The US Air Force says it has recently test-dropped an upgraded gravity nuclear bomb to see whether its aircraft can carry the deadly weapon.
The B61-12 bomb, which was the first of the upgraded B-61 variant, was dropped by an F-16 Fighting Falcon jet over the Nellis Test and Training Range Complex in Nevada, the UPI reported on Friday, citing military officials.
During the test, the bomb’s non-nuclear components, such as the arming and fire control system, radar altimeter, rocket motors and weapons control computer, as well as the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon were reviewed.
The US Air Force’s Nuclear Weapons Center (AFNWC) has been working with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration to extend the B61-12 bomb’s life. The new variant would replace four ageing versions of the B61 in the US nuclear arsenal.
“The B61-12 gravity bomb ensures the current capability for the air-delivered leg of the US strategic nuclear triad well into the future for both bombers and dual-capable aircraft supporting NATO,” said Paul Waugh, AFNWC’s Air-Delivered Capabilities director.
The bomb (pictured below) is compatible with the US Air Force’s B-2A, B-21, F-15E, F-16C/D, F-16 MLU, F-35 and PA-200 aircraft.
Boeing and two other federally funded research and development centers designed and manufactured the inert bomb used in the test.
US President Donald Trump has made it clear that he would expand America’s nuclear arsenal to ensure it is at the “top of the pack.”
The US military’s recent test came amid simmering tensions between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear tests.
Washington has threatened the North with a preemptive strike in case Pyongyang conducts its sixth test. Pyongyang detonated a purported hydrogen bomb in January 2016.
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Back in February, the US Navy test-fired four Trident ll D nuclear-capable ballistic missiles from a submarine in the Pacific Ocean.
The tests came days after North Korea announced the successful test of its long-range ballistic missile in the Sea of Japan.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced Thursday that it had dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan.