U.S. Tests B61-12 Gravity Nuclear Bomb Amid Growing Tensions Over North Korea

Amid growing tensions in the Korean Peninsula over North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s nuclear program, and after the first-ever combat use of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Blast Bomb, also known as the “Mother Of All Bombs,” the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced on Friday the successful field test of a modernized “steerable” version of the B61 gravity nuclear bomb in Nevada.

The NNSA, the section of the Department of Energy (DoE) responsible for nuclear weapons, said in a statement that it completed in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force “the first qualification flight test of the B61-12 gravity bomb on March 14 at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.”

The statement went on to say that the “non-nuclear test assembly” was dropped from an F-16 fighter that took off from Nellis Air Force Base. The test was designed to evaluate “both the weapon’s non-nuclear functions as well as the aircraft’s (USAF F-16 fighter) capability to deliver the weapon,” according to the statement by the NNSA.

“An F-16 fighter from Nellis Air Force Base dropped the ‘non-nuclear test assembly.'”

The statement added that the test was only the first of a series to be conducted in the next three years before the B61-12 gravity bomb goes into service in 2020. A final design review is scheduled for September of 2018 before deployment for service in 2020.

The NNSA conducted three successful development flight tests of the weapon in 2015.

“This demonstration of effective end-to-end system performance in a realistic ballistic flight environment marks another on-time achievement for the B61-12 Life Extension Program,” said NNSA spokesperson Brigadier General Michael Lutton.

“The successful test provides critical qualification data to validate that the baseline design meets military requirements. It reflects continued commitment to our national security and that of our allies and partners.”

The B61 series of gravity nuclear bombs are tactical weapons designed to be delivered from military jets capable of supersonic flight. They are known as gravity bombs because they are not equipped with precision guidance systems. They simply follow a ballistic trajectory under the influence of gravity once released from an aircraft.

They have served as the mainstay of the USAF’s nuclear arsenal and a vital component of the nuclear triad composed also of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) deployed from land-based silos and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

The B61-12 is the latest version of the B61 series, the “modernized version” that will replace previous B61 versions in the country’s nuclear arsenal after the production of the first unit scheduled for completion in 2020.

The administration of President Donald Trump is pursuing a program, initiated by the previous administration, to modernize the U.S. nuclear triad.

The latest news comes after the U.S. military in Afghanistan dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) on a system of tunnels operated by ISIS militants in the remote eastern province of Nangarhar in Afghanistan. Military authorities said that the incident was the first combat use of the MOAB bomb, the largest conventional bomb ever dropped by the U.S. military.

The Inquisitr reported earlier today that the Afghan authorities said the number of ISIS militants killed in Thursday’s MOAB strike has risen from the previously reported 36 to 94. According to Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesperson for the governor of Afghanistan’s remote Nangarhar province, the number of ISIS militants who died in the “Mother Of All Bombs” attack launched on Thursday was “at least 94.”

He also said that four ISIS military leaders were killed in the attack.

Brian Becker, the director of the anti-war ANSWER coalition, told RT that the U.S. military was enjoying a new freedom to test munitions they had not been able to test under the previous administration.

“In order to placate his critics, in the media and in politics, Trump has given a blank check to his generals. So they are having a grand time right now, and they are testing all the weapons they’ve been wanting to test, but not been able to,” Becker said.

[Featured Image by Joe Cavaretta/AP Images]