U.S. Conducts ‘Successful’ Analysis of Updated B-61 Bomb

Patrons line up to view the inside of a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne last March. A nuclear bomb carried by the aircraft is being updated and has undergone an initial performance assessment.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
Feb. 5, 2014, 8:32 a.m.

The United States on Tues­day said it “suc­cess­fully” car­ried out an early per­form­ance ana­lys­is of a re­vamped nuc­le­ar grav­ity bomb.

The “full-sys­tem mech­an­ic­al en­vir­on­ment test” was the first in a line of as­sess­ments in­ten­ded to veri­fy how the B-61 bomb’s new “Mod 12” vari­ant would be­have un­der routine con­di­tions or ac­ci­dent scen­ari­os, the Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion said in a state­ment. The re­view in­cluded use of an Air Force-de­veloped ”tail kit” in­ten­ded to im­prove tar­get­ing ac­cur­acy for the up­dated bomb, which is to even­tu­ally stand in for sev­er­al earli­er ver­sions.

The ana­lys­is by the Los Alam­os and San­dia na­tion­al labor­at­or­ies “is a sig­ni­fic­ant achieve­ment and gives us con­fid­ence in our abil­ity to move for­ward with our ef­forts to in­crease the safety and se­cur­ity of the bomb,” Don Cook, NNSA deputy ad­min­is­trat­or for de­fense pro­grams, said in provided com­ments.

En­gin­eer­ing pre­par­a­tions for the Mod 12 up­date are now in their second year. The life-ex­ten­sion pro­ject aims to keep B-61 bombs ready for po­ten­tial use, to ser­vice vari­ous atom­ic and non-nuc­le­ar parts of the Cold War-era weapons, and to bol­ster their de­pend­ab­il­ity and se­cur­ity, the NNSA says.

The ini­tial test “provides data for ana­lyt­ic­al mod­el cor­rel­a­tion and val­id­a­tion, in­sight in­to com­pon­ent en­vir­on­ments and eval­u­ation of de­vel­op­ment­al hard­ware,” the agency re­lease states. “The mech­an­ic­al en­vir­on­ment test series will as­sist in qual­i­fy­ing the fi­nal B-61”12 design against the full suite of en­vir­on­ments.”

De­ploy­ment of the Mod 12 weapon would en­able the United States to moth­ball the lar­ger and more power­ful B-83 bomb “in the mid-to-late 2020s,” the NNSA state­ment adds.

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