US Conducts Successful Field Test Of New Nuclear Bomb

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Originally appeared at ZeroHedge

In mid-April, we reported that “just as tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program and potential US airstrikes run wild, the NNSA said that in conjunction with the US Air Force, it had completed the first qualification flight test of B61-12 gravity nuclear bomb on March 14 at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.”

Four months later, and just as concerns over North Korea’s provocative launches have send shockwaves across global markets – again – the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced another successful flight test of B61-12 gravity nuclear bombs in Nevada. The second qualification flight test for the nuclear bomb was carried out by the NNSA and the US Air Force.

According to the NNSA press release, two B61-12 gravity bombs (without a nuclear warhead) were dropped from F-15 fighter jets on August 8 at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, and were designed to test the “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. As we noted at the time, 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.”

According to the editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine, Igor Korotchenko, the second test of the nuclear bomb could indicate that Washington is speeding up its rearmament program. “The fact of the test of this modification of the nuclear bomb indicates that the US continues an accelerated rearmament program of its tactical nuclear arsenal in Europe, as well as that both Washington and Brussels are considering the scenario of a limited nuclear war in Europe,” he said.

Furthermore, as RT reminds us, the test comes two months after Politico reported that US senators were pushing legislation to compel President Donald Trump to take steps to develop new missiles which would be “the first steps to jettisoning what is known as the INF treaty.” Moscow said that such a move would be “ridiculous” and would damage America itself as well as its European allies.  In July, Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, suggested bypassing the milestone treaty that bans the testing, production and possession of land-based intermediate-range missiles by both Moscow and Washington. He urged the White House to “facilitate the transfer of cruise missile technology to our (American) allies,” explaining that “only the US and Russia have signed this treaty. No other country did.”

After the announcement of the plans to upgrade the B61 nuclear weapon, Russia expressed its concerns that the move could destabilize global security. “This means that the armaments threshold could in theory have been lowered, which of course will destabilize the situation to a certain extent,”said the deputy head of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Sergey Ryabkov, in August 2016.  The program, started under President Obama means that over the next 30 years Washington could spend up to $1 trillion to modernize the US nuclear arsenal. Shortly after his election, president Trump called for the US to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” though he criticized the Obama administration’s costly modernization program during the election campaign.

* * *

The latest test was the second 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.

US Conducts Successful Field Test Of New Nuclear Bomb

“This demonstration of effective end-to-end system performance in a realistic ballistic flight environment marks another on-time achievement for the B61-12 Life Extension Program,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton, NNSA’s principal assistant deputy administrator for military application. “The successful test provides critical qualification data to validate that the baseline design meets military requirements. It reflects the nation’s continued commitment to our national security and that of our allies and partners.”

US Conducts Successful Field Test Of New Nuclear Bomb

“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 NNSA statement said.

US Conducts Successful Field Test Of New Nuclear Bomb

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.

US Conducts Successful Field Test Of New Nuclear Bomb

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 August test of the B61-12 was the second 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 deterioration in relations between Washington and Ankara, it will likely consider reassessing the Turkish deployment.

US Conducts Successful Field Test Of New Nuclear Bomb

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  • VGA

    Good, now take out Fat boy Kim before the commies have nukes.

    • FlorianGeyer

      The Chinese have nukes and will never allow US military tourists on their NK borders.
      Rightly so as well.

  • YuiYui

    NK making nukes? INVADE THEM! Iran making nukes? INVADE THEM! Rumours about Saddam working on nukes? INVADE HIM! USA making more nukes? Nothing to worry about, goyim.

    • FlorianGeyer

      Israel making Nukes for generations ? Forget them, move along, its a conspiracy theory :)

      • Mikronos

        Nukes? What nukes? “Israel will never be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the middle east” – B. Netanyahu.

        • FlorianGeyer

          That made me laugh as well :)

    • Justin

      Gaddafi comes forward in a truce and admits he was seeking nuclear weapons manufacturing. USA kills him!

  • Pave Way IV

    Great. 5 – 10 – 50kt dial-a-yield nuke you have to fly somewhere. Why would you continue to build such a useless weapon? The f’king cold war is over – the Soviets are not going to stream across the Fulda gap in rivers of armor.

    This is not a strategic weapon for a nuclear counter-strike (and never was). They’re not even trying to hide the fact that the B-61 m12 is meant as a first-use tactical nuke against an enemy that cannot retaliate, i.e., a non-nuclear nation. At the lowest yields and air-burst, they’re effectively neutron bombs.

    What these will do is make the hair-trigger to WW III that much more sensitive, just like the Aegis Ashore ‘anti-missile’ system. If you can put sealed canisters on an Aegis Ashore in Romania the could contain nuclear-tipped cruise missiles or fly an F-35 along the Russian border that could be carrying a B-61 m12, then that’s kind of a threat. Why is it that the US is so unconvinced of the deterrent effect of the current ICBM and SLBM fleet that they need these air-dropped nuke fossils spread all over earth? They are an invitation to mischief, not a credible strategic nuclear deterrent.

  • EL ZORRO

    “US CONDUCTS SUCCESSFUL FIELD TEST OF NEW NUCLEAR BOMB”… North Korea 10 nuclear warheads. United States 6800 nuclear warheads. Not Korea, CERO foreign military bases. United States MORE than 900 military bases around the world, just in Syria has 9 illegally and one in Cuba illegally. North Korea military budged ?. United Staes military budged 500 billions PLUS. North Korea foreign wars, CERO.The fact is , the United State has been at war for 222 years out of 239 years. North Korea use of weapons of mass destruction, NUCLEAR WEAPONS, CERO. United States use of weapons of mass destruction, CHEMICALS in Vietnam and two NUCLEAR WEAPONS in Japan.

    United States has been at war for 222 years out of 239 years. That’s 93% of the time! Since the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776. North Korea provocative live-fire drill on US borders, CERO.

    United States provocative live-fire drills on North Korea borders, CONSTANTLY…THINK ABOUT IT, WHO IS THE AGGRESSOR?.

    • Uhmm….
      ONLY the Americans know for certain America isn’t the aggressor, they are The Defend-Dor!!
      Everyone else – not so special.

  • Oh my!!!! …. I am sooooo IM-pressed! Duh.

    BTW – have they solved that little Donald Cook problem the Russians gave them – or have they found a way to avoid using electronics? ‘Cos if not – then this is just an extra-big waste of Yankee taxpayer dollars….

    On second thoughts – keep up the good work boys!

  • At least they had the decency to test this bloody thing in their own country and NOT Afghanistan this time!

    • Mikronos

      This one was a ‘test dud’ . Watch for a live action test somewhere like Afghanistan. After all it couldn’t be much more powerful than a MOAB and somebody ,local, we’re told, ‘ordered’ one of those right off the shelf.

      • Testing a live nuke in Afghanistan MIGHT be kinda pushing their luck.

        local? … Israel?

  • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

    The US hard at work at destabilizing the world and continuing to make more devastating pinpoint first strike weapons to kill more people and to harm future generations with their nuclear waste.

    • Solomon Krupacek

      and rassia also wit sarmatas ;)

  • Mikronos

    The long foretold ‘lunchbox nuke’? Small enough to fit into this bomb profile?

    Back in the day, the suggested method of delivering a nuclear ‘iron’ bomb was the ‘bomb toss’ in which the bomb is released towards the target while the aircraft is in a climb in preparation for a 180 loop into a ‘withdrawal at speed’ maneuver. that would provide some time to be headed away from the detonation while the bomb completes its flight and descent to target. Level bombing, as tested here, puts the delivery aircraft’s survival at risk and probably could be dispensed with. Save that the NORKs need all the reminding they can get.

  • Solomon Krupacek

    this article was copy paste of severals?

    some part, e.g. The August test of the B61-12 was the second occurs manytimes.

    thermonuclear warhead =/= tactical weapon.