NNSA Conducts Successful W78 JTA Flight Test

Press Release
Jul 8, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), working with the U.S. Air Force, recently conducted a successful W78 Joint Test Assembly (JTA) flight test. The joint flight testing program helps ensure the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile.

The Minuteman payload consisted of a single instrumented JTA launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. It was the first flight test incorporating a new command destruct system, Command Receiver Decoder, developed for the Minuteman program. A JTA contains a set of sensors and hardware used during flight tests to ensure that weapons perform as intended.

“JTA flight tests are essential in ensuring that all weapon systems perform as designed,” said Brig. Gen. Sandra Finan, NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application. “The working relationship between NNSA and the Department of Defense is vital as we continue our strong partnership in support of our national security.”

NNSA produces JTAs in support of the Joint Surveillance Flight Test Program between the Department of Defense and the NNSA. JTAs are built to simulate actual weapon configurations utilizing as much war reserve hardware as feasible. JTAs are assembled at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, and are not capable of nuclear yield, as they contain no special nuclear materials.

The JTA includes a telemetry system which collects and transmits data on the warhead. The data is fed into a reliability model developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories to evaluate the warhead reliability.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.