Two F-35A Lightning aircraft recently released dummy B61-12 nuclear bombs during the F-35A’s first ‘Full Weapon System Demonstration’, completing the final flight test exercise of the nuclear design certification process.

“Once airborne, test pilots flew to the Tonopah Test Range and released two B61-12 JTAs from operationally realistic flight envelopes. This event was the first release of the most representative B61-12 test asset from an operationally-representative F-35A.”

The U.S. Air Force say in a news release that the 422d and 59th Test and Evaluation Squadrons led Air Combat Command’s portion of the test effort, with Airmen from the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 926th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and Bolt Aircraft Maintenance Unit leading all maintenance efforts.

“The B61 series weapons are tactical gravity nuclear weapons that can be used on Dual Capable Aircraft like the F-15E and F-16C/D,” said Lt. Col Daniel Jackson, division chief, Headquarters ACC Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration.

“Having a 5th Generation DCA fighter aircraft with this capability brings an entirely new strategic-level capability that strengthens our nation’s nuclear deterrence mission.”

The nuclear certification is broken into two phases: nuclear design certification and nuclear operational certification. This test is considered the graduation flight test exercise for the F-35A nuclear design certification and concludes on-aircraft testing for the initial nuclear certification effort. The test data received from this event is currently under analysis and review by the Department of Defense and Department of Energy to ensure the F-35A and B61-12s performed correctly throughout all phases of the operation.

“The B-2 bomber was the prominent nuclear capable stealth aircraft,” said Jackson.

“Adding ‘nuclear capable’ to a 5th-Gen fighter that already brings several conventional-level capabilities to the table adds strategic-level implication to this jet.”

The U.S. Air Force stressed that no date has been released for full F-35A nuclear certification in support of real-world operations.

“The successful completion of this test covers a critical part of the nuclear certification process and ensures the F-35A will remain on track for future timelines. Not all aircraft will become nuclear-capable upon full certification in support of real-world operations. Only those units with a nuclear mission will be given the hardware and manpower necessary to configure and maintain nuclear capable F-35s.”

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Jay R
Jay R
6 days ago

How many, if any, B61s are in the UK I wonder? Not that anybody would know this.

RAB
RAB
6 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

Just enough for the B2’s

Talon
Talon
6 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

None – Since 2006 the US hasn’t based any of their nuclear weapons in the UK. US nuclear forces in Europe are based in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey, but not the UK.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

None. They were withdrawn from Lakenheath and not heard they’d been reintroduced.

I’m not aware of any SSA at Fairford, as no aircraft are based there.

Welford stores non nuclear bombs.

Reaper
Reaper
6 days ago

Would we know even if they were? And I thought we didn’t allow yank Nukes to be stored in UK.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

They were at Lakenheath. Withdrawn 2009 time I recall? Look at any SSA ( Special Storage Area ) at RAF stations or USAF bases. SSA are the higher security storage areas for nukes. Double or even triple fenced, lit throughout, dead zoned, cameras on every pole, you’ll soon deduce if they’re occupied with weapons.

RAF ones are all mostly Cold War relics now but some are occasionally used for Trident warheads.

Google Earth is your friend for this. It’s surprising what you can find regards high security locations within bases if you know where to look.

Reaper
Reaper
5 days ago

They also have to have manned watch towers too.

Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

That was true of the now defunct RAF Bentwaters no wonder why the Aliens were interested in the early 80ts Rendlesham mysterious Lights seen on different nights, Or the Lighrhouse beam , But yes Reaper armed guards in towers

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

If it was the lighthouse beam, which has been there for hundreds of years, then why is it not seen every night?

And how did the beam make indentations in the ground, fly around sky and trees, land, and cause the base commander, Col Charles Holt, to document what he and his men were seeing on cassette tape?

Mad? Hallucinating? So why then does he get promoted and posted to a GLCM site in Italy?

The official MoD response, which came out via the US FOIA, not ours – “no defence significance”

Total bull.

Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago

Sorry I Only put that in as a side dit so one would Know where Bentwaters was and that it had held Nuclear weapons triple fencing and watchtowers I’m no Nick Pope MOD UFO investigater of the 80ts anything like the Rendlesham mystery ,so to me it will remain a mystery I’m not one too believe or disbelieve but thanks for your in depth response Daniele

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

That’s Ok! Don’t apologise, I was only expanding. That is another, somewhat controversial, interest of mine.

Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago

I take it you like The Blaze channel on chl 164 I sometimes take a peek at the programmes it shows Daniele

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

No, never seen it. I was a ufologist in the 90s. Nowadays our military is my main interest.

Reaper
Reaper
6 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

I wonder where they are kept in Europe.

simon
simon
6 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

Maybe for NATO joint custody nuclear weapons ?

Ian M
Ian M
6 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

From Wikipedia: “About 150 bombs are stored at six bases: Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel Air Base in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi Air Base in Italy, Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands and Incirlik in Turkey.”

Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago
Reply to  Ian M

No need , for deep cover spying just type in Wikipedia and the world’s your oyster Cheers Ian

John Hartley
John Hartley
4 days ago
Reply to  Ian M

The US storing nuclear bombs in Turkey does seem to come in the “unwise” category.

JohninMK
JohninMK
6 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

Approx 150 B-61 across Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi-Torre in Italy, Volkel in The Netherlands and believed to still be at Incirlik in Turkey but that is uncertain.

Reaper
Reaper
5 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

That must Cost a fortune just to secure…

Meirion x
Meirion x
5 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

Thanks for that info, I didn’t know about Ghedi-Torre in Italy.

Airborne
Airborne
5 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

Late 90s on my ILRRP recce course ended up watching Buchel for an extended period of time, from a cold, wet miserable hide, which eventually got bumped (with the help of our instructors giving us away) to the already aware we are “somewhere nearby” base area patrols…..ah the good old days lol

Ian M
Ian M
5 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

The US kept Nuclear weapons at Sennelager in the 80’s, we used to have to do guard duty there. The compound was very close to the parachute club DZ as I recall and as a student jumper we were warned about drifting off!

Tommo
Tommo
6 days ago

I take it that pilot survivability is also factored into the Flight plan if not , is it a case Rock, Paper,scissors, spock. For squadron pilots ?

Reaper
Reaper
6 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Like the Russian tsar bomb, it was questionable if the plane dropping it would even make it out…it did.

Tommo
Tommo
6 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

Wasn’t that filmed by the Soviets as well

Reaper
Reaper
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Yeah, great footage. There’s also a documentary where Russia used a nuke to stop a huge underground gas leak lol

Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

And sent the bill too SSE because I don’t remember using that much Gas on Hot water LOL

Dave Wolfy
Dave Wolfy
6 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

They did nobble it to half power.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago
Reply to  Dave Wolfy

Is that so?? Good Lord. It was 50Mt as it was. A pointless weapon at that power.

Reaper
Reaper
5 days ago

The soviet leaders originaly wanted it twice as powerfull but the experts said it would cause too much atmospheric damage ect lol.

Reaper
Reaper
6 days ago

Does the UK have anything capable of droping these bombs now?

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
6 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

Britain’s nuclear deterrent is purely in the hands of the RN with our four Vanguard class nuclear subs.

Jay R
Jay R
6 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

The last UK nuclear strike aircraft was the Tornado, with the WE177, withdrawn in 1998 I believe. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the UK reintroduced an airborne nuclear strike capability in the not to distant future, in line with NATO requirements. Maybe based on the F35B with B61 – with the B61s based on the carriers. Let’s face it Nuclear proliferation is going to continue and conflict where such weapons are used is inevitable. Deterrence is no longer enough to deter. To a country like Russia or China a limited Nuclear strike against a Nato carrier battle… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
6 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

Jay and your suggestion of Carriers carry Nukes up until the early 90ts Carriers carried NDCs in the deep mag , Hms Illustrious was asked to leave Grand harbour Malta after their government was made aware that She was carry Nuclear weapons, when ever a Carrier deployed marines would be embarked as Sercurity if Nukes were to be reintroduced too Carriers not many ports would welcome their presents

Tommo
Tommo
6 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Typo Presence not predictive txt presents

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
6 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Every RN vessel , FF and DD was capable of carrying. However the only vessels designated for permanent as opposed to time of tension carriage , where the CVS, T22 and some RFAs. It was a pain in the butt when you carried a bucket of sunshine. 2 man rules, restricted access to areas, all of the certification to work with the things, where to stow all of the test equipment and prep gear. As a back endy I was overjoyed when they where withdrawn. At least then I could use the armoured dog kennel weapon stowage’s to keep the… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
6 days ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Curtain down ,what are you up too over your side . If I told you I’d have to kill you Bessie oppo

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Broadsword and Brilliant in the SA in 82 I believe? Plus the carriers.
Weren’t some removed onto RFAs in the Gib area?

Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago

My First Draft ,Hermes 76 bomb lifts we did have an incident down in the deep mag in of all places Malta , bought under control Faulty Alarm but boy did protocols come into action, PDQ

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

The WE177 NDB had the option for it to be fission boosted so it had a bottle of rather expensive tritium in it for injecting into the pit during detonation. With the tritium going in then you got a big bang… With no tritium going in it was a smaller bang. In effect it was a dial-able yeild weapon which was selected prior to flight. The same weapon could also have its use selected for either sub surface, surface or air burst. 1 weapon… 3 uses. If the tritium leaked then that set off the alarms so the mag needed… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

What was stated at the time Gunbuster was a faulty Alarm maybe it was maybe it wasn’t One can only guess Protocols were in place if your name wasn’t on the List then you informed I just operated lifts not deep lift clearence

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
5 days ago

One of those T22s is an old ship from that time… And I cannot possibly comment…

Last edited 5 days ago by Gunbuster
Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago

Battleaxe, Daniale 82

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Right.

OldSchool
OldSchool
6 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

And China in the SCS isn’t poking its nose into others backyards?
Based on what exactly – an old map of a 1492 expedition or such. Presumably the 1492 fleet also went to Antarctica as the Chinese base there was set up on Australian Antarctic Territory without any permission by the Australia Govt. Alternative reality at work here I feel.

Douglas Newell
Douglas Newell
5 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

Wasn’t Storm Shadow originally planned for a stand-off nuclear role in the 90’s? While we don’t have warheads for them (apparently), I wonder if they could be assembled and placed on Storm Shadow quickly in a crisis. It would explain the large inventory of missiles.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
6 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

Currently, the F-35 B would need modifications to the Bombay to fit the bomb internally. The USMC F-35Bs will not receive theirs until the Block 4 software upgrade has been finalised and installed from memory. From the horse’s mouth. March 2021 “We found the F-35 program is now 3 years into Block 4 modernization development and the program continues to experience cost increases and schedule expansion. Costs continued to rise during 2020 due to delays in schedule and challenges in developing certain technologies, among other things. In 2020, the program added a year to its Block 4 schedule and now… Read more »

Last edited 6 days ago by Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
6 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

Lessons learned?

UK reveals Pyramid programme to rapidly reconfigure software across multiple aircraft types
04 OCTOBER 2021

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/air-platforms/latest/uk-reveals-pyramid-programme-to-rapidly-reconfigure-software-across-multiple-aircraft-types

Last edited 6 days ago by Nigel Collins
DaveyB
DaveyB
5 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

I am surprised that the US qualified the F35, it is after all a single seater. Both the UK and the US had legislation in place which required a minimum of two crew members, to prevent the rogue agent scenario. It would be interesting to see how the US have resolved that issue?

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
5 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

A very valid point. I’m guessing Stealth and to serve as a warning to China. The B21 will most probably be the first-strike option in the future?

It would be interesting as you say to find out why it has changed from two to one.

“Tensions with China are at their worst in 40 years, Taiwan’s defence minister has said, warning of the risk of an accidental strike between the two.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-58812100

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
5 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

You might find this link interesting.

https://nuke.fas.org/cochran/nuc_84000001e_01.pdf

DaveyB
DaveyB
5 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

Thinking back, the SHAR was nuclear qualified, so we must have also had the exception to the rule?

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
5 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Permissive action links are in use on US Weapons.

Delabatte
Delabatte
6 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

I can’t find the purpose of these bombs. Gravity way is not fit for strategic payload. And can someone confirm me that the F35 can bring this on internal bay? Because with external bay it will not be stealth anymore..
Air to ground missiles are by far better designed for this purpose..

Chris
Chris
5 days ago
Reply to  Delabatte

Bunker busting. No better way to do it.

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 days ago

The problem with tactical nuclear weapons is it gives the illusion of a limited nuclear exchange, which increases the possibility of a nuclear war. The whole point of the U.K. deterrent is that if you cross the line you get the whole strategic deterrent down on you and your not sure what the line is before you don’t have a county anymore.

if we had tactical weapons an opponent could gamble that using a tactical nuclear weapon against the U.K. would get a tactical response, not a strategic one.

OldSchool
OldSchool
6 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

True. But providing the costs aren’t excessive I’d still rather have tac nukes available if required for UK forces. We at least have an alternative to strategic launch if needed and we can still be publicly ambiguous as to our response if we were subject to a limited mass destruction attack.

Dave Wolfy
Dave Wolfy
6 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Especially if a supposed tactical weapon is used against a strategic target (SSBN), does that tactical weapon become a strategic weapon?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago
Reply to  Dave Wolfy

Interesting question.

Just muddying the waters more, I believe some current MIRV on Trident D5 have much lower, almost tactical level yields.

It’s the accuracy that is most important, as even the lower yield will take out command bunkers and other deeply buried C3 targets. Yamantau and Kosvinsky mountains possibly excepted.

Which is why you have B2 and the burrowing bunker busters.

The Russians, like the Soviets before them keep their Bombers in bastions north of Russia, and under the arctic ice. So I cannot imagine they would be targets for anything other than a trailing SSN with conventional torpedoes.

JohninMK
JohninMK
6 days ago

That is the USN W76-2 warhead, not sure on the RN equivalent.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
5 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

It was the UK ones I had in mind. Sure I had read they were reduced in yield as well as number. Their name escapes me.

andy a
andy a
5 days ago

Yep UK warhead can be as low as 0.3kilotons

Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

” HARSH WORDS” Springs tòo mind Johnin LOL

andy a
andy a
5 days ago

Yes the Uk warheads are a different design that can be dialed down to 0.3 kilotons for tactical use.

Tommo
Tommo
6 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

JOHNATHAN Hope the yanks don’t also look into that old battlefield Decimater The DAVey Crocket Field artillery piece along with Gravity Small yield bombs both would be for Tactical use rather than a strategic one .Ok right the Davey Crocket is a Non Starter ,But you never know what those in the Pentagon have ideas for the possible relandscaping of our Eastern European Allies countryside If putin keeps up his Cold War rhetoric about the West as he has since 2018

Jonathan
Jonathan
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

To be honest it’s one of the more worrying elements of where we are at In shared geopolitical culture. The P5 stance around nuclear ambiguity has really hardened and the only P5 state with any plan to reduce nuclear ambiguity has give up ( that’s the U.K.) and has changed its nuclear stance to an ambitious set of statements and refusal to publish in information on stockpile and deployed numbers. Most people don’t realise it but we are really slipping back in having an increased chance of a nuclear exchange. This is because the potential success of nuclear ambiguity in… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Thank you Johnathan, if there is a link to Kings I’ll have a read, And yes the fact that gone are the Days of Nuclear proliferation and SALT diplomacy of the Cold War where only The US and the USSR resolved their differences over the table but continued their Proxy wars . The World has moved on and the Nuclear Club has grown , The threatening Rhetoric coming fro m the East and Far East seems too be quite alarming.As many of the people on this Thread will agree I just hope ,that in the corridors of Power these statements… Read more »

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
2 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

It was said the US nuclear weapons developers could of made a nuclear hand Grenade, the only problem was finding someone stupid enough to throw it

Nathan
Nathan
6 days ago

I’m not sure I’m keen on this. I understand it may be a necessity but in a hot environment it would seem very easy for the enemy to mistake a tactical strike for a conventional one. Doesn’t this just make the deployment of these aircraft under “normal” conditions more risky?

Paul T
Paul T
5 days ago
Reply to  Nathan

My take on it is that in War all options should be on the table, but saying that this Weapon would have more reason for use against an Iran say rather than a Russia or China.

JohninMK
JohninMK
6 days ago

As I understand it the B61-12 was needed as the older versions were heading towards their use by dates. As a result the new B61 version had to be validated on its carrier platforms some of which were no longer around and replacements were needed, hence the F-35A tests. Incidentally causing a debate in Germany as to what should replace the Tornado with the US insisting on a US aircraft, F-18, not a Typhoon.   The B61-12 has a ‘dial-in’ yield and we have to assume Russian have the same, making it potentially difficult to differentiate between a ‘strategic’ or… Read more »

Last edited 6 days ago by JohninMK
DaveyB
DaveyB
5 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

That was the primary reason why Germany has gone for a mixed Typhoon/F18 buy. Eurofighter showed a two seat variant that would have been nuclear capable. But the US pretty much refused, on the basis of qualifying the aircraft to carry their nuke. Why qualify it when we already have the F18 qualified, even though the Typhoon is a better aircraft?

Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Davey , two pilot rule , is what I thought was the Norm if carrying a Nuclear device not one pilot errors could arise if its just one pilot ?

Meirion x
Meirion x
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Special Network control may come into play with the F-35, unlike previous gens of aircraft. A ground commander could activate a warpon, maybe?

Last edited 5 days ago by Meirion x
Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago
Reply to  Meirion x

If not,Meirion then a psychological profile of a pilot would have too be done on something of a monthly basis Can’t have one man/woman off into the wild blue yonder with a weapon like that , unless systems for Arming can be done as you suggested from the ground whilst the plane is Airbourne and at Targets coordinates

Meirion x
Meirion x
5 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

The F-35 could have a override feature for warpons control.

Tommo
Tommo
5 days ago
Reply to  Meirion x

So if its dropped unintentionally, it’s just a splat not a bang gotcha