October 3, 2018

I’M EXPECTING AN EARTH-SHATTERING KABOOM: America’s newest nuclear gravity bomb completes design review.

The B61-12 life-extension program consolidates and replaces the older B61-3, -4, -7 and -10 variants, in a move that proponents say will both update aging parts of the weapons and drive down upkeep costs. The review, which involved a team of 12 independent experts studying three years of data, certified that the B61-12 design meets Defense Department standards.

The weapon is certified for both the B-52 and B-2 bombers, America’s F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 fighter aircraft, and British and German Tornado aircraft under a NATO agreement. The F-35 is also planned to go through certification on the weapon at some point in the next decade.

Production qualification activities at the agency’s Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas, will begin in October 2018, with the program on track for its first production unit in March 2020, according to an agency timeline. The weapon passed another milestone in June, when two non-nuclear designs for the weapon were flown and released successfully over Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Still, it would be nice if we could test one of the damn things every now and then.

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