US flight-tests nuclear bomb B61-12
The US has completed the development flight tests of the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb, with the third and final test being undertaken by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the United States Air Force (USAF) at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.
The tests would pave the way for production engineering in 2016.
An F-15E Strike Eagle multirole strike fighter from Nellis Air Force Base released the non-nuclear B61-12 bomb, which was manufactured by the National Security Enterprise Plants.
According to NNSA, all scheduled activities occurred successfully and telemetry, tracking and video data were properly collected.
NNSA deputy administrator Madelyn Creedon said: "This demonstration of effective end-to-end system performance under representative delivery conditions marks another 2015 achievement in the development of the B61-12 Life Extension Program.
"Completing this guided B61-12 flight test provides additional evidence of the nation's continued commitment to our nation's security and that of our allies and partners."
The B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP) seeks to upgrade the older B61 nuclear weapons, but is said to have no additional capabilities from the legacy version. It is also not GPS guided.
The US is upgrading B61, which has been in use since the 1960s, in adherence with the global restrictions imposed on the development of new nuclear weapons.
A joint effort of USAF and NNSA, B61-12 LEP refurbishes both nuclear and non-nuclear components to extend the bomb's service life while improving its safety, security and reliability. It will replace the existing B61-3, -4, -7, and -10.
The first flight test was conducted in July.
The LEP will reuse or remanufacture existing components to the maximum extent possible, NNSA said.
The hardware of the test bomb was designed by Sandia National and Los Alamos National Laboratories, and the tail-kit assembly section by Boeing.
Image: The B61-12 bomb being tested at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. Photo: courtesy of NNSA.