NNSA reaches B61-12 Life Extension Program milestone. Courtesy/NNSA
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and United States Air Force completed eight successful B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP) Vibration Fly Around/ Instrumented Measurement Vehicle (VFA/IMV) tests at Eglin Air Force Base and Edwards Air Force Base during July to December 2014.
The VFA/IMV test series collected and verified flight environment data for the B61-12 LEP.
“These tests are a major achievement for the B61-12 LEP to evaluate flight environments,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Dr. Don Cook. “This achievement within the B61-12 Life Extension Program is an important milestone that demonstrates the nation’s commitment to maintain the B61 and provides assurance to our allies.”
The flight test assets consisted of hardware designed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories, mated to the tail-kit assembly IMV section, designed by Boeing St Charles under contract with Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. This series is the first of many flight tests for the B61-12 LEP. The testing is a key building block between on-going system ground testing and the first development flight test drop scheduled in Fiscal Year 2015.
The B61-12 LEP entered Development Engineering in February 2012 and is overseen by the Nuclear Weapons Council, a joint Department of Defense and Department of Energy/NNSA organization established to facilitate cooperation and coordination between the two departments as they fulfill their dual agency responsibilities for U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile management. The B61-12 LEP is a joint U.S. Air Force and NNSA program that preserves a critical element of the U.S. Nuclear Triad and demonstrates continued support for extended deterrence and assurance commitments.
The scope of this LEP includes refurbishment of both nuclear and non-nuclear components to address aging, ensure extended service life and improve safety, reliability and security of the bomb. With the incorporation of an Air Force tail-kit assembly, the design will also enable consolidation and replacement of the existing B61-3, -4, -7, and -10 bombs by the B61-12 bomb. The LEP will reuse or remanufacture existing components to the extent possible.