US NNSA Completes First Production Unit of B61-12 Nuclear Bomb Life Extension Program
US NNSA Completes First Production Unit of B61-12 Nuclear Bomb Life Extension Program

US NNSA Completes First Production Unit of B61-12 Nuclear Bomb Life Extension Program

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) successfully completed the B61-12 thermonuclear gravity bomb Life Extension Program (LEP) First Production Unit (FPU) on November 23, 2021. The B61-12 LEP helps modernize America’s nuclear weapons stockpile and sustain the Nation’s air delivered nuclear deterrent capability. The nuclear security enterprise, in close coordination with the U.S. Air Force, worked together to deliver the B61-12 FPU after more than nine years of design, development, qualification, and component production.

“It is extremely satisfying to see the B61-12 achieve FPU. This successful effort results from years of seamless execution between our NNSA and U.S. Air Force teams. The integration of the NNSA Bomb Assembly and the Boeing Tailkit Assembly as well as the joint certification on multiple aircraft platforms stands as a testament to our continued commitment to national security and that of our allies and partners,” said Deputy NNSA Administrator for Defense Programs Charles Verdon.

The B61-12 guided nuclear bomb being taken for a flight test at the Nevada Test and Training Range. (U.S. Air Force Photo by SSgt. Cody Griffith)

“With this program, we’re delivering a system to the Department of Defense that 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,” said Jill Hruby, DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator.

The B61 nuclear gravity bomb, deployed from U.S. Air Force and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bases, has been in service for over 50 years. Many modifications have been made to improve the B61’s safety, security, and reliability since the first B61 entered service in 1968, and four B61 variants remain in the stockpile: the 3, 4, 7, and 11. The B61-12 will replace the B61-3, 4, and 7. The B61-12 LEP refurbishes, reuses, or replaces all of the bomb’s nuclear or non-nuclear components to extend the service life by at least 20 years. The B61 LEP will also continue to assure the weapon’s safety, security, and effectiveness. NNSA anticipates starting full-scale production in May 2022 and completing all needed production in FY 2026.

The B61-12 consolidates and replaces four older versions in the nation’s nuclear arsenal. It’s outfitted with a new tail-kit assembly and other hardware.