F-15E Strike Eagle cleared to deliver nuclear bomb

Military Technology

MYSTERY WIRE — The United States Air Force recently completed a series of nuclear bomb drop tests in the remote desert northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. The tests, conducted in early March, led to the F-15E Strike Eagle being cleared to deliver the bomb.

The bomb was the B61-12 steerable nuclear weapon. During these tests the bombs were inert, meaning there was no nuclear warhead or explosives in the bomb.

According to the Sandia National Laboratories there were 2 tests near the Tonopah Test Range. Both tests were from a F-15E that took off from Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

In the first test, the bomb was released from approximately 1,000 feet above the ground by the F-15E which was flying at nearly the speed of sound, the pilot released the inert B61-12 and it struck the desert floor in the designated area about 35 seconds later.

The second test flight and drop was also from the F-15E, but at a much higher altitude. This time the pilot dropped the inert bomb from above 25,000 feet. About 55 seconds later, the mock weapon embedded in the desert soil, again within the designated area.

In the release from Sandia Labs, they write this final test demonstrated the refurbished B61-12’s compatibility with the U.S. Air Force’s F-15E Strike Eagle jet fighter. 

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. 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.”

Steven Samuels, manager with Sandia’s B61-12 System’s Team.

The B61-12 bomb is estimated at 12-feet long and weighs about 825 pounds. It can be built to be air delivered in either ballistic or guided-gravity drop modes. Along 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, according to Sandia Labs.

Tonopah Test Range airport (Photo: Gabriel Zeifman)

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