The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center received approval to enter the production phase for the B61-12 nuclear bomb’s upgraded tail-fin assembly.
The new phase, approved in late October, will involve testing that will more closely match operational conditions, the Air Force said in a news release this week. It follows nearly a year of testing with a perfect record on 31 dummy drops, according to the Air Force.
“The flight tests demonstrated the system works very well in its intended environment,” AFNWC material leader said Col. Paul Rounsavall said in a statement. “This development effort brought the first-ever digital interface to the B61 family of weapons and demonstrated the B61-12 TKA’s compatibility with the Air Force’s B-2 and F-15 aircraft.”
The program falls under the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. The department is the umbrella organization for the nation’s military and civilian nuclear infrastructure.
The B61-12 is the planned modernized version of the B61 air-dropped nuclear weapon that has been in use with upgrades since the 1960s.
It is a thermonuclear “dial-a-yield” device which can be set for explosive yields ranging from a tactical 0.3 kilotons for battlefield use, up to 340 kilotons for strategic targets.
It is part of the Enduring Stockpile program for old weapons left over from Cold War arsenals and is the primary air-dropped nuclear weapon deployed by the U.S.
The version being upgraded will have GPS guidance and can be mounted on most standard fighters and bombers with the U.S. and allied nations such as NATO members.
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