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The National Nuclear Security Administration this week announced that Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories successfully completed the first full-system mechanical environment test of the B61-12 as part of the NNSA’s ongoing effort to refurbish the B61 nuclear bomb.
This first full-system mechanical environment test is one of several critical milestones for the B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP).
The B61-12 LEP is an essential element of the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent and of the U.S.’s commitments to extended deterrence.
“As long as the United States continues to have nuclear weapons, we must ensure that they remain safe, secure and effective without the use of underground nuclear explosive testing,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook. “The first full-system mechanical environmental test of the B61-12 is a significant achievement and gives us confidence in our ability to move forward with our efforts to increase the safety and security of the bomb.”
The B61-12 LEP is now in its second year of development engineering.
The scope of this LEP includes refurbishment of both nuclear and non-nuclear components to address aging, ensure extended service life and improve security and reliability of the bomb.
This test begins a series of system-level environment tests to certify the B61-12 against normal and abnormal (accident) environments. As an early test, it provides data for analytical model correlation and validation, insight into component environments and evaluation of developmental hardware.
The mechanical environment test series will assist in qualifying the final B61-12 design against the full suite of environments.
The tests utilized facilities and equipment improved through the Test Capability Revitalization Phase II construction project at Sandia National Laboratories, completed on schedule and on budget in 2014.
This is also the first test of the integrated component and sub-system hardware, including the Tail Kit Assembly provided by the U.S. Air Force, of the B61-12 test unit.
The test series included subassembly and system-level mass properties measurements, as well as shock and vibration testing.
With the incorporation of an Air Force Tail Kit Assembly, the B61-12 will replace the existing B61-3, -4, -7 and -10 bombs.
Moreover, fielding the B61-12 enables the retirement of the B83, the last U.S. megaton class weapon, in the mid-to-late 2020s.