As the Pentagon builds an "F-35 friends circle" in the Asia-Pacific region," mainly around China - new images have surfaced of stealth jets conducting mock nuclear attacks with inert bombs in the California desert.
The Aviationist reports the F-35 Joint Program Office has released a series of pictures showing various drop tests of inert nuclear bombs between 2019 and 2020. The tests were conducted with all variants of the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
"The tests were carried out: the first separation test with AF-1 flown by Jason Shulze was conducted on Jun. 27, 2019; sixth separation test with AF-1 (pilot unspecified) was carried out on Nov. 7, 2019; first separation test from AF-6 flown by Major Chris' Beast' Taylor was conducted on Nov. 25, 2019. Separation test #6 with AF-1 was carried out with F-35 AF-01 flown by Major Rachael "Banshee" Winiecki on Feb. 6, 2020. A more recent test with AF-6 was carried out on Apr. 2, 2020 (no additional detail can be gathered about this test)," The Aviationist said.
An F-35 dropping an inert nuclear bomb on June 27, 2019.
Underneath view of the F-35 after inert nuclear bomb drop on November 7, 2019.
An F-35 dropping an inert nuclear bomb on February 6, 2020.
An F-35 dropping an inert nuclear bomb on April 2, 2020.
The tests were completed as all variants of the F-35 have yet to receive their nuclear certification, expected in early 2023.
In 2018, we noted the Pentagon was busy upgrading its B61 nuclear gravity bombs, a move that would increase the lifespan of these weapons.
"The upgraded, B61-12 LEP will replace all of the bomb's nuclear and non‐nuclear components for another two decades, and improve the bomb's safety, effectiveness, and security. This life extension program will address all age-related issues of the weapon, and enhance its reliability, field maintenance, safety, and use control."
More of less, the Pentagon is preparing stealth fighter jets for the next military conflict with nuclear bombs.