The U.S. Air Force has gone through its first series of tests in conjunction with The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by dropping a B61-12 gravity bomb from a B-2A Spirit stealth bomber, as part of a project to extend the service life of the bomb.
The department successfully completed two non-nuclear system qualification flight tests of the bomber on June 9, at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, according to an NNSA release.
“These qualification flight tests demonstrate the B61-12 design meets system requirements and illustrate the continued progress of the B61-12 life extension program to meet national security requirements,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton, NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application.
A joint program dubbed The B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP) aims to extend the bomb’s service life and at the same time improve its safety, security, and reliability. The bomber was first introduced in 1968. According to the release, the tests are the first end-to-end qualification tests of its kind on the B-2A Spirit Bomber for the B61-12.
President Donald Trump has revised a nuclear modernization program that was first introduced by former president Barack Obama by turning it into a 30-year project that would cost at least $1.2 trillion to complete by 2046. According to a report by the congressional budget office, $772 billion would be allocated for the operation, sustainment, and modernization of strategic nuclear delivery systems and weapons, while over $400 billion will be spent on modernizing them.
The report outlines the United States’ emphasis on nuclear deterrence that the Western world has relied on for decades. The “fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons … is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners,” the report said, citing a 2010 report on the Nuclear Posture Review.
The LEP program will consolidate and replace the existing B61 bomb variants in the United States nuclear stockpile. The first production unit is on schedule to be completed by fiscal year 2020.
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