some of the modifications being canceled over the years and others withdrawn from use, only models 3,4,7,11 and 12 are currently in active service.
In the NNSA statement, Administrator Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz (Ret.) said that “Reaching this next phase of the B61-12 LEP is a major achievement for NNSA and the exceptionally talented scientists and engineers whose work underpins this vital national security mission."
“Currently, the B61 contains the oldest components in the US arsenal. This LEP (life extension program) will add at least an additional 20 years to the life of the system,” he added.
“These life extension programs directly support President Obama’s directive to maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent, while reducing the size of the stockpile,” Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz mentioned in the press release.
“Once completed, the B61-12 LEP will allow for the retirement of the B83-1—the last megaton-class weapon in America’s nuclear arsenal—while supporting the nation’s continued commitment to our national security and that of our allies and partners,” Moniz added cited by RT.
While it is not exactly clear why the administration of a Nobel Peace Prize winning president would embark on a plan to modernize US nuclear weapons is unclear, but it is clear that it will cost a lot of taxpayer money: the project is expected to cost around $355 billion by 2023. However, critics say that this figure could rise to over $1 trillion in the future.
Russia has been less than enthused by the US intention to modernize its nuclear arsenal. “The experts need to give their opinion about this,” said Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary. Senator Viktor Ozerov told RIA that Russia’s nuclear scientists would be assessing the US plans and would take steps to tackle the proposed threat if it is deemed necessary.
"No doubt, our nuclear weapons specialists will carefully study the level of threat and will take measures to minimize it, if needed," Ozerov said. No doubt, also, that Russia may itself doing the very same shortly after the US in what would mark the start of the second nuclear arms race in every possible way.
Rob van Riet, the coordinator for disarmament program at the World Future Council foundation, told Sputnik that the decision is harmful to nuclear security and could lead to the weapons being used by accident, while it also “sends the wrong signal."
"The decision to extend the life span of [or] modernize the system is an unnecessary one that comes at a sizeable price tag and does the opposite of advancing nuclear security and disarmament. These weapons are a remnant of the Cold War," van Riet said.
Precisely: which is why many find the decision by Obama to greenlight this project confusing at best.
That's not all.
The decision to prolong the life of the B61-12 also comes as the US Air Force announced that it is planning to move ahead with proposals to replace its current intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear cruise missile with new programs. The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) will replace the Minutemen III ICBM, the Long Range Standoff (LRSO) weapons and the AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile. Its backers say that the program is vital in helping to maintain the US nuclear deterrent.
And the best news, if only for America's military-industrial complex: "This request for proposals is the next step to ensuring the nation's ICBM leg of the nuclear triad remains safe, secure and effective," Major General Scott Jansson, Air Force program executive officer for strategic systems, said in a statement cited by Defense News.
This means that one or more corporations are about to make billions in profits just to make sure that the US preserves its pre-emptive and first strike capabilities, and can effectively and clinically destroy the world. It also means that taxes are likely about to go up again.