The U.S. Air Force dropped two dummy nukes in the Nevada desert earlier this month in what it called an effort to modernize and assess the performance of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
In collaboration with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Air Force successfully tested two B61 nuclear bombs. Neither carried a live warhead.
An NNSA statement reads:
The primary objective of flight testing is to obtain reliability, accuracy, and performance data under operationally representative conditions. Such testing is part of the qualification process of current alterations and life extension programs for weapon systems. NNSA scientists and engineers use data from these tests in computer simulations developed by Sandia National Laboratories to evaluate the weapon systems’ reliability and to verify that they are functioning as designed.
“The B61 is a critical element of the U.S. nuclear triad and the extended deterrent,” Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton, NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application, said in the statement. “The recent surveillance flight tests demonstrate NNSA’s commitment to ensure all weapon systems are safe, secure, and effective.”
The mock thermonuclear bombs were dropped over a test range in Nevada.
Recently there has been a push by the U.S. Air Force to update the aging Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBMs) arsenal and develop a new nuclear cruise missile.
In addition to building 400 new missiles to replace the aging Minuteman ICBMs, the Air Force is also in pursuit of a new nuclear cruise missile known as the Long Range Standoff (LRSO). The former program is estimated to cost roughly $85 billion. The LRSO development is expected to cost at least $20 billion.
In addition to cost concerns, a number of Congressional lawmakers have fought to abandon the LRSO program on humanitarian grounds, arguing that a new nuclear weapon puts world peace at risk. “Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to American national security,” ten Democratic Senators wrote in a letter.
The news of the nuclear testing rings of concern as U.S. relations with Russia deteriorate over the conflict in Syria.
Russia just completed a 40 million person emergency evacuation drill that rehearsed radiation, chemical and biological protection and the country’s media has sounded an alarm over potential nuclear war with the United States.
Zvezda, a nationwide TV service run by Russia’s Ministry of Defence, said last week, “Schizophrenics from America are sharpening nuclear weapons for Moscow.”
Just days ago, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned that the United States was ready to “destroy” its enemies in comments that were clearly directed at Russia.
“Make no mistake about it, we can now and we will … retain the capability to rapidly deploy,” Milley said, “and we will destroy any enemy anywhere, any time.”
The Russian military on Thursday cautioned the US-led coalition of carrying out airstrikes on Syrian army positions, mentioning that numerous S-300 and S-400 air defense systems are up and running in the country.
Could the massive Russian evacuation drill been a direct response to the U.S. Air Force nuclear bomb testing?