Recently, the US Air Force and the Ministry of energy's National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) Co operated with the B-2 bomber to test the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb for the first time. The completion of this milestone also brings about the cost of weapons. The Ministry of Defense's internal watchdog has also begun reviewing the project.
In June 29th, NNSA released the latest development of B61-12's new nuclear bomb project for the first time in its official documents. A B-2 "phantom" bomber from the US Air Force completed the B61-12 launch test and successfully threw 2 B61-12 nuclear bombs without nuclear warheads at the Tosa range. This test shows that the design of B61-12 meets the system requirements.
B61-12 is a new generation of nuclear gravity bomb developed by the US Air Force and NNSA. The accuracy of the bomb is still highly confidential. According to some reports, the nuclear warheads are equivalent to about 50 kiloton. And the equivalent of this bomb is adjustable, which limits the scope of nuclear reaction and the power of bombs. Relevant personnel can set their equivalent to as low as 300 tons, compared to the equivalent of bombs dropped by the US in Japan in 1945. B61-12 will be more flexible after the explosive equivalent is strictly controlled. The US Army hopes to replace the existing reserves of B61-3, B61-4, B61-7 and B61-11 with B61-12. It is expected to be in service in 2020.
In order to fully replace B61-11 bombs, new bombs need corresponding capabilities to strike deep underground targets. Before B61-11 was developed, the US Army relied on larger weapons to destroy targets and tried to use old-fashioned B83-1. The US Army now clearly indicates that B83-1 and B-61-11 will continue to be used before serving B61-12.
Besides, B-2 and B-21 stealth bombers can carry B61-12 bombs. F-16 and F-35 can also mount B61-12.
Although the US Army insists that B61-12 has more powerful capability than the existing bomb, the project is time-consuming and expensive. From 2011 to 2012, NNSA's budget for the project increased by $10 billion from $4 billion, which does not include the tail kit and other accessory parts. In June 28th, the office of the Attorney General of the Ministry of National Defense announced the assessment of the project. In May this year, the accountability Bureau of the United States government issued an evaluation report on the project.
In view of the high cost of B61-21, the US Army should also reflect on whether it missed the opportunity to develop other projects because of this project. For example, developing a stealth short-range nuclear cruise missile, like the AGM-158 derivative version. It is also worrying whether the B61-12's performance will be upgraded to reduce the threshold for nuclear conflict.
In response, experts in Russia say that because B61-12 releases less nuclear radiation, it will reduce direct death and destruction. This is why many experts worry that this "high precision guided bomb" will reduce the threshold of nuclear war.
However, the US Air Force and NNSA are pushing ahead with the B61-12 project to ensure that they won the first bombs by 2020. The number of weapons that will eventually be put into use, and which fighters carry the weapon, remains to be explored. (authorship: Defense Science and technology important news / Li Xiang)
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