B-61 inert nuclear gravity bomb has passed first F-16 flight test.
On Mar. 14, an F-16 from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada, dropped a B61-12 over the Nellis Test and Training Range Complex in the first test use of the upgraded B61 with the F-16 aircraft.
The B61-12 represent the latest LEP (Life-Extention Program) upgrade to the B61 line of nuclear weapons that has already been extensively tested with the F-15E Strike Eagles of the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, back in 2015.
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 B61-12 gravity bomb ensures the current capability for the air-delivered leg of the U.S. strategic nuclear triad well into the future for both bombers and dual-capable aircraft supporting NATO,” said Paul Waugh, AFNWC’s Air-Delivered Capabilities director in a U.S. Air Force release dated Apr. 13 (more or less when the world learned about the first use of the famous MOAB in Afghanistan). The B61-12 will be compatible with the B-2A, B-21, F-15E, F-16C/D, F-16 MLU, F-35 and PA-200 aircraft.
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.
I wonder what the range of that gravity bomb is and if it’s adaptable to technology that is like the Israeli Spice 250 glide bomb with its 100 km (62 mile) range. A glide bomb an excellent way to defeat enemy air defenses. Instead of taking out one F-16, the defenders have to take out several harder-to-track glide bombs, all but one of which could be decoys.