The US Air Force (USAF) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have successfully completed the first development flight test of a non-nuclear B61-12 gravity bomb at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.
The new development marks the first of three development flight tests for the B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP).
Two additional development flight tests are expected to take place later this year.
NNSA Defense Programs deputy administrator Dr Don Cook said: "This test marks a major milestone for the B61-12 Life Extension Program, demonstrating end-to-end system performance under representative delivery conditions.
"Achieving the first complete B61-12 flight test provides clear evidence of the nation’s continued commitment to maintain the B61 and provides assurance to our allies."
The test flight saw the release of a development test unit from a USAF F-15E from Nellis Air Force base. The test unit demonstrated successful performance prior to its baseline design review in 2016.
The hardware of the B61-12 gravity bomb is designed by Sandia National and Los Alamos National Laboratories and was manufactured by the National Security Enterprise Plants. It was integrated to the USAF Boeing-designed tail-kit assembly.
B61-12 LEP is a joint USAF and NNSA programme that 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.
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 test flight saw the release of a development test unit from a USAF F-15E from Nellis Air Force base. Photo: courtesy of US Department of Energy.