President Donald Trump's promises to rebuild the American nuclear arsenal are starting to bear fruit, and according to a US Air Force general update from May 1, the US has already conducted more than two dozen tests of its new B61-12 guided nuclear gravity bomb.
As Military.com reports, plans to spend over $1 trillion to modernize the US "nuclear triad" - nuclear bombers and missiles launched from land-based silos and submarines - have been fast-tracked thanks to the new Nuclear Posture Review, as well as increased military spending authorized during the Trump administration.
As discussed before, the new gravity nuke has been in development for years, but Trump's orders have sped up testing to the point where most of the air force's mainstay military planes have been approved to carry it. And it's widely expected that the B-2 Spirit and the futuristic B-21 Raider will be approved to carry the B61 as well. In addition to testing the B61-12, the NPR also calls for modernizing the air-launched cruise missile and intercontinental ballistic missile components of the nuclear triad.
As it stands, the US nuclear triad consists of the submarine-launched ballistic missiles, strategic bombers, which carry both gravity bombs and cruise missiles, along with land-based ICBMs. But the B61 possess an advanced capability that its cousins don't: Underground penetration. This allows it to strike fortified command and control centers, while its explosive yield is estimated at 50 kilotons.
"We've already conducted 26 engineering, development and guided flight tests," of the B61-121 gravity bomb Lieutenant General Jack Weinstein told the Air Force Association breakfast on Tuesday. "The program's doing extremely well," he said. - Sputnik.
Weinstein explained that the bombs are capable of being carried by the B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit, which can launch both conventional or nuclear payloads, and also legacy fighters such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-15E Strike Eagle.
"When I say 'dual-capable aircraft,' I need to be really specific," he said. "Dual-capable aircraft is called the B-52 and B-2 - it does conventional and nuclear. It also means F-16s and Strike Eagles, and other aircraft our NATO partners fly."
During tests back in 2015, the F-35 flew with the B61-12 to measure its vibration in the aircraft's weapons bay. Both of the fourth-generation fighters will be able to deploy the B61-12 bomb. The B61-12 also conducted its third and final developmental test flight aboard an F-15E in 2015.
RT points out that the US could deploy its new B61 bombs to NATO bases in Europe - something Russia says would be tantamount to a violation of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
The US isn't the only superpower revamping its nuclear arsenal: earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin shocked the world by unveiling during his annual state of the union address a new nuclear ICBM capable of evading US anti-ballistic missile defenses.
One hopes that the US Military Industrial Complex will be foiled in its attempts to put these two weapons in head-to-head combat, even if it means lower profits for shareholders.