Nuclear Bomb Variant Completes Wind-Tunnel Test

A model of the forthcoming B-61-12 nuclear bomb awaits testing in a wind tunnel at the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee. The Energy Department on Monday announced that the "Mod 12" variant had successfully completed the full-scale wind test.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
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Rachel Oswald
April 15, 2014, 10:54 a.m.

A pro­ject to re­vamp the U.S. B-61 nuc­le­ar bomb achieved a key mile­stone when one of its new vari­ants passed a first full-scale, wind-tun­nel test.

The U.S. Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced the com­pleted as­sess­ment in a Monday press re­lease, not­ing that the ac­com­plish­ment by its San­dia Na­tion­al Labor­at­or­ies brings the so-called “B-61-12” Life-Ex­ten­sion Pro­gram one step closer to planned “drop tests” next year.

The eight-day as­sess­ment took place in a tran­son­ic wind tun­nel — which al­lows for the test­ing of aerospace products at ex­tremely fast speeds — at the Arnold En­gin­eer­ing De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter in Ten­ness­ee. The tri­al con­sisted of a num­ber of dif­fer­ent sim­u­lated flight en­vir­on­ments that ex­amined how well the B-61’s forth­com­ing “Mod 12” vari­ant handles “counter-torque,” a phe­nomen­on in which the plumes from rock­et mo­tors work against the per­form­ance of the tail fins, ac­cord­ing to San­dia.

“This wind tun­nel test helps to un­der­stand the B-61-12 flight char­ac­ter­ist­ics in pre­par­a­tion for our first three full-scale de­vel­op­ment drop tests,” agency Deputy Ad­min­is­trat­or for De­fense Pro­grams Don Cook said in provided com­ments.

Be­cause the Mod 12 vari­ant is equipped with a tail sec­tion that is not­ably dif­fer­ent than earli­er ver­sions of the B-61, a wind tun­nel test was ne­ces­sary to de­term­ine that the new com­pon­ent can per­form in the re­quired spin en­vir­on­ment dur­ing flight, said Vicki Rags­dale, a B-61-12 tech­nic­al basis test en­gin­eer at San­dia, in a sep­ar­ate Monday re­lease from the labor­at­ory.

The pro­ject to mod­ern­ize the B-61 in­volves the res­tor­a­tion of atom­ic and con­ven­tion­al parts and is aimed at ex­tend­ing the ser­vice life of the grav­ity bomb, which is cur­rently de­ployed in sup­port of NATO nuc­le­ar de­terrence in Europe. The Mod 12 vari­ant is in­ten­ded to sup­plant the cur­rent B-61-3, -4, -7, and -10 vari­ants, in ad­di­tion to sup­port­ing the planned moth­balling of the large B-63 nuc­le­ar war­head.

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