Pentagon has announced that the United States will pursue a modern variant of the B61 nuclear gravity bomb, designated the B61-13, pending Congressional authorization and appropriation. As per the announcement by the US Department of Defence, these new nuclear bombs are 24 times more powerful than the ones dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. The news comes after China declared it will double it’s nuclear arsenal to 1000 by 2030, and Russia’s parliament voted to rescind the country’s ratification of a global nuclear test ban.
America say that Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would produce the B61-13. The decision to pursue this capability, which was undertaken in close collaboration with the NNSA, responds to the demands of a rapidly evolving security environment as described in the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review.
On oct 27th, Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb said–“Today’s announcement is reflective of a changing security environment and growing threats from potential adversaries. The United States has a responsibility to continue to assess and field the capabilities we need to credibly deter and, if necessary, respond to strategic attacks, and assure our allies.”
Since the original B61 variation’s design started in 1963, the most recent variant is carrying on not just a 78-year tradition of nuclear gravity bombs but also a lengthy legacy of this particular gravity bomb template. By the way, a gravity bomb is a bomb that drops to its target, occasionally but not usually navigating along the route.
Five of the B61 types (the B61-3, B61-4, B61-7, B61-11, and B61-12) are still in use today, and the B61-13 is scheduled to replace the current B61-7 stockpile.
The single most concise way to describe a nuclear bomb is in terms of yield, or the TNT equivalent of explosive force that will be unleashed when it is detonated. The dial-a-yield feature of the B61-3, -4, -7, and -12 versions allows the bomb to be loaded aboard the aircraft at a moment when its explosive potential can be toggled prior to use. This yield can be as low as 0.3 tonnes of TNT for the B61-3, -4, and -12, or a small portion of the explosive power of the bombs dropped by the US on Little Boy (15 kilotons) and Fat Man (20 kilotons) on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. With a maximum yield of 50 kilotons, the B61-4 and B61-12 bombs had an explosive force larger than the two nuclear weapons that have ever been used in combat.
What is B61-13?
The B61-13 would be deliverable by modern aircraft, strengthening deterrence of adversaries and assurance of allies and partners by providing the President with additional options against certain harder and large-area military targets. It would replace some of the B61-7s in the current nuclear stockpile and have a yield similar to the B61-7, which is higher than that of the B61-12. The B61-13 would have a yield of 10 kilotons to 360 kilotons. The yield of an atomic bomb is the amount of energy released by an explosion, including blast, thermal radiation, and nuclear radiation. According to popular science a 50 kiloton warhead set off in lower Manhattan would kill an estimated 273,000 people, injure an estimated 471,000 more, and send a radioactive plume all the way to Hartford, Connecticut.
The fact sheet released by pentagon says- B61-13 will strengthen deterrence of adversaries and assurance of allies and partners by providing the President with additional options against certain harder and large-area military targets.
• The 2022 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) observed that U.S. competitors continue to expand, diversify, and modernize their nuclear forces while increasing reliance on nuclear weapons.
• The NPR charted a balanced approach to the security environment, investing in deterrence while renewing a commitment to pursue arms control and other risk reduction measures.
• As the security environment evolves, it is necessary for USA to consider nuclear force adjustments to assure our ability to achieve deterrence and other objectives.
• The B61-13 will replace some of the B61-7s in the current stockpile, pending Congressional authorization and appropriation.
• The B61-13 will have a yield similar to the B61-7, which is higher than that of the B61-12. The B61-13 will include the modern safety, security, and accuracy features of the B61-12.
• While the B61-13 will provide the President with additional options against certain harder and large-area military targets, the Department of Defense will separately continue its work to complete and implement a comprehensive strategy for defeat of hard and deeply buried targets, as directed in the Nuclear Posture Review.
• Deterrence and assurance are enhanced if the United States can continue to deny an adversary sanctuary from attack.
• The B61-13 will provide the President with additional options against certain harder and large-area military targets, even while the Department works to retire legacy systems such as the B83-1 and the B61-7.
• The B61-13 will not increase the overall number of weapons in the U.S. stockpile. The number of B61-12s to be produced will be lowered by the same amount as the number of B61-13s produced.
• This initiative follows several months of review and consideration. The fielding of the B61-13 is not in response to any specific current event; it reflects an ongoing assessment of a changing security environment.
The fact sheet also notes that the development of the B61-13 is “pending Congressional authorization and appropriation.”
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