Pentagon Prepares 2020 Production Of Upgraded Nuclear Bomb, Releases Video Of Test-Drop

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Originally appeared at ZeroHedge

The B61 nuclear gravity bombdeployed at most U.S. Air Force and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military bases, has almost five decades of service, making it the oldest bomb in the US stockpile.

Numerous programs have modified the B61 for safety, security, and reliability since it entered service in the late 1960s, including four B61 variants.

However, the weapon system is quickly aging and has hit the upper extreme of its lifespan, as it seems the Pentagon is about to extend the life of the nuclear gravity bomb by another two decades.

Pentagon Prepares 2020 Production Of Upgraded Nuclear Bomb, Releases Video Of Test-Drop

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.

Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories are the design and engineering labs for the B61-12 LEP. In a recent presentation, the final design review will be conducted next month. Both firms indicated the first production unit would occur in FY 2020.

Pentagon Prepares 2020 Production Of Upgraded Nuclear Bomb, Releases Video Of Test-Drop

In total, the bomb is 12 feet long and weigh approximately 825 pounds. The weapon will be air-delivered on current strategic (B-2A) and dual-capable aircraft (F-15E, F-16C/D & MLU, PA-200) as well as advanced aircraft platforms (F-35, B-21).

Pentagon Prepares 2020 Production Of Upgraded Nuclear Bomb, Releases Video Of Test-Drop

An F-15E drops a B61-12 test unit during a development flight test (Source/ National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA))

Pentagon Prepares 2020 Production Of Upgraded Nuclear Bomb, Releases Video Of Test-Drop

An F-15E conducts a vibration fly-around test with B61-12 bombs (Source/ NNSA) 

Last week, Sandia National Laboratories released an unclassified five-minute video showing the entire preparation process and the actual drop of inert B61-3/4 tactical nuclear bombs at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada back in July 2017. The data compiled from the test is expected to be submitted into a report for the final design review next month before the first production unit is manufactured sometime in 2020.

Pentagon Prepares 2020 Production Of Upgraded Nuclear Bomb, Releases Video Of Test-Drop

F-15E Strike Eagle jet dropping the first inert B61-3/4 tactical nuclear bomb (Source/  Sandia National Labs YouTube)

The ultra-high-definition video centered around two McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle jets deploying spin-stabilization rockets to drop B61-12 test bombs. A few seconds after the drop, parachutes open and the GPS-guided the dud slowly to the ground. The video shows a large team using sophisticated sensors to monitor the tests.

Pentagon Prepares 2020 Production Of Upgraded Nuclear Bomb, Releases Video Of Test-Drop

A land-based sensor monitors bomb drop (Source/  Sandia National Labs YouTube)

The video closes with ground crews retrieving one of the inert nuclear bombs. It also shows a bunker where three B61-12 test bombs appear to have recently been dropped, as the video only showed two. The bomb’s yield ranges from 0.3 to 50 kilotons. The first of the two nuclear weapons ever used, against the Japanese city of Hiroshima, had a 15-kiloton yield.

The tests are part of a $7.6 billion life extension program of the B61s, which as we described above, aims to “refurbish, reuse, or replace all of the bomb’s nuclear and non‐nuclear components” and extend the service of the bomb by at least two decades. With the “first production unit” scheduled for completion in 2020, perhaps the Pentagon is preparing for future military conflict with Russia and or China.

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  • James

    What I don’t understand is why these are still used when countries like Russia and China have advanced air defenses?

    • Daniel Castro

      I get it they upgraded it to make a high preciion glider… but still a graity bomb, it requires airplanes to fly somewhat closer to the target, there’s no way to compare this with new ruian ICBMs and hypersonic reentry vehicles, I don’t get why they make such a fuss for these bombs, it’s like they are compensating for something.

      • as

        It won’t be used against country that can defended itself against hegemony.

        • jakoDELETED

          I would correct that:
          “It won’t be used against country that can” answer withe the nuke retaliation…

        • Daniel Castro

          So they plan to use nukes against desert beggars armed with ak47s?

          I don’t think so, and in fact I think this bomb is useless and they are using them just as a form os posturing because they ahve a stagnant nuclear force who is laggin several decades behind Russia missile technology.

          • jakoDELETED

            And, why not?!
            What is so imposible about that idea?
            They can’t shoot back and they are dispensible unlike “1st world countries”…
            I don’t say article is true but gives some ideas…
            “How Israel Was Busted Nuking Yemen” – Veterans Today
            https://yournewswire.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/yemen-nuclear-war.jpg

          • as

            I think the US signals all international law restrictions is to be broken with Trump in the office and going by history whoever next President in the office will not scale back it’s degree of international law violation.
            Simply put a new low with the next President will set it another low.

      • jakoDELETED

        And what is exactly “to fly somewhat closer to the target” ?!
        If it within the range of 40km that is now new range for any Pantsir (short range) AA system missiles.
        Any bigger Russian units on the ground will have that kind of defense.

        Tor has shorter range
        Tor-M2 missiles have a range of 16 km, maximum altitude of 10 km
        Kill probabilities for later versions are quoted as:
        0.92–0.95 against aircraft so from 5 to 8% possibility to survive (one missile)

        “I don’t get why they make such a fuss for these bombs”
        They make fuss because using ANY kind of nuke doesn’t matter how small against Russian troops can trigger nuclear war!
        And US has stated that they have LOWERED the THRESHOLD for using nukes which is pure provocation.
        What they did with depleted uranium munition in Yugoslavia, Iraq is already criminal.
        Now they even want to use nukes on anybody they chose?!?

      • FlorianGeyer

        Intelligence perhaps Daniel :)

      • putinbeater

        you think this showparade for civilpeople is the real style of use in conflicts? :)

      • Jens Holm

        Its a kind of that to me too.

    • Sinbad2

      Because it’s all they know how to make.

      • jakoDELETED

        Very expensive “paint job”…

        “Cost estimates have doubled from $4 billion to $8 billion and production slipped from 2017 to 2020, then grew to $10 billion for life extension plus $1 billion for tail guidance kits “

        • Jens Holm

          More like recycling well to me.

      • FlorianGeyer

        A ‘Five gallon overhaul’ as they are known in the trade :)

      • Jens Holm

        Seemes like You dont know much about it at all.

        Secondly its a fine thing for me, if unused weapens grow old to their limits and they only renew them some by new techn.

        Whats Your problem. If all in the world are fired, all will die 5 or 8 times. One is enough.

    • jakoDELETED

      These are “tactical” nukes to be used against troops in combat or important military targets, bunkers.

    • putinbeater

      The russian sytem were not able to reognize israeli f-35 when bombed iranians nearby russian base.

      • Jens Holm

        They will and the F35 will be upgraded or something else.

        The interesting thing for me is, what happens next. Fx russians are proud of several weapons, but they hardly produce them because they are too expensive for themselves and for sale.

    • Jens Holm

      Well, Russians are not that advanced if You send many at the same time.

    • Barba_Papa

      They’re main purpose is to force the NATO allies that have been allocated the role to deliver these weapons to buy American aircraft, as those are the only aircraft that can handle these.

      • James

        Fair enough.

  • Jesus

    Is this the US response to Russian hypersonic weapons? Refurbishing some 4 decades old gravity bombs?

    • as

      Oh please it’s just antique ‘dumb’ as they say free fall bombs with some swiveling fin to make it slightly ‘smarter’.
      Calling it gravity bomb is pushing it since if it works that way then cargo ship can be called ‘stealth ram anti destroyer system’.

      • Jesus

        JDAM kits improved the accuracy of dumb bombs, this is a nuclear bomb, its CEP is not that critical if used against soft targets, yea it is a dumb bomb from the info available.
        If they want surgical strikes using using 10-20 ktns against reinforced targets they might use JDAM kits.