THE NUCLEAR BOMB B61-12 LIFE EXTENSION PROGRAM

The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) on April 14, 2017, reported that the USAF in March completed a qualification flight test of the B61-12 gravity bomb in Nevada.

The non-nuclear test assembly was dropped from an F-16 based at Nellis Air Force Base. The test evaluated both the weapon’s non-nuclear functions as well as the aircraft’s capability to deliver the nuclear weapon

This event is the first of 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.

The flight test included hardware designed by Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, manufactured by the Nuclear Security Enterprise plants, and mated to the tail-kit assembly section, designed by the Boeing Company under contract with the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.

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.

Comment: The B61-12 nuclear bomb has a tail kit that can be used for precision-guidance.

A mechanism makes an adjustment of the explosive force possible. It can be adjusted from 50,000 tons of TNT to a low of 300 tons – and can be delivered by stealth jet bomber.

The weapon’s accuracy and variable power reduces the risk of collateral damage.

The B61 thermonuclear bomb was first produced in 1966. Major modifications have been made in 1975, 1977, 1979, and 1991. The lightweight bomb was designed by the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico. Over the years the B61 has been adapted to yield several other warheads – the W-80, W-81 (now retired and dismantled), W-84 (now retired and in the inactive stockpile), and the W-85 Pershing II warhead (which was retired, and then readapted to yield the B61 mod 10 variant).

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