Only USAF Making F-35 Dual-Capable

The US Air Force is the only F-35 user with a requirement that the jet be able to carry nuclear weapons, but that capability won’t be available until the mid-2020s, Program Director Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said. USAF’s dual-capable requirement is “unique,” Bogdan said in a planeside interview with Air Force Magazine at JB Andrews, Md., on Sept. 18, where the F-35 was being readied for display at an airshow. The delaying factor isn’t the jet, however, but the weapon, he noted. The updated B61 tactical nuclear weapon “is not fully developed yet, and won’t be … until the ’20s,” Bogdan said. “So we don’t see the marrying-up of our capability and that weapon until probably the mid-’20s, but it’s going to happen.” Bogdan said that B61 “shapes” were tested on F-35As “this summer” to provide testers with data on “the weapons bay … the environment, … heating, vibration,” and other factors. Testers are now using that information “to make sure it’s right,” he added. The Department of Energy is building the weapon itself and the Air Force is building the bomb’s tailkit. (See also Nuclear Lightning.)