The U.S. Air Force recently tested its most advanced nuclear weapon, the B61-12 gravity bomb. This new bomb, dubbed the B61-12 LEP, is part of the B61 life extension program. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the U.S. Air Force completed two qualification flight tests of a B61-12 gravity bomb in Nevada. The B61-12 is the USAF’s first nuclear smart bomb, thanks to a tail kit designed by Boeing Company. The tail kit is part of a $178 million-dollar contract with the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.
The USAF hopes to have the first unit fielded in 2020. The bomb, approximately 12 feet long and weighing 825 pounds, will be air delivered in either ballistic gravity or guided drop modes. The strategic B2 Bomber, along with the dual capable aircraft F-15E, F-16C/D, & MLU, PA-200, are all being certified to deliver the B61-12 gravity bomb as well as future aircraft platforms like the F-35 and B-12.
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and U.S. Air Force completed two qualification flight tests of B61-12 gravity bombs August 8 at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.
The non-nuclear test assemblies, which were dropped from an F-15E based at Nellis Air Force Base, evaluated the weapon’s non-nuclear functions and the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon.
These tests are part of a series over the next three years to qualify the B61-12 for service. The first qualification flight test occurred in March.
“The B61-12 life extension program is progressing on schedule to meet national security requirements,” said Phil Calbos, acting NNSA deputy administrator for Defense Programs. “These realistic flight qualification tests validate the design of the B61-12 when it comes to system performance.”
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.
Source: National Nuclear Security Administration