The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced the development of America’s latest nuclear weapon.
The B61-12 Life Extension Program First Production Unit is a more accurate and lower-yield variant of the nuclear gravity bomb, capable of being air-dropped — either through “gravity or guided drop modes.”
Replaces Previous Bomb Variants
Department of Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby remarked that the nine-year-old program “improves accuracy and reduces yield with no change in military characteristics, while also improving safety, security and reliability.”
“The work on the B61-12 will also ensure the warhead can be air-delivered on both current and future platforms to meet Department of Defense requirements,” extending the munition’s life by 20 years. Once deployed, the B61-12 will replace variants 3, 4, and 7, leaving only the 11 along with it.
‘Possible Deterrence’ Against Tactical Nuclear Strike
According to National Interest, the B61-12 allows the US Air Force to deploy the munition for “low-yield nuclear attack, earth-penetrating strikes, above surface detonation, and bunker-buster explosions.” The outlet stated that the low-yield nuclear attack capability also provides US commanders with “possible deterrence against a more limited or tactical nuclear strike.”
Since its first deployment in 1968, the B61, deployed from US Air Force and NATO bases, has undergone multiple modifications to improve its “safety, security, and reliability.”
In its latest iteration, the bomb has had all of its nuclear and non-nuclear components refurbished or replaced to extend its life. Full-scale production is scheduled from May 2022 through 2026.