A US Air Force (USAF) F-16C multirole fighter aircraft released an inert upgraded B61 nuclear bomb during a development flight test over the Nellis Test and Training Range Complex on 14 March. This was the first test use of the upgraded B61, known as the B61-12, with an F-16 platform.
Conducted by USAF's 422nd Flight Test and Evaluation Squadron based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, the test was designed to demonstrate the aircraft's capability to deliver the weapon, and testing the functioning of the weapon's non-nuclear components, including the arming and fire control system, radar altimeter, spin rocket motors, and weapons control computer.
The test was conducted under a life-extension programme for the B61, which is managed by the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (ANFCW) in conjunction with the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The programme provides for the refurbishment of both the B61's nuclear and non-nuclear components to extend its service life, while improving its safety, security and reliability. When completed, the new B61-12 version will replace four versions of the B61 bomb currently in the United States' nuclear stockpile, streamlining production and logistics. The B61-12 will be compatible with the B-2A, B-21, F-15E, F-16C/D, F-16 MLU, F-35, and PA-200 aircraft.
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