The US Department of Defense (DoD) has announced plans to build a more sophisticated variant of the B61 nuclear gravity bomb.
To be designated the B61-13, the weapon will respond to the demands of a rapidly evolving security environment as described in the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review.
According to the Pentagon, the gravity bomb would be deliverable by modern aircraft and have the same safety and accuracy features incorporated into the latest B61 variant.
Additionally, the B61-13 would provide the US president with additional options to effectively strike harder and larger military targets.
“Today’s announcement is reflective of a changing security environment and growing threats from potential adversaries,” US DoD official John Plumb said. “The US has a responsibility to continue to assess and field the capabilities we need to credibly deter and, if necessary, respond to strategic attacks, and assure our allies.”
The plan is still pending Congressional authorization and appropriation.
‘Not a Long-Term Solution’
A fact sheet released by the Pentagon clarified that the B61-13 will not be a new weapon that increases the US nuclear stockpile, as it would only utilize warheads from older bombs.
It is believed to be capable of a 350-kiloton blast, a major step up from the 50-kiloton yield of the B61-12.
Despite not yet receiving approval from the US Congress, several American politicians have already welcomed the move, saying it is a “modest step” in the right direction.
However, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi cautioned that while the B61-13 will provide more flexibility against hardened targets, it is not a long-term solution to the evolving security environment.
“As the Strategic Posture Commission recently noted, China and Russia are in a full-on arms race, and the US is running in place. Dramatic transformation of our deterrent posture — not incremental or piecemeal changes — is required to address this threat,” they said, as quoted by Defense News.