|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Oct 21, 2016 09:05 AM EDT|
(Photo : USAF) A quartet of B-61 nuclear bombs on a bomb rack.
A life-extension program for the U.S. B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb that can be carried by the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II will see this "dumb nuclear bomb" transformed into a smart nuclear bomb whose accuracy should rival bombs equipped with Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) GPS guidance kits.
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With the addition of a guided tail kit assembly, a smart B61 will have an accuracy, expressed in CEP (Circular Error Probability), of some 30 meters, which is far better than the CEP of 100 meters in its dumb bomb mode.
The life extension program (LEP) for the B61-12 (or the B61 Mod 12), including the JDAM-like guided tail kit assembly, should come to $9.5 million, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSA is a semi-autonomous department within the Department of Energy.
NNSA said the B61-12 LEP "is the most complex B61-12 activity the nuclear security enterprise has undertaken in more than 20 years."
"This weapon plays a critical role in national security and directly supports President Obama's directive to maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent, while reducing the size of the nuclear stockpile."
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said modernizing the B61 is part of the expensive and wide-ranging upgrades required to modernize the U.S. nuclear triad.
"If we don't replace these systems, quite simply they will age even more, and become unsafe, unreliable, and ineffective," said Carter.
"The fact is, most of our nuclear weapon delivery systems have already been extended decades beyond their original expected service lives. So it's not a choice between replacing these platforms or keeping them. ... It's really a choice between replacing them or losing them.
"That would mean losing confidence in our ability to deter, which we can't afford in today's volatile security environment."
The little known B61 is an air dropped gravity bomb, and one of only a few in the U.S. arsenal. The U.S. has produced 3,155 of these nuclear bombs since 1968. Of this total, some 200 are operational within the United States while 180 are deployed to NATO in Europe.
The bombs serve as a potent deterrent to Russian aggression, especially under the imperialist Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
The B61 is classified as an intermediate-yield strategic and tactical nuclear weapon. It's a "variable yield bomb" with a yield ranging from 0.3 to 340 kilotons. The bomb is 3.56 meters long and weighs some 320 kilograms. It can be dropped at a speed of Mach 2 or 2,500 km/h.
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