The US Air Force has tested the B61-12 nuclear bomb by dropping a dud from a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber over Nevada, as part of an ambitious project to extend the service life of the bomb, introduced in 1968, by another 20 years.
The Pentagon is currently in the middle of the $7.6 billion ‘B61-12 Life Extension Program’, which aims to “refurbish, reuse, or replace all of the bomb’s nuclear and non‐nuclear components” and extend the service life of the B61 by at least 20 years. The “first production unit” is scheduled for completion in 2020.
Different versions of the B-61 nuclear gravity bomb have been deployed across the US and NATO bases for five decades. While, over the years, the Pentagon produced numerous modifications to the deadly weapon, B61 variants of 3, 4, 7, and 11 remain in service.