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US tests new upgraded nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bomber

B2 bomber (U.S. Department of Defense)
July 06, 2018

The U.S. Air Force conducted a nuclear test in early June by dropping the B61-12 bomb from a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

The testing, which took place in Nevada, is part of a major nuclear project that is focused on extending the B61-12’s service life.

“The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and the U.S. Air Force completed two non-nuclear system qualification flight tests of the B61-12 gravity bomb on June 9 at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. These tests are the first such end-to-end qualification tests on a B-2A Spirit Bomber for the B61-12. The tests involved releasing a B61-12 non-nuclear test assembly, which includes the NNSA-designed bomb assembly and U.S. Air Force acquired tail-kit, from a B-2A Spirit Bomber operated by the 419th Test & Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California,” the Department of Energy said last week.

The department is satisfied with the results of the test and believes that the agency’s efforts to extend its service life are successful.

“These qualification flight tests demonstrate the B61-12 design meets system requirements and illustrate the continued progress of the B61-12 life extension program to meet national security requirements” said Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton, an official with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

The Pentagon feels that Russia’s recent aggression in Europe and in other parts of the world is a major justification for investing in enhanced nuclear bomb technology.

“Russia has demonstrated its willingness to use force to alter the map of Europe and impose its will on its neighbors, backed by implicit and explicit nuclear first-use threats,” according to the Nuclear Posture Review.

President Donald Trump is meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16. Many analysts believe that one of the topics that the pair will discuss is limiting nuclear arms.

There’s speculation that Trump will recommend renegotiating an extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is an agreement that the U.S. and Russia signed in 2010 that was meant to help expedite nuclear disarmament. Some critics of the agreement, including President Trump. believe it’s an unfair deal that benefits Russia more than the U.S.

National Security Advisor John Bolton has been a vocal opponent of the agreement, and the National Security Council isn’t currently sharing any details regarding a potential renegotiation of New START.

“We are open to discussions regarding the extension of New START but no decisions have yet been made on how to proceed,” a National Security Council spokesperson said.