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The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber aircraft is the first US warplane to be allowed to carry the new B61-12 nuclear bomb.
The B61 series is one of the longest-serving weapons in the US stockpile, with the B61-3, -4, and -7 continuing to be part of the nuclear lineup available with the US. Production of the B61-12 was completed in late 2021, and was delivered to the US military in 2022. The 374 kg bomb project is expected to produce around 480 of these bombs using the B61-4 bombs.
According to Interesting Engineering, the B61-12 design features small rockets at its rear that can help the weapon spin and stabilize itself once it is fired from an airplane. The detonation of the bomb can be dialed to as little as 0.3 kilotons and a maximum yield of 50 kilotons.
The standoff capability of B61-12 is classified but is not expected to exceed 24 kilometers, even under ideal conditions, which increases the survivability of non-stealth aircraft that could operate in areas where modern air defense systems are suppressed and get out of the blast zone.
It is reported that the US Air Force plans to equip its F-35, F-15, and F-16s with the new B61-12. It is said that the B61-12 could also serve US allies in the future, with the Royal Netherlands Air Force confirming earlier this month that its F-35As had received an initial certification for the weapon.
The US military is improving its air defenses by focusing its efforts on equipping its most advanced stealth bomber in the event it has to deliver a tactical nuclear attack. The availability of a Radar Aided Targeting System and stealth-optimized radar make the B-2 an ideal tool to target areas that may not have GPS coverage.