Boeing has been awarded a contract for tail kit assembly (TKA) of the US Air Force’s (USAF) B61 nuclear bomb, as part of the B61 (Mod 12) Life Extension Programme (LEP).
Valued at $178m, the contract expands the company’s Direct Attack weapons portfolio, and covers design and delivery of a new B61 guided tail kit to USAF for improving the weapon’s accuracy.
Under the contract, the company will work jointly with the US Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DoE).
Boeing Missiles and Unmanned Airborne Systems vice president and general manager Debbie Rub said the company has delivered a broad spectrum of reliable and affordable direct attack weapon solutions to the soldiers for more than a decade.
"We will apply our proven experience in tail kit production to this platform to effectively upgrade a vital deterrent capability," Rub added.
TKA’s supplied under the contract are expected to enhance the bomb’s targeting capability enabling the air force’s strategic bomber aircraft to conduct lower-yield strikes against military targets, with reduced radioactive fallout.
Managed by the Air Armament Center (AAC), the B61 LEP aims to unify existing three non-strategic B61 bombs, including B61-3, B61-4 and B61-10, as well as the strategic B61-7, into a single, new B61-12 bomb to help address the air force’s requirements for both non-strategic and strategic variants.
The conversion into a single bomb is expected to lower USAF’s logistical overhead requirements and also the number of warhead types present in the active/inactive/reserve stockpiles.
The design, development and qualification phase of the B61 (Mod 12) LEP is anticipated to continue for the next three years.
Manufactured by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the B61 is an intermediate yield strategic and tactical nuclear bomb and represents one of the primary thermonuclear weapons in the US stockpile after conclusion of the Cold War.
Image: a B61 nuclear bomb undergoing disassembly.