AFNWC collaborates on production of modernized nuclear bomb

  • Published
  • By Leah Bryant, AFNWC Public Affairs
  • Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration rolled out the first production unit of the B61-12 nuclear bomb at its Pantex plant in Amarillo, Texas, Nov. 23.

The B61-12 is DOE’s first major modernization program of an Air Force nuclear warhead in over 30 years and the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center here collaborated closely with NNSA on this effort in design, development, qualification, and component production.

For example, AFNWC led the development and production of Boeing’s new guided tail kit for the B61-12 and weapon integration with B-2, F-15E, F-16, PA-200 and F-35 aircraft.

In close coordination with NNSA and multiple Air Force participants, AFNWC also helped conduct an intensive test program of over 70 successful flight tests.

“The first production unit is a major milestone in the modernization of this Air Force nuclear deterrent, which plays a primary role in the NATO alliance,” said Col. Frederick Hunt, director, AFNWC air-delivered capabilities.

“As we in AFNWC know well, every nuclear weapon is the product of a partnership between the Department of Defense and Department of Energy. Achieving this major milestone for the B61-12 is a testament to that partnership and the hard work of all involved,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, AFNWC commander and Air Force program executive officer for strategic systems. “It also demonstrates how we can work together with our nuclear enterprise partners to provide 21st-century deterrent capabilities to the United States and its allies.”

According to NNSA officials, many modifications have been made to improve the B61 since it first entered service in 1968. During the B61-12 life extension program, the bomb’s components were refurbished, reused or replaced to extend its service life by at least 20 years. The B61-12 will replace three B61 models currently the U.S. nuclear stockpile (B61-3, -4, and -7). They anticipate starting its full-scale production in May 2022 and completing production in FY 2026.

“This is a critical capability needed by the warfighter that they will have soon and our adversaries are taking note,” Genatempo said.

Headquartered at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, AFNWC is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command, in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command. The center has about 1,800 military and civilian personnel at 17 locations worldwide.

 (Courtesy illustration by National Nuclear Security Administration)