Unique photographs show U.S. F-15E carrying B61 JTA mock nuclear bombs during tests at Nellis AFB

Image credit: Eric Bowen

You don’t happen to see an aircraft carrying two dummy nuclear bombs very often.

As we reported in July 2015, the U.S. Air Force is conducting a series of test drops, in Nevada, of the latest LEP (Life-Extention Program) upgrade to the B61 line of nuclear weapons: the B61-12.

These tests involve F-15E Strike Eagles of the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, as shown in the accompanying photos taken in the early morning hours of Oct. 20, 2015, by The Aviationist‘s contributor Eric Bowen.

F-15E nuke take off
As you can see the F-15E carries two bright orange B61-12 Joint Test Assemblies (JTA) as it is leaving Nellis AFB: noteworthy, the two devices are not quite identical to one another both in overall color pattern, and more interestingly, the tips of each JTA appears to be different.

As Bowen reported in an email to The Aviationist, the Strike Eagle and its unarmed chase plane returned to Nellis AFB approximately 2 hours later with only 1 of the dummy bombs still on board.

F-15E nuke landing
The Life Extension Program or LEP, will replace the B61 -3, -4, -7, and -10 mods, with the -12 that, along with the B83, will become the only remaining gravity delivered nukes in the inventory.

The LEP increases the B61’s accuracy so much that it will have the same capability against hardened targets as the much more powerful weapons it is replacing.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.