Military

F-35A stealth fighter drops mock nuclear bomb in flight test

F-35A stealth fighter drops mo...
An F-35A Lightning II fighter dropping a B61-12 mock nuclear bomb
An F-35A Lightning II fighter dropping a B61-12 mock nuclear bomb
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An F-35A Lightning II fighter dropping a B61-12 mock nuclear bomb
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An F-35A Lightning II fighter dropping a B61-12 mock nuclear bomb

Two major US defense initiatives recently came together as a US Air Force F-35A Lightning II dropped a mock refurbished B61-12 nuclear bomb for the first time. The test, which took place over Sandia National Laboratories' Tonopah Test Range in Nevada on August 25, saw the 5th-generation fighter release the bomb from an internal bay while flying at supersonic speed.

The F-35 has been garnering a lot of attention as it moves to full deployment after almost two decades of development. Its well-known qualities of stealth, advanced sensors, supersonic speed, and network-ability make it as much a command center as a fighter plane, but it is still first and foremost a weapon system designed to deliver ordnance on target.

The recent flight test mated the F-35 with a lesser known US weapons program, the B61-12 air-launched gravity nuclear bomb. Weighing in at 825 lb (374 kg) and with an explosive yield of between 0.3 and 50 kilotons, it's the latest variant of the B61 family of bombs that was fielded in 1968. Since then, it has flown on the B-2A bomber, F-15 and F-16 fighters, and the Panavia Tornado.

However, the US stockpile of these nuclear bombs is aging and Sandia has been tasked with helping to extend their service life by 20 years while making them more secure and more reliable. Sandia provides non-nuclear component development and acts as technical integrator for the complete weapon to make sure it works on the intended platforms.

The life extension program includes 400 of the B61-12 bombs and involves refurbishment of parts, replacing fuses and batteries that are suffering from old age, adapting the bomb to new aircraft, and general technical upgrades.

Sandia says mock refurbished B61-12s have already flown on an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet in March and a B-2 Spirit bomber in July. What made the F-35A test different is that not only was the aircraft equipped with a nuclear weapon system, but it is the first time that such a bomb was carried in an internal bay on a fighter jet. Normally, the bomb is carried on the outside mounted on a hard point, but the F-35 can carry the bomb or other weapons on the inside to maintain stealth, as well as drop them while flying supersonic.

The flight demonstration was conducted in partnership with the National Nuclear Security Administration, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the US Air Force.

"This was the first test to exercise all systems, including mechanical, electrical, communication and release between the B61-12 and the F-35A,” says Steven Samuels, a manager with Sandia’s B61-12 Systems Team. "The latest test is a critical piece in the F-35A and B61-12 program Aboard the newest fighter, the B61-12 provides a strong piece of the overall nuclear deterrence strategy for our country and our allies."

The video below shows the B-61-12/F35A flight test.

B-61-12

Source: Sandia National Laboratories

12 comments
12 comments
anthony88
Such lovely music to watch the planning for the ending of so many lives on Earth. Thank you. I feel relieved knowing that humans have been able to achieve the precise and stealthy delivery of weapons of mass destruction. Who needs a cure for cancer and other diseases, free non-polluting energy sources and a reduction in global warming if most of us are starving or dead from radiation poisoning and a nuclear winter. Thank you. We truly are the greatest species to walk on Earth.
michael_dowling
anthony88 : Sadly,warfare is baked into primates. Even chimpanzees launch periodic attacks on neighboring groups of chimps.
Username
michael_dowling: If we can't help ourselves from war than at least, like the chimps, we should limit ourselves to hand combat.
Simon Redford
Apart from the appalling prospects of ANY nuclear weapons ever being used, particularly under the control of potentially idiotic, rogue and unscrupulous political leaders, the added danger of flying nuclear weapons around on aircraft is simply unacceptable. There are documented (and undocumented) accidents with aircraft carried nuclear weapons throughout their awful history which could have killed millions, contaminated vast areas of land, and could have triggered a totally catastrophic war. I’m horrified that they are doing these trials with any nuclear weapons and particularly 50+ year old technologies. Time for the current generation to wake up to the horror of nuclear armageddon and apply political pressure to condemn such weapons to the dustbin of history.
ReservoirPup
@anthony88: if a relatively good guy stops taking care of his and his friends safety, a bad guy or two won’t be shy of taking the advantage.
WB
Inspiring uplifting music as we witness a 50 kiloton nuclear weapon on the way to wipe out a few million people... I am sure all the other countries in the world now can sleep better knowing that we can sneak a nuclear weapon into their country at supersonic speed, at full stealth... I especially love how they timed the more lively part of the music with the nuclear bomb entering it's terminal phase... the high rotation spin... I am sure it must have felt great to combine the result of this creative beautiful act - the music... WITH the must destructive force we've known so far to wipe out massive amounts of human life... also very timely to release that video during Thanksgiving week... where we say thanks to god and nature and we thank them all by upping up the ante to wipe out more people faster and more stealthy than ever before. The USA spends 50% of its discretionary budget on Military. That's about 40 times more than we spend on research, education, nature and about everything else. What a worthy species we are, to celebrate Thanksgiving with more of that same insanity. We could provide free education for all, fix homelessness or climate change... instead we see massive distruction fuses with beautiful music.
Marco McClean
1. Never-ending nightmare. In fact, why don't they just name all new weapons systems --war boat, plane, rocket, submarine, poison gas, cluster-firebomb, multiverse-annihilation wormhole snap-glove, whatever-- the Nightmare? or set a cheap neural net going in their kid's school laptop to randomly generate these products and musical test videos and not make the weapons at all until one catches on on YouTube, and then shoot it at the moon on the Fourth of July. Or not make it at all and say they did. Think of the savings.

2. What happens when that F-35 has to cross the international date line without its computer rebooting and diving it into the sea? or when it has to take off in the rain at night, or idle on the runway without its engines getting frustrated and exploding in flames, or fly itself when it has suffocated its hamster in his bespoke $450,000 video helmet-egg? Or land on a brand-new $50 billion aircraft carrier designed supposedly specifically for it but that nonetheless has no place where it fits without a four-year remodel, because it never occurred to anybody involved to go out in the yard with a two-dollar tape measure?

3. I repeat: Everyone who is even a hundred-thousandaire because of war should be prosecuted for racketeering and conspiracy to mass murder, convicted if guilty, stripped of all that ill-gotten money and property, and put to work in prison until they've rehabilitated themselves.
buzzclick
Watching this bomb-release video brought a number of things to mind. One was this strange detachment humans can have. I'm sure psychologists have a name for this. It's happening half a world away. "I hope our team wins". People even see videos of some of the carnage and don't freak out much cause they seen worse in the movies and hyper-violent video games. Distraction helps the detachment. Pity that.
aki009
Love it or hate it, nuclear weapons are what prevented a seemingly inevitable military confrontation between the Soviet Union and the West during the cold war. While a lot of low order conflicts have taken place, and continue even today, including messy proxy wars between major powers, it's nukes like the B61 that have created perhaps the longest relatively peaceful period in human history.
Static
anthony88
Ditto... ;-(