The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration will proceed with the final production qualification activities of the B61-12 Life Extension Program after completing a final design review of a new B61 variant.
The department said Friday NNSA will initiate production qualification operations of B61-12 bomb variants at its Pantex Plant within the month, then conduct phase 6.5 first production authorization in September 2019.
The final design review involved 12 military and civilian nuclear experts tasked with analyzing three years worth of B61-12 LEP electrical, mechanical, thermal and flight-testing data at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M.
The B61-12 LEP team also assessed the Pantex Plant’s operations.
The NNSA aims to replace the military's existing stock of B61 bombs with B61-12 variants to sustain the U.S. nuclear triad. The first B61-12 production unit will commence in March 2020.