U.S. To Arm Warplanes, Bombers With New B61-12 Nuke Warheads
America’s newest nuclear bomb warhead has entered production and will be used to equip warplanes and bombers, Aaron Mehta reported for Breaking Defense.
Photo Insert: Prototype of a B61-12 on an F-15E aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on Thursday, Dec. 2, announced that it had completed the first production unit of the B61-12, an updated version of the warhead used on weapons dropped from fighters and bombers.
The NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency located within the Department of Energy. While the Defense Department has oversight of developing the delivery systems for America’s nuclear arsenal — the planes, ships, and missiles — the NNSA is in charge of producing the actual nuclear payload.
Currently, there are four B61 variants in the nuclear stockpile: the 3, 4, 7, and 11. The B61-12 design will replace all four of those. While not technically a “new” warhead, the design replaces or refurbishes all the bomb’s nuclear and non-nuclear parts.
The upgraded variant will be carried by America’s F-15, F-16, and B-2 aircraft, as well as on aircraft for NATO member nations. The NNSA anticipates full-scale production starting in May 2022, with production completed sometime in fiscal 2026. The total cost of the program is estimated to be $8.4 billion.