In November 2022, the U.S. Air Pressure up to date its security guidelines for airlift of nuclear weapons to permit the C-17A Globemaster III plane to move the brand new B61-12 nuclear bomb. The 62nd Airlift Wing C-17As at Joint Base Lewis-McChord function the Prime Nuclear Airlift Pressure (PNAF), the one airlift wing that’s licensed to move the Air Pressure’s nuclear warheads. The Federation of American Scientists reported that accompanied by coaching and certification of the plane and crews, cleared the C-17A to move the latest U.S. nuclear weapon to bases in the US and Europe. The up to date Air Pressure instruction doesn’t, as inaccurately instructed by some, nevertheless it paperwork a number of the preparations wanted to take action.

The B61-12 guided nuclear bomb being taken for a flight check on the Nevada Check and Coaching Vary. (Photograph by SSgt. Cody Griffith/U.S. Air Pressure)

Politico reported in October final yr that the US has accelerated the fielding of a extra correct model of its mainstay nuclear bomb to NATO bases in Europe. The arrival of the upgraded B61-12 air-dropped gravity bomb, initially slated for subsequent spring, is now deliberate for this December. The transfer, which includes changing older weapons with the newer model at numerous storage amenities in Europe for potential use by U.S. and allied bombers and fighter jets, comes amid heightened tensions over Russia’s threats to make use of a nuclear weapon in Ukraine and rising issues that the West must do extra to discourage Moscow from crossing that line. The upgrades to the B61 program have been overtly mentioned in funds paperwork and public statements for years.


The B61-12 consolidates and replaces four older versions in the nation's nuclear arsenal. It's outfitted with a new tail-kit assembly and other hardware.
The B61-12 consolidates and replaces 4 older variations within the nation’s nuclear arsenal. It’s outfitted with a brand new tail-kit meeting and different {hardware}. (Photograph by Sandia)

The B61 is a household of nuclear bombs first developed within the early Nineteen Sixties and initially demonstrated in underground nuclear exams in Nevada. It’s a low to intermediate-yield strategic and tactical nuclear weapon that includes a two-stage radiation implosion design. The B61 is of the variable yield design with a yield of 0.3 to 340 kilotons in its numerous mods. It’s a Full Fuzing Choice (FUFO) weapon, which means it’s outfitted with the complete vary of fuzing and supply choices, together with air and floor burst fuzing, and free-fall, retarded free-fall and laydown supply. It has a streamlined casing able to withstanding supersonic flight and is 11 ft 8 in (3.56 m) lengthy, with a diameter of about 13 inches (33 cm). Primary weight is about 700 kilos (320 kg), though the weights of particular person weapons could differ relying on model and fuze/retardation configuration.

Flight Tests Demo B61-12 Compatibility with F-35A Fighter Jet
A F-35A Joint Strike Fighter opens its bomb bay doorways and drops a mock B61-12 at Sandia’s Tonopah Check Vary. (Photograph by Sandia)

The 62nd Airlift Wing, typically written as 62d Airlift Wing, (62 AW) is a wing of the US Air Pressure stationed at Joint Base Lewis–McChord, Washington. The 62nd AW is joined by its Reserve accomplice, the 446th Airlift Wing. Collectively, they fly 40 C-17 Globemaster IIIs to supply fight airlift for U.S. Armed Forces. It’s assigned to the Eighteenth Air Pressure of Air Mobility Command and is energetic obligation host wing on McChord. The wing consists of greater than 2,200 energetic obligation army and civilian personnel. It’s tasked with supporting worldwide fight and humanitarian airlift contingencies. The McDonnell Douglas/Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a big army transport plane that was developed for the US Air Pressure (USAF) from the Nineteen Eighties to the early Nineteen Nineties by McDonnell Douglas. Boeing, which merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, continued to fabricate the C-17 for nearly 20 years. The ultimate C-17 was accomplished on the Lengthy Seashore, California plant and flown on 29 November 2015.

Flight Tests Show B61-12 Nuclear Gravity Bomb Compatible with F-15E Strike Eagle
Flight exams present B61-12 Nuclear Gravity Bomb Appropriate with F-15E Strike Eagle at Sandia’s Tonopah Check Vary. (Photograph by Sandia)

The $10 billion B61-12 Life Extension Program is managed by the U.S. Division of Power and is supposed to switch a number of earlier variations, together with about 100 bombs saved at air bases in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey. The brand new model can also be designed in order that U.S. and allied bomber planes and fighter plane — together with B-2 and B-21 bombers and F-15, F-16, F-35 and Twister fighter jets — are all capable of carry the weapon, versus the a number of older variations of the B61 which were in storage for years. The upgrades are all within the non-nuclear points of the unguided bomb’s design, and contain eradicating a parachute and putting in a brand new tail package and different enhancements for “considerably larger accuracy. The U.S. Air Pressure carried out flight exams of the brand new bomb design on the F-35A in October 2021 and licensed it on the F-15E in 2020. However the Pentagon reported in February that it deliberate to “full nuclear design certification of the B61-12 with the F-35A earlier than January 2023

US Air Force approves production of B-61-12 Nuclear bomb tail-fin kits
US Air Pressure approves manufacturing of B-61-12 Nuclear bomb tail-fin kits. (Photograph by Sandia)