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F-35A Combat Plane Drops An Inert B61-12 Nuclear Bomb for the First Time While Flying at Supersonic Speed

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  • It was announced just a few months after the plane testing of the B61-12 nuclear bomb in 2019.
  • It was after the 42-second flight that the inert bomb hit the target area.
  • The F-35A DCA should achieve the nuclear certification in January 2023.

For the first time, the Lockheed Martin F-35, a variant of the Lightning II aircraft stealth multi-role combat used by the U.S. Air Force, dropped an inert B61-12 nuclear bomb from its internal bomb bay while on supersonic flight.

The Sandia National Laboratories announced the news just a few months after the release of the first photos of the plane testing the B61-12 nuclear bomb in 2019 for the F-35A Dual Capable Aircraft (DCA) program.

According to Sandia’s press release, the testing happened on August 25, 2020. The plane was around 10,500 feet above the Tonopah Test Range (TTR). It was after the 42-second flight that the inert bomb hit the target area.

It was the first test done by Sandia, the U.S. Air Force, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory over the range with the F-35A.

It’s also the first of a testing series that will finish off with full-weapon systems demonstrations that is made to assure that that bomb will work without fail when needed.

It is Sandia who manages the design and engineering for the non-nuclear components of the country’s nuclear stockpile.

Brian Adkins, range manager at Tonopah Test Range, said: “We successfully executed this historic, first-ever F-35A flight test at Tonopah Test Range within the specified delivery criteria.”

He explained that the success of the test – just like all other evaluation of weapons – can only be realized through detailed planning, together with full collaboration between the program engineers and the TTR.

It also needed the execution of the test evolution by the field operators and recovery specialists of both Sandia and Navarro Research and Engineering, TTR’s operations and maintenance subcontractor.

The team at the range is persistent in integrating safety and security into all segments to make sure that the right precautions are in place for the mission’s success.

The F-35 test was the first demonstration of a fully instrumented B61-12 release from an internal bomb bay on a fighter, as confirmed by Steven Samuels, a manager with Sandia’s B61-12 Systems Team.

The F-35A DCA should achieve the nuclear certification in January 2023, according to public information. This is in line with previous reports that scheduled the completion of the integration works between 2020 and 2022.

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