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B61-12 Life Extension Program Undergoes First Full-Scale Wind Tunnel Test

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced today that its Sandia National Laboratories successfully completed the first full-scale wind tunnel test of the B61‑12 as part of the NNSA’s ongoing effort to refurbish the B61 nuclear bomb. The purpose of this test was to characterize counter torque, the interaction between the spin rocket motor plumes and tail fins, across the B61-12 flight envelope.

“As long as the United States continues to have nuclear weapons, we must ensure that they remain safe, secure and effective without the use of underground testing,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook. “This wind tunnel test helps to understand the B61-12 flight characteristics in preparation for our first three full-scale development drop tests with the Air Force at the Tonapah Test Range in 2015.”

B61-12 Life Extension Program Undergoes First Full-Scale Wind Tunnel TestSandia National Laboratories conducted the test in a transonic wind tunnel at Arnold Engineering Development Center in partnership with Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) and Boeing, St. Charles (Tailkit manufacturer). The test facility simulated numerous flight environments and the B61-12 spin rocket motors. Early review of the results suggests that the data from this test will allow for successful characterization of counter torque across the B61-12 flight envelope. Detailed data analysis is in progress.

The B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP) is now in its third year of development engineering. The scope of this LEP includes refurbishment of both nuclear and non-nuclear components to address aging, ensure extended service life, and improve safety, reliability and security of the bomb. With the incorporation of an Air Force tail kit assembly, the B61-12 will replace the existing B61-3, -4, -7, and -10 bombs. Moreover, fielding the B61-12 will enable the retirement of the B83, the last U.S. megaton class weapon, in the mid to late 2020s.

This first full-scale wind tunnel test is one of several critical milestones for the B61-12 LEP. The B61-12 LEP is an essential element of the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent and of the U.S.’s commitments to extended deterrence. Successful completion of this program will ensure the continued vitality of the air-delivered leg of the U.S. nuclear triad.

More information on the Life Extension Program is available here.

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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. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce 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.