USAF and NNSA conclude B61-12 gravity bomb qualification flight tests

4 July 2018 (Last Updated July 4th, 2018 12:33)

The US Air Force (USAF) has successfully completed two qualification flight tests of the B61-12 gravity bomb with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE / NNSA).

USAF and NNSA conclude B61-12 gravity bomb qualification flight tests
A B-2 Spirit soars over the Pacific Ocean. Credit: Staff Sgt. Bennie J Davis III.

The US Air Force (USAF) has successfully completed two B61-12 gravity bomb qualification flight tests with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE / NNSA).

Trials are part of a series of joint tests conducted at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada to demonstrate the capability of the aircraft to deliver the weapon in addition to its non-nuclear functions.

B61-12 gravity bomb qualification flight tests have been carried out under the B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP). LEP has been designed to help extend the bomb’s service life, as well as increase its safety, security, and reliability.

During the tests, the USAF and NNSA released a B61-12 non-nuclear test assembly from a B-2A Spirit Bomber.

“These qualification flight tests demonstrate the B61-12 design meets system requirements and illustrate the continued progress of the B61-12 life extension programme.”

The B61-12 included the NNSA-designed bomb assembly and the USAF-acquired tail-kit. The bomber was operated by the 419th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

NNSA Military Application principal assistant deputy administrator brigadier general Michael Lutton said: “These qualification flight tests demonstrate the B61-12 design meets system requirements and illustrate the continued progress of the B61-12 life extension programme to meet national security requirements.

“The achievement is also a testament to the dedication of our workforce and the enduring partnership between NNSA and the USAF.”

Flight tests included hardware designed by Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory, and manufactured by the Nuclear Security Enterprise plants.

The tail-kit assembly section has been designed by Boeing under a contract with the USAF Nuclear Weapons Center.

Designed to replace existing B61 bomb variants, the B61-12 LEP will see the production of the first unit completed in the fiscal year 2020.