On October 27, the Pentagon announced its intention to produce yet another modification of its B61 thermonuclear gravity bomb warhead design, to be called the B61-13. The plan needs congressional authorization which is nearly axiomatic when nuclear weapons spending is proposed.
The surprise decision “comes shortly after another new nuclear bomb — the B61-12 — began full-scale production last year and is currently entering the U.S. nuclear arsenal,” reported Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda for the Federation of American Scientists. The military said it wanted 480 of the B61-12s, and that it would replace the B61-3s and -4s now stationed in Europe for use by fighter jet pilots from Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey.
The Pentagon’s press release says that the new B61-13 is not intended for the five European air forces, and that it will be stationed in the U.S. and used only on heavy bombers. However, Kristensen and Korda reported, “Nonetheless … the [jet] fighters that are destined to deliver the B61-12 will also be capable of delivering the B61-13.” They also report, “The B61-13 will have the same maximum yield as the B61-7 (360 kilotons), according to defense officials, a significant increase compared with the 50-kiloton B61-12 it is intended to supplement.” Such an enormous kiloton yield is 24 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb which killed 140,000 people.
Commenting on the dubious reasons put forward for buying more nuclear weapons (the U.S. has over 5,000), the two analysts wrote that “The case for the B61-13 is strange,” that the Pentagon’s justification “is hard to see,” that the “military mission” of the new bomb “is somewhat of a mystery,” and that, “The military doesn’t need an additional, more powerful gravity bomb.”
A Pentagon press release on the new H-bomb says only that its reasons for another bomb are “a changing security environment,” and the need to deter Russia and China. Since not much has changed in U.S.-Russia or U.S.-China relations in decades, and since the current U.S. nuclear arsenal packs catastrophic devastation beyond human imagination, the Biden administration’s and the Pentagon’s rationale for another nuclear weapon is simply asinine.
— Federation of American Scientists, Oct. 27, 2023