WASHINGTON, D.C. ― The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and the U.S Air Force announced the completion of two qualification flight tests of the B61-12 gravity bomb at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.
Completed Nov. 7-8, these tests continue a series of qualification flight tests that will be conducted over the next three years.
The tests involved releasing non-nuclear configured joint test assemblies from two F-15Es based at Nellis Air Force Base, demonstrating the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon and the weapon’s non-nuclear functions. The flight test included hardware designed by Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory and manufactured by the Nuclear Security Enterprise plants.
The B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP) entered Phase 6.4 Production Engineering in June 2016 under the oversight of the Nuclear Weapons Council, a joint Department of Defense and DOE/NNSA organization established to facilitate cooperation and coordination between the two departments.
The B61-12 LEP is a joint NNSA and Air Force program that preserves a critical element of the U.S. nuclear triad and demonstrates continued support for extended deterrence and assurance commitments. The first B61-12 production unit is scheduled to be completed by March 2020.
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Department of Energy, NNSA – Life Extension Programs
In summary, the current LEP and alteration plans endorsed by the Nuclear Weapons Council include the following:
- W76-1 LEP
- Extend the life of the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) W76 warhead for an additional 30 years by refurbishing various components.
- Complete production no later than the end of fiscal year (FY) 2019
- W88 Alt 370
- Replacing the arming, fuzing, and firing system in the W88 SLBM warhead.
- Complete development to support a first production unit no later than December 31, 2019
- B61-12 LEP
- Consolidation of multiple B61 mods and replacement of aging components.
- Complete a first production unit no later than the end of FY 2020
- W78/W88-1 LEP
- Life extend both the Air Force’s W78 warhead and the Navy’s W88 warhead
- Complete a first production unit no later than the end of FY 2030