The US has carried out a second flight test of a newly upgraded nuclear free-fall bomb in five months at the Tonopah Test Range in the state of Nevada which it says is designed to “meet national security requirements.”
The test of the B61-12 bomb, which was the second of the upgraded B-61 variant, was dropped by an F-15E Fighting Falcon jet on August 8. The second qualification flight test for the nuclear weapon was completed by the US Air Force and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), with the first one having been successfully conducted in March.
“The B61-12 life extension program is progressing on schedule to meet national security requirements,” acting NNSA deputy administrator for defense programs Phil Calbos said in a statement on Tuesday.
“These realistic flight qualification tests validate the design of the B61-12 when it comes to system performance.”
According to an NNSA statement, 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 first production of the bomb is scheduled for March 2020.
The US military’s recent test came amid simmering tensions between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear tests.
The second test of the nuclear bomb could indicate that Washington is speeding up its rearmament program the editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine, Igor Korotchenko, warned.
“The fact of the test of this modification of the nuclear bomb indicates that the US continues an accelerated rearmament program of its tactical nuclear arsenal in Europe, as well as that both Washington and Brussels are considering the scenario of a limited nuclear war in Europe,” Korotchenko said.
Back in April, the US Air Force announced that it had test-dropped an upgraded gravity nuclear bomb to see whether its aircraft can carry the deadly weapon.
US President Donald Trump has called for the US to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” though he criticized former President Barack Obama administration’s costly modernization program during the election campaign.
Back in February, the US Navy test-fired four Trident ll D nuclear-capable ballistic missiles from a submarine in the Pacific Ocean.