US Conducts Successful Field Test Of New Nuclear Bomb

The US Air Force completed two more tests of the B61-12 gravity nuclear bomb by dropping a dud (or "non-nuclear test assembly") from a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada on June 9, as part of the multi-billion dollar project to extend the service life of the bomb, introduced in 1968, by another 20 years.

“The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and the US Air Force completed two non-nuclear system qualification flight tests of the B61-12 gravity bomb on June 9 at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada,” the Department of Energy announced in a statement. “These tests are the first such end-to-end qualification tests on a B-2A Spirit Bomber for the B61-12.”

The tests involved releasing a B61-12 non-nuclear test assembly, which includes the NNSA designed bomb assembly and U.S. Air Force acquired tail-kit, from a B-2A Spirit Bomber operated by the 419th Test & Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California. These tests are the first such end-to-end qualification tests on a B-2A Spirit Bomber for the B61-12.

Over the past five decades, the US has used different versions of the B-61 nuclear gravity bomb, which is a core part of the US nuclear triad and has been deployed across the US and NATO bases for five decades. While, over the years, the Pentagon produced numerous modifications to the deadly weapon, B61 variants of 3, 4, 7, and 11 remain in service.

The bomb tests are a part of the Pentagon's $7.6 billion 'B61-12 Life Extension Program', which aims to “refurbish, reuse, or replace all of the bomb’s nuclear and non‐nuclear components” and extend the service life of the B61 by at least 20 years. The “first production unit” is scheduled for completion in 2020.

As RT notes, besides deploying B61-12 on modern and future long range bombers such as the B-2A Spirit bomber, the Pentagon is making sure the bomb can be easily used by F-15E fighter jets, and wants to integrate it with the F-35 Lightning II fifth generation combat jets, raising concerns it is creeping towards lowering the threshold for tactical use of nuclear weapons.

After former President Barack Obama authorized a nuclear modernization program, Trump revised it into an ambitious 30-year project that would cost at least $1.2 trillion to complete. Some $800 billion will be spent on maintaining nuclear forces, while about $400 billion will be spent on modernizing them, under the pretext of an existential need to deter “revisionist powers” such as China and Russia.

To justify the massive taxpayer spending on nuclear upgrades, Washington has constantly pointed the finger at Russia, accusing it of threatening its neighbors and US national security. “Russia has demonstrated its willingness to use force to alter the map of Europe and impose its will on its neighbors, backed by implicit and explicit nuclear first-use threats,” the NPR report claims, despite Russian military doctrine clearly stating that nukes can only be used in response to a nuclear attack, or when the state’s very existence is put under threat by a massive conventional attack.

* * *

The latest test was the third in a series that will be conducted over the next three years to qualify the B61-12 for service. Three successful development flight tests were conducted in 2015.

“These qualification flight tests demonstrate the B61-12 design meets system requirements and illustrate the continued progress of the B61-12 life extension program to meet national security requirements” said Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton, NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application. “The achievement is also a testament to the dedication of our workforce and the enduring partnership between NNSA and the U.S. Air Force.”

"The flight test included hardware designed by Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory and manufactured by the Nuclear Security Enterprise plants. The tail-kit assembly section was designed by the Boeing Company under contract with the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center," the NNSA statement said.

Phil Hoover, an engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, shows off a flight test

body for a B61-12 nuclear weapon

The B61-12 consolidates and replaces four B61 bomb variants in the nation’s nuclear arsenal. The first production unit is scheduled to be completed by March 2020.

The original B61 gravity bomb is the mainstay of the Air Force’s nuclear arsenal and one of the legs of the so-called nuclear triad, along with the intercontinental ballistic missiles deployed from either ground-based silos or oceangoing submarines. The B61 nuclear gravity bomb, deployed from U.S. Air Force and NATO bases, has almost 50 years of service, "making it the oldest and most versatile weapon in the enduring U.S. stockpile." Numerous modifications have been made to improve the B61’s safety, security, and reliability since the first B61 entered service in 1968, and four B61 variants remain in the stockpile: the 3, 4, 7, and 11. However, the aging weapon system requires a life extension to continue deterring potential adversaries and reassuring our allies and partners of our security commitments to them.

The B61-12 LEP will refurbish, reuse, or replace all of the bomb’s nuclear and non-nuclear components to extend the service life of the B61 by at least 20 years, "and to improve the bomb’s safety,  effectiveness, and security" according to the NNSA. The B61-12 first production unit will occur in FY 2020. The bomb will be approximately 12 feet long and weigh approximately 825 pounds. The bomb will be air-delivered in either ballistic gravity or guided drop modes, and is being certified for delivery on current strategic (B-2A) and dual capable aircraft (F-15E, F-16C/D & MLU, PA-200) as well as future aircraft platforms (F-35, B-21).

President Trump has endorsed the ambitious and expensive plan to modernize the US nuclear triad, begun under his predecessor.

The June test of the B61-12 was the third in a series with the final design review due in September 2018 and the first production unit scheduled for completion by March 2020. Once the bomb is authorized for use in 2020, the US plans to deploy some 180 of the B61-12 precision-guided thermonuclear bombs to five European countries as follows:

  • Belgium - 20;
  • Germany -20;
  • Italy - 70;
  • Netherlands - 20;
  • Turkey -50;

... although in light of the recent developments, the Turkish deployment will likely be scrapped.



any_mouse Manthong Mon, 07/02/2018 - 13:15 Permalink

Weapons that have never been delivered on a target.

Good news that.

The Public Debt poured into MICC, Bad news.

NNSA seems to mean different things for the same area.

"National Nuclear Security Administration" in the article.

"Nevada National Security Area" on the fire and rescue vehicles from the site.

Something about the word "Nuclear"?

In reply to by Manthong

Agent P Clint Liquor Mon, 07/02/2018 - 09:43 Permalink

"How ‘accurate’ do you need to be with fucking atomic bomb?"

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades...and of course nuclear weapons.

Still, something about a multi-billion dollar project to upgrade on a 50 year old gravity operated nuclear bomb by giving it some fancy new tail feathers doesn't exactly scream "efficient use of tax dollars", does it?  

In reply to by Clint Liquor

OverTheHedge Agent P Mon, 07/02/2018 - 11:31 Permalink

I was wondering if "within 30 metres" is applicable to all gravity bombs dropped by the US. Its not as if it is a precise science - throwing something out of the window and seeing what it hits. Assad and his evil gravity-powered barrel bombs are always being held up as bad, and yet US "precise weapons" use exactly the same cunning physics.

Perhaps I am missing something.

In the Gulf War, only 9 percent of the tonnage expended on Iraqi forces by American airmen were precision munitions. Not quite half of this percentage—4.3 percent—consisted of laser-guided bombs, credited with causing approximately 75 percent of the serious damage inflicted upon Iraqi strategic and operational targets. 

The wikipedia article completely ignores the question: if only 4.3% of the ordinance did 75% of the damage, then what did the remaining 95.7% of the explosives dropped in Iraq actually do, and did the innocent women and children mind?

In reply to by Agent P

Obamanism666 cankles' server Mon, 07/02/2018 - 08:59 Permalink

Generals gathered in their masses, Just like witches at black masses, Evil minds that plot destruction, Sorcerers of death's construction, In the fields the bodies burning, As the war machine keeps turning, Death and hatred to mankind, Poisoning their brainwashed minds
Oh lord yeah!

Politicians hide themselves away, They only started the war, Why should they go out to fight?, They leave that role to the poor.

Time will tell on their power minds, Making war just for fun, Treating people just like pawns in chess, Wait 'til their judgement day comes

Now in darkness world stops turning, Ashes where the bodies burning, No more war pigs have the power
Hand of God has struck the hour, Day of judgement, God is calling, On their knees the war pig's crawling
Begging mercy for their sins, Satan laughing spreads his wings
Oh lord yeah!

In reply to by cankles' server

BrownCoat AFKeeker Mon, 07/02/2018 - 11:20 Permalink

"the US plans to deploy some 180 of the B61-12 precision-guided thermonuclear bombs to five European countries as follows: Belgium - 20; Germany -20; Italy - 70; Netherlands - 20; Turkey -50;"

• Is Germany still a country? I thought it changed to the Islamic state of Germanistan.

• Turkey. This is an "in your face" move against Russia. (Serious shi7)
It is also a boneheaded move considering Turkey's loyalties.

In reply to by AFKeeker