The F-15E Strike Eagle is said to have been the first fighter aircraft to be certified for the future standard US atomic bomb, the B61-12. After two final tests, in which non-explosive bombs of the new type were dropped from a height of 300 and more than 7,200 meters at just below the speed of sound and hit the target 35 and 55 seconds later, the F-15E 4besnews should be reported by media earlier this week I received approval for the new bomb.
The National Nuclear Security Administration responsible for the development of the bomb was more cautious. It operated the successful test flights, which, according to the Sandia National Laboratory, represent an important intermediate step on the way to achieving initial operational readiness (IOC), but at the same time announced that the completion of the first B61-12 (FPU), which is the prerequisite for the entry into series production is delayed by three years. It was initially planned for 2019, then for 2020. It should now take place in the 2022 budget year.
The B61-12 is intended to replace the nuclear free-fall bombs of the types B61-3, -4, -7 and -10 with a uniform, F9news more modern design. This has a movable tail unit with which the weapon can be used much more accurately in future than previous versions. This allows the available explosive power options of the modernized weapons to be reduced. As with the B61-4, the B61-12 should be able to choose between an explosive force of 0.3 kilotons (KT), 1.5 KT, 10 KT or 50 KT. Larger options of 170 or 340KT that were previously available can no longer be used due to the greater accuracy. In addition, the weapon can penetrate the ground before the explosion and is therefore better suited for use against many bunkered targets.
However, the series production of the new bomb has not yet started. Last year it also became apparent that an installed electronic part might not last for the entire life of the new bomb version and therefore a more durable replacement must be developed before series production. This leads to a delay of about 2 years and to additional costs in the three-digit million range. By contrast, the tail stabilizers developed separately by the US Air Force are already in series production. A total of 890 tail units were ordered for test purposes, training and use. Their number is about twice as large as the estimated number of B61-12 to be produced.
In the future, more aircraft types are to be approved for the new bomb type. These include the F16 Fighting Falcon, the Panavia PA 200 Tornado, the B2 bomber and a not yet built nuclear version of the F-35A Lightning II, i.e. the Joint Strike Fighter. Their test program for integration with the bomb is under development. The F-18 F Super Hornet will also receive approval for the new bomb if the German Air Force actually buys this type of aircraft. The planned new US bomber, the B-21, was also on the list of aircraft to be approved for a long time, but was no longer regularly mentioned.
The types F-15E, B-2 and F-35A should be able to use the B61-12 as a guided weapon, the F16 and the Tornado only as a ballistic weapon. There is no official information available for the F-18F. It is believed, however, that the B61-12 can also be used as a guided weapon.