WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and the U.S Air Force completed the first qualification flight test of the B61-12 gravity bomb March 14 at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.
The non-nuclear test assembly was dropped from an F-16 based at Nellis Air Force Base. The test evaluated both the weapon’s non-nuclear functions as well as the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon.
This event is the first of a series that will be conducted over the next three years to qualify the B61-12 for service. Three successful development flight tests were conducted in 2015.
“This demonstration of effective end-to-end system performance in a realistic ballistic flight environment marks another on-time achievement for the B61-12 Life Extension Program,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton, NNSA’s principal assistant deputy administrator for military application. “The successful test provides critical qualification data to validate that the baseline design meets military requirements. It reflects the nation's continued commitment to our national security and that of our allies and partners.”
The flight test included hardware designed by Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, manufactured by the Nuclear Security Enterprise plants, and mated to the tail-kit assembly section, designed by the Boeing Company under contract with the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.
The B61-12 consolidates and replaces four B61 bomb variants in the nation’s nuclear arsenal. The first production unit is scheduled to be completed by March 2020.