From Susan Montoya Bryan, AP: Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are claiming success with the first in a new series of test flights involving an upgraded version of a nuclear bomb that has been part of the US arsenal for decades….
An F-16 from Nellis Air Force Base dropped an inert version of the weapon over the Nevada desert last month to test its non-nuclear functions as well as the plane’s ability to carry the [B61-12] bomb.
With a mere puff of dust, the mock bomb landed in a dry lake bed at the Tonopah Test Range.
“It’s great to see things all come together: the weapon design, the test preparation, the aircraft, the range and the people who made it happen,” Anna Schauer, director of Sandia’s Stockpile Resource Center, said in a statement.
More test flights are planned over the next three years, and officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration said the first production unit of the B61-12 — developed under what is called the Life Extension Program — is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
The B61-12 consolidates and replaces four older versions in the nation’s nuclear arsenal. It’s outfitted with a new tail-kit assembly and other hardware.
From airforce-technology.com: 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 Organization (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.