The upgraded B61-12 nuclear free-fall bomb completed its third and final developmental test drop from an F-15E at Tonopah Test Range, Nev., late last month, the National Nuclear Security Administration announced. The B61 Mod 12 Life Extension Program began developmental testing in 2012, and is aimed at improving the safety, security, and reliability of the Air Force’s legacy air-dropped tactical nuclear weapon. The current B61 is the primary nuclear weapon for the B-2 bomber, and equips both the F-16 and F-15E, providing forward-deployed deterrence to allies. “Completing this guided B61-12 flight test provides additional evidence of the nation’s continued commitment to our nation’s security and that of our allies and partners,” NNSA Deputy Administrator Madelyn Creedon said in a Nov. 16 release. The B61-12 mates upgraded and refurbished B61 warheads with a new, guided tailkit assembly, and will eventually be integrated onto the F-35A as well as the next generation bomber. NNSA and the Air Force began fli?ght testing in July, and conducted the last inert test-drop on Oct. 20, paving the way for the start of production engineering work in 2016.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.