The US Air Force's (USAF) F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft has successfully conducted a test release of an inert B61 nuclear bomb over the Nellis Test and Training Range Complex, Nevada.
Testing demonstrated the multirole fighter aircraft’s capability to deliver the bomb, as well as functionality of the weapon's non-nuclear components, including the arming and fire control system, spin rocket motors, radar altimeter and weapons control computer.
The thermonuclear weapon is the first test use of upgraded B61, known as B61-12, using F-16 aircraft. F-16 is from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at the Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada.
The trial was conducted under a B61 life-extension programme, which is upgrading its nuclear and non-nuclear components, along with enhancing its safety, security and reliability.
After completion, the new and upgraded B61-12 version will replace four versions of the B61 weapon, which are currently in the US nuclear stockpile, streamlining production and logistics.
Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (AFNWC) Air-Delivered Capabilities director Paul Waugh said: “The B61-12 gravity bomb ensures the current capability for the air-delivered leg of the US strategic nuclear triad well into the future for both bombers and dual-capable aircraft supporting North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato).”
The new B61-12 bomb will be compatible with the B-2A, B-21, F-15E, F-16C/D, F-16 MLU, F-35 and PA-200 aircraft.
The B61-12 life-extension programme is managed by the AFNWC in collaboration with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
Image: An F-16C dropped an inert B61-12 during a development flight test by the 422nd Flight Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada, US. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / staff sgt Brandi Hansen.