The Air Force, together with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) conducted the tests in early June in Nevada, according to a press release published on Friday.
The bomb tests are a part of the “B61-12 Life Extension Program”, which aims to “refurbish, reuse, or replace all of the bomb’s nuclear and non‐nuclear components” as well as prolonging the service life of the B61 by at least 20 years.
In the “Nuclear Posture Review” published in January by the Department of Defence, the Pentagon highlighted the need of modernising its nuclear triad amid the threats coming from revisionist powers such as China and Russia.
It reads: “Russia and China are pursuing asymmetric ways and means to counter US conventional capabilities, thereby increasing the risk of miscalculation and the potential for military confrontation with the United States, its allies and partners.
„Russia has demonstrated its willingness to use force to alter the map of Europe and impose its will on its neighbours, backed by implicit and explicit nuclear first-use threats.“
Besides deploying B61-12 on modern range bombers such as the B-2A Spirit bomber, the US is also planning to make the bomb compatible with the F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation combat jets.
Once the bomb is completed, the Pentagon is planning to deploy it at military bases in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey.
Former President Barack Obama authorised the nuclear modernisation programme while in office.
Some $800 billion will be spent on maintaining tactical nuclear forces, while about $400 billion will be spent on modernising them.
The latest test in Nevada was the third in a series that will be completed over the course of the next three years.
Three successful development flight tests were conducted in 2015.
The US is planning to make the bomb compatible with the F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation comb
Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton, NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application, said: „These qualification flight tests demonstrate the B61-12 design meets system requirements and illustrate the continued progress of the B61-12 life extension program to meet national security requirements.
“The achievement is also a testament to the dedication of our workforce and the enduring partnership between NNSA and the US Air Force.”
The original B61 gravity bomb is the backbone of the Air Force’s nuclear arsenal, along with the intercontinental ballistic missiles deployed from either ground-based silos or submarines.
The B61 nuclear gravity bomb, deployed from US Air Force and NATO bases, has been in service for almost 50 years of service, „making it the oldest and most versatile weapon in the enduring US stockpile“.