The U.S. Air Force and the National Nuclear Security Administration have evaluated the non-nuclear functions of a gravity bomb during a qualification flight test held at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.
NNSA said Thursday the service branch dropped the B61-12 non-nuclear test assembly from an F-16 aircraft as part of the test to assess the multi-role fighter aircraft’s capacity to transport and deploy the weapon.
Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton, principal assistant deputy administrator for military application at NNSA, said the demonstration offers qualification data that can help validate the baseline design of the B61-12 gravity bomb and evaluate the system’s compliance with military requirements.
“It reflects the nation’s continued commitment to our national security and that of our allies and partners,” Lutton added.
B61-12 is built to consolidate and replace four B61 variants in the country’s nuclear arsenal and NNSA noted that the first production unit is slated to be operational in March 2020.
Boeing designed the tail-kit assembly section of the B61-12 as part of a contract with the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center while the Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories developed hardware that was used in the flight test.