U.S. Air Force Preps Revamped Nuclear Bomb for Key Tests

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Global Security Newswire Staff
April 25, 2014, 7:06 a.m.

The Air Force is pre­par­ing to test how well a re­vamped nuc­le­ar bomb per­forms when it is dropped out of a plane, In­side De­fense re­por­ted on Thursday.

In co­oper­a­tion with the U.S. Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­tract­or Boe­ing, the Air Force is plan­ning for tests this sum­mer of the B-61’s new “Mod 12” vari­ant, which comes with a re­tooled tail sec­tion.

The mod­ern­ized grav­ity bomb is to be dropped first out of an F-16 fight­er jet. If that test goes well, the B-61-12 will next be tested with an F-15 jet and a B-2 bomber — air­craft that can carry heav­ier pay­loads than the F-16, Eglin Air Force Base spokes­wo­man Lois Walsh told the news­let­ter.

“The next test event sched­uled for the pro­gram is the safe sep­ar­a­tion test,” John Mis­tretta, a ma­ter­i­el su­per­visor with the Air Force Life Cycle Man­age­ment Cen­ter, said in an email. “These tests in­volve drops of Sep­ar­a­tion Test Vehicles from an air­craft in ac­tu­al flight. These tests are sched­uled for sum­mer 2014 and will be used to veri­fy design and cen­ter of grav­ity.”

The move to pre­pare for sep­ar­a­tion test­ing fol­lows the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion earli­er this month of a full-scale wind-tun­nel as­sess­ment of the Mod 12 design.

The B-61-12 vari­ant is planned to re­place the cur­rent B-61-3, -4, -7, and -10 vari­ants. The broad­er pro­ject to ex­tend the ser­vice life of the grav­ity bomb in­volves main­ten­ance and modi­fic­a­tions to the weapon’s con­ven­tion­al and nuc­le­ar com­pon­ents.

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