After schedule setback, B61-12 first production unit delivered

By Briana Reilly / January 11, 2022 at 10:11 AM

The first production unit of the Air Force's B61-12 has been delivered, following a schedule delay that set back the bomb's arrival by nearly two years.

The milestone, announced in late December by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, clears the way for full-scale production to kick-off in May, according to the release.

Intended to refurbish and consolidate three of the existing variants tied to the service’s B61 low-yield gravity bomb, the program in recent years encountered technical issues with non-nuclear electrical components that pushed back FPU delivery for it and the Navy’s W88 Alt 370 effort. The B61-12 FPU was originally expected to arrive in March 2020.

Those timeline changes could translate to $850 million in heightened costs for both programs, Charles Verdon, the National Nuclear Security Administration's deputy administrator for defense programs, told lawmakers in a September 2019 hearing.

The B61 bomb has logged almost 50 years of service, making it the oldest weapon in the military's nuclear stockpile. The life-extension program, which the bomb has been undergoing for more than nine years, per the release, is expected to give the weapon at least an additional 20 years.