The US has completed a qualification flight test of the newest modification of the B61, part of a life-extension program that has been described as the most ambitious nuclear warhead refurbishment in history.
The Air Force carried out the non-nuclear test along with the Department of Energy in early June in Nevada, according to a press release published Friday.
“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 Brigadier General Michael Lutton, an official with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
“The tests involved releasing a B61-12 non-nuclear test assembly, which includes the NNSA designed bomb assembly and US Air Force acquired tail-kit, from a B-2A Spirit Bomber operated by the 419th Test & Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California,” the statement said.
The tests are the first such end-to-end qualification tests on a B-2A Spirit Bomber for the new modification.
The B61-12 will consolidate and replace the existing B61 bomb variants in the nuclear stockpile, according the NNSA, with the first production unit on schedule for completion in 2020.
This round of tests is part of efforts to demonstrate the B-2 bombers capacity to deliver the weapon.
An initiative to integrate the B61-12 into the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet is also ongoing, and the B61-12 conducted its third and final development test flight on F-15E in 2015, according to Military.com.