US tests ‘bunker buster’ bomb which could ‘take out’ North Korea’s nuclear arsenal

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The low and high altitude tests, involving B61-12 nuclear bombs containing non-nuclear and mock nuclear components dropped by F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets, were confirmed by Sandia National Laboratories today. Both took place in March at Tonopah Test Range, about 160 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Afterwards, Bruce Bennett, a senior researcher at the RAND Corporation, indicated the so-called bunker buster offered the US additional options when it came to the Hermit State, which conducted several nuclear missile tests in 2017.

He explained: “It is probably the preferred weapon that you would use against North Korea’s nuclear underground facilities because it’s not going to generate near as much fallout.

“If you want to make sure that you’re taking out their nuclear weapon facilities, this should do it.

“And they’re going to make hundreds of this weapon, so they would have enough to take out North Korean underground facilities.”

In a press release issued by the company, Steven Samuels, a manager with Sandia’s B61-12 System’s Team, said: “Sandia National Laboratories and the Air Force conducted the full-weapon system demonstration under a full end-to-end test scenario, demonstrating operational crews, representative carriage, release conditions and weapon functionality.

“We were able to test the B61-12 through all operational phases, and we have extremely high confidence the B61-12 is compatible with the F-15E Strike Eagle.”

Mr Samuels added: “The results speak for themselves, the tests met all requirements, both in performance and safety.

“It was delivered with precision accuracy; it worked, and it worked well.

“This is a full demonstration of a B61-12 delivery on an F-15E — verifying compatibility in real pre-flight and flight environments.

“This is the real deal, minus the nuclear package.

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“This test brought together years of planning, design, analysis, test and qualification to fully demonstrate the B61-12 on the F-15E Strike Eagle.”

Brian Adkins, manager at Tonopah Test Range, said: “It was a successful test from our standpoint at the range.

“The forensic analysis of the test data is pending.

“We successfully executed the test within the parameters specified, and both jets returned home.”

The bomb is roughly 12-feet long and weighs about 825 pounds.

As well as with the F-15E, the B61-12 will be certified for the Air Force’s B-2 strategic bomber, the dual capable F-16C/D fighter and, in the future, the fifth-generation F-35 fighter, as well as allies’ aircraft.

The warhead is being developed and produced by the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is a semi-independent agency operating under the umbrella of the US Department of Energy.

Brigadier General Ty Neuman, NNSA’s principal assistant deputy administrator for military application, said: “The success of these tests is a major milestone on the path to full rate production and the B61-12’s initial operation capability on the F-15E in the coming years.

“Once delivered, this capability will underpin our nation’s deterrent and strengthen our NATO partnerships.”

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