US authorities confirmed the test was successful and the B61-12 gravity bomb is expected to go into production within three years.
The B61-12 gravity bombs were ‘inert’ but they were dropped from F-15E fighter jets at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada on August 8, the National Nuclear Security Administration said.
The tests were intended to check the bomb’s “non-nuclear functions and the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon.”
Despite the weapons’ nuclear capability being disabled the message to Kim Jong-un’s North Korea could not be clearer.
A statement from the NNSA said: “B61-12 gravity bombs, without a nuclear warhead, were dropped from F-15E fighter jets at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada on August 8. The tests were intended to check the bomb’s ‘non-nuclear functions and the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon.”
These tests are part of a series over the next three years to qualify the B61-12 for service. The first qualification flight test occurred in March.
The new weapon is scheduled for production in March 2020 and will replace the B61.
Military experts believe the weapon’s accuracy and variable power reduces the risk of collateral damage and potential widespread civilian casualties.
The B61-12 bomb features a tail kit from aircraft manufacturer Boeing which will enable a precision-guided trajectory.
It also has a mechanism that enables an adjustment of the explosive force – ranging from a high of 50,000 tons of TNT to a low of 300 tons – and can be delivered by stealth jet bomber.
The B61, which entered service in 1968, is currently part of the US Government’s ongoing 30-year, $1 trillion project to modernise its atomic stockpile.
Phil Calbos, acting NNSA deputy administrator for defence programmes, stated: “The B61-12 life extension program is progressing on schedule to meet national security requirements.
These realistic flight qualification tests validate the design of the B61-12 when it comes to system performance.”
The timing of the latest test comes amid heightened tensions between the US and North Korea whose latest missile launch occurred yesterday as the country sent a rocket over the north of Japan and sparking international condemnation.
Brian Becker, director of the anti-war Answer coalition told RT: “In order to placate his critics, in the media and in politics, Trump has given a blank check to his generals.
“So they are having a grand time right now, and they are testing all the weapons they’ve been wanting to test, but not been able to.”