WASHINGTON — The National Nuclear Security Administration has authorized the B61-12 warhead life-extension program to enter the production-engineering phase.
The decision marks the final development phase prior to actual production. The NNSA says the first production unit of the weapon is planned for fiscal year 2020.
“Reaching this next phase of the B61-12 LEP is a major achievement for NNSA and the exceptionally talented scientists and engineers whose work underpins this vital national security mission,” NNSA head retired Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz said in a statement. “Currently, the B61 contains the oldest components in the US arsenal. This LEP will add at least an additional 20 years to the life of the system.”
The announcement marks another major step in the Obama administration’s overarching plan to modernize the nuclear force, which Pentagon officials have warned could cost $350-$450 billion over the next decade.
On July 29, the Air Force released requests for proposals for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), which replaces the 1960s-era Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the Long Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon, which will replace the AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile.
It also comes at a time when members of Congress have begun raising serious questions about the modernization plan, in particular over the need for the LRSO.
Full article: US Nuclear Bomb Is Cleared For Production Engineering (DefenseNews)