The U.S. Air Force has successfully tested a B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb for the third time in the Nevada desert, thereby making the world a little less safe.
A gravity bomb is a thermonuclear weapon that does not contain a guidance system. Its course is a non-linear ballistic trajectory. All aircraft bombs were gravity bombs until the latter half of the Second World War. The B61 nuclear gravity bomb is one of the primary nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal and has been dubbed as America’s “most dangerous” bomb.
“What makes the B61-12 bomb the most dangerous nuclear weapon in America’s arsenal is its usability. This usability derives from a combination of its accuracy and low-yield,” Zachary Keck of The National Interests told sources.
The military plans to replace existing B61-3, -4, -7 and -10 bombs with the B61-12. Approximately $8 billion has been spent on the weapon to make its aim more accurate. And if we are to believe former U.S. Strategic Command chief Gen. James Cartwright, it might actually be used.
B61-12 more likely to be deployed than former thermonuclear bombs
The most recent test took place at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. Although B61-12 is a gravity bomb, it did not harbor “highly enriched uranium or plutonium,” according to a press release. After the test was completed, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Deputy Administrator Madelyn Creedom claimed the launch “provides additional evidence of the nation’s continued commitment to our nation’s security and that of our allies and partners.”
“This demonstration of effective end-to-end system performance under representative delivery conditions marks another 2015 achievement in the development of the B61-12 Life Extension Program,” she added.
An F-15E warplane dropped the bomb from a Nellis Air Force base. The launch “demonstrated successful performance in a realistic guided flight environment. All scheduled activities occurred successfully and telemetry and video data were properly collected,” the press release continued.
Researchers first tested the bomb in July. October’s launch was the last of the three tests. Officials executed the bomb as part of a B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP), which is intended to repair and replace current U.S. nuclear weapons “to ensure the ability to meet military requirements.”
Anti-nuclear weapons advocates have criticized the B61-12 on the grounds that U.S. officials concealed the fact that they assembled a new bomb. The Obama administration promised not to build new nuclear bombs, and the creation of the B61-12 violated that promise.
Furthermore, the expensive upgrade has been denounced by critics because the B61 has no place in the modern-day U.S. or NATO nuclear doctrine. One of the upgrades enables the bomb to more accurately hit its target, which could increase the risk of its use.
A shifting attitude towards the use of nuclear weapons
It’s never wise to make a nuclear bomb more usable; nevertheless, the U.S. military seems to view B61-12 in a positive light. According to former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz, “Without a doubt. Improved accuracy and lower yield is a desired military capability. Without a question.”
A recent biography of George W. Bush reveals that former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney ordered Collin Powell to determine how many nuclear weapons would be necessary to decimate an armored division of Suddam Hussein’s Republic Guard. The biography highlights that Powell expressed discomfort with the order, but did it anyway.
Nuclear weapons were never intended to be used because of the colossal, long-term damage they would unleash upon the world. Upgrading and building these bombs to be more usable only increases the risk that they will, indeed, be used in the near future. Furthermore, the thought of having these weapons in existence would definitely make the world a more dangerous place to live in. Although B61-12 isn’t the first nuclear weapon of its kind, its creation reflects a shifting tendency towards the use of nuclear weapons in warfare.