The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has completed eight vibration fly around / instrumented measurement vehicle (VFA/IMV) tests of the B61-12 life extension programme (LEP) at Eglin Air Force Base and Edwards Air Force Base in the US.
The tests were undertaken in collaboration with the US Air Force (USAF). They successfully collected and verified flight environment data for the B61-12 LEP.
It is claimed that the flight test will be a key building block between on-going system ground testing and the first development flight test drop scheduled in 2015. The tests’ assets consisted of hardware designed by Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The hardware was integrated to the tail-kit assembly instrumented measurement vehicle (IMV) section. This was designed by Boeing St Charles, under contract with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.
NNSA defence programmes deputy administrator Dr Don Cook said: "These tests are a major achievement for the B61-12 LEP to evaluate flight environments.
"This achievement within the B61-12 life extension 0programme is an important milestone that demonstrates the nation’s commitment to maintain the B61 and provides assurance to our allies."
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The B61-12 LEP is a joint USAF and NNSA programme. It seeks to preserve the B61 nuclear bomb, a critical element of the US nuclear triad, and demonstrates continued support for extended deterrence and assurance commitments.
The programme is expected to reuse or remanufacture current components as much as possible. It includes refurbishment of both nuclear and non-nuclear components to address ageing, while ensuring extended service life and improve safety, reliability, and security of the bomb.
LEP is managed by the Nuclear Weapons Council, a joint department of defence and department of energy / NNSA organisation. It entered development engineering in February 2012, and will incorporate an air force tail-kit assembly in to the B61-12, enabling it to replace the existing B61-3, -4, -7, and -10 bombs.
Image: The B61-12 life extension programme completed eight instrumented flight tests at Eglin Air Force Base and Edwards Air Force Base in the US. Photo: courtesy of NNSA.