The United States Air Force and the National Nuclear Security Administration have jointly completed the first test for a controversial update to the B61-12 nuclear bomb, which has been in use since the Cold War in the 1960s.
The B61-12 nuclear bomb that was tested was a safe version, as it did not contain a nuclear warhead. The testing occurred at the Tonopah Test Range, which is located in Nevada.
The tests are being done to achieve a longer lifespan for the nuclear bomb, with upgrades being done on some of the weapon's parts.
"This test marks a major milestone for the B61-12 Life Extension Program, demonstrating end-to-end system performance under representative delivery conditions," said Don Cook, deputy administrator for defense programs at the NNSA.
Cook added that the completion of the first flight test for the B61-12 shows the commitment of the U.S. in maintaining the nuclear weapon and providing assurance to its allies.
The B61 was previously known as the TX-61 before 1968. The weapon was designed back in 1963 in New Mexico at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The completed test is only the first among a series of three flight tests scheduled for the program to extend the life of the B61-12. The two other tests have been scheduled to be carried out later within the year.
According to the U.S. Air Force, the first test was successful in demonstrating performance during realistic flight situations, along with an efficient release of the safe version of the nuclear weapon.
The U.S. Air Force added that it was successful in collecting tracing, telemetry and video data for the test, which will provide confidence in the B61-12 and its design, along with the current state of hardware, before the weapon system goes under a review next year.
The Life Extension Program of the nuclear weapon was launched on Feb. 12, aiming to refurbish both the non-nuclear and nuclear parts of the B61-12 for the extension of the service life of the bomb while also making improvements to security, safety and reliability.
With a tail-kit assembly that the U.S. Air Force has provided, the B61-12 will be replacing the current B61-3, B61-4, B61-7 and B61-10 nuclear bombs.