In the latest example of American saber-rattling, an old nuclear weapon is getting a makeover … one that’s costing taxpayers an estimated $11 billion.
The United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) announced the successful completion of the first “qualification flight test” for the B61-12 nuclear “gravity bomb” this week.
“The non-nuclear test assembly was dropped from an F-16 based at Nellis Air Force Base,” a release from the agency noted. “The test evaluated both the weapon’s non-nuclear functions as well as the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon.”
Did it work? Apparently …
“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 brigadier general Michael Lutton. “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.”
The B61 is a staple of the American nuclear arsenal – with more than 3,100 such weapons produced over the last fifty years. An estimated 1,300 remain in service. The B61-12 life extension program intends to consolidate and replace four different variants of this weapon, with its “first production unit” slated for delivery in March of 2020.
The weapon is twelve-feet long, weighs between 700-800 pounds, is accurate to thirty meters and has a blast yield of fifty kilotons.
The B61-12 is “critical to sustaining the nation’s strategic and non-strategic air-delivered nuclear deterrent capability,” according to the NNSA – although the life extension program has been repeatedly targeted for budget cuts in recent years