The Department of Energy`s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) announced that they recently formally authorized the production engineering phase of its B61-12 warhead life extension program (LEP).
This important milestone comes after four years of work in the development-engineering phase of the program, and marks the final development phase prior to production. The first production unit (FPU) of this weapon is planned for Fiscal Year 2020, followed by full-scale production, according to NNSA`s press release.
”Reaching this next phase of the B61-12 LEP is a major achievement for NNSA and the exceptionally talented scientists and engineers whose work underpins this vital national security mission,” said NNSA Administrator Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz (Ret.). ”Currently, the B61 contains the oldest components in the U.S. arsenal. This LEP will add at least an additional 20 years to the life of the system.”
The B61-12 LEP is a joint NNSA and United States Air Force (USAF) program that preserves a critical element of the U.S. nuclear triad and the extended deterrent. The LEP refurbishes both nuclear and non-nuclear components to extend the bomb`s service life while improving its safety, security, and reliability to meet long standing material requirements. The LEP will reuse or remanufacture existing components to the maximum extent possible. The B61-12 will replace the existing B61-3, -4, -7, and -10 bombs.
”These life extension programs directly support President Obama`s directive to maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent, while reducing the size of the stockpile,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. ”Once completed, the B61-12 LEP will allow for the retirement of the B83-1 — the last megaton-class weapon in America`s nuclear arsenal — while supporting the nation`s continued commitment to our national security and that of our allies and partners.”
The B61-12 LEP is conducted by Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M.; Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. and Livermore, Calif.; and the nuclear security enterprise production plants, including the Kansas City National Security Campus in Missouri; the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas; the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina; and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The B61-12 includes a USAF provided tail-kit assembly section, designed by Boeing Company under contract to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.