An interesting audio let’s you listen to a Spirit Bomber as it dropped a dummy B61-12 last year.
Last year, the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) carried out two non-nuclear system qualification flight tests of the B61-12 gravity bomb,
The tests, completed on June 9, 2018, at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, were part of 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 (in 2015) and F-16 of the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron (in 2017).
The Life Extension Program or 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: will replace the B61 -3, -4, -7, and -10 mods. Along with the B83, the B61-12 will become the only remaining gravity delivered nukes in the USAF inventory.
Dealing with the B-2 test, here’s what the NNSA site said last year:
The tests involved releasing a B61-12 non-nuclear test assembly, which includes the NNSA designed bomb assembly and U.S. Air Force acquired tail-kit, from a B-2A Spirit Bomber operated by the 419th Test & Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California. These tests are the first such end-to-end qualification tests on a B-2A Spirit Bomber for the B61-12.
The tests are part of a series of joint tests to demonstrate both the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon and the weapon’s non-nuclear functions. The flight test included hardware designed by Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory and manufactured by the Nuclear Security Enterprise plants. The tail-kit assembly section was designed by the Boeing Company under contract with the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.
The LEP’s first system qualification drop test was conducted in March 2017 under the oversight of the Nuclear Weapons Council, a joint Department of Defense and DOE/NNSA organization established to facilitate cooperation and coordination in the management of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
The B61-12 LEP will consolidate and replace the existing B61 bomb variants in the Nation’s nuclear stockpile. The first production unit is on schedule for completion in fiscal year 2020.
The footage below, published by the popular Youtube channel 8081rt, was recorded during one of those B-2 tests.
Here’s what the author says about the video:
“This shows a very shortened audio clip of a B-2 working one of the Nellis ranges on a very early June morning around 6AM, call signs used by the B-2 during the event were TORCH and MUSTANG. This was a test drop of an upgraded nuke, so only a dummy round was released. The first clip shows a B-52 orbiting from the previous day, threw it in there to extend the video a bit. The second short video is of the B-2 in high orbit during the event, from there, I took a freeze frame and just used the audio since there wasn’t much more video we got of it, considering it was extremely high and far away. This event actually made national news sometime last year, though, my timing on releasing the audio is obviously delayed. If you listen closely, you can make out the type of Bomb about to be release, a B61-12(nuclear bomb), then a 60 second count down (shortened for the video), doors opening, and finally “bombs away”.
Indeed, you clearly hear the pilot declaring the type of bomb. This is pretty standard when bombers, including tactical ones, engage a firing range to drop either inert or live bombs as part of training or testing activity. As a side note, combat planes involved in CAS (Close Air Support) with or without TIC (Troops In Contact), talking to a FAC/JTAC (Forward Air Controller/Joint Terminal Attack Controller), declare on the radio the number and type of weapons they can expend during the mission.
Back to the B-2, it’s always interesting hearing how Spirits talk on the radio as radio comms may provide a hint at their operational procedures and tactics. You may remember that night in October 2017, when one of our readers recorded a B-2 as it radioed a message about a “possible DPRK leadership relocation site” whose coordinates pointed to a hangar located at the Jefferson City airport. If you have not read that story, click here.