Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2019
All the B61 bombs now in the United States and Europe are scheduled to be replaced by the “mod-12.” The website airforcetechnology.com says, “The B61-12 air-launched tactical bomb will carry a low-yield nuclear warhead….” [emphasis added] With 50 kilotons of explosive blast (50,000 tons of TNT), the B61-12 has over three times the force of the Hiroshima bomb that killed 140,000 people. Only a military mentality reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove can imagine over 420,000 dead as a “low yield.”
A total of about 3,155 B61s have been produced (as of 2012), beginning with mod-0. Approximately 540 are still deployed, 415 are in “inactive” status, and 520 are set for dismantlement, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
According to the Dept. of Energy, four versions of the B61 remain in the arsenal: models 3, 4, 7, and 11. These nuclear bombs have explosive forces of 170 kilotons (mod 3), 45 kilotons (mod 4), 340 kilotons (mod 7), and 400 kilotons (mod 11). They have between 27 and 32 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb.
The B61-11 was reportedly built to destroy underground targets, and the Pentagon has asserted that it can detonate at depths of “several hundred feet.”
The Pentagon intends to replace all the B61s now deployed in five European NATO countries. The B61-3s and B61-4s are to be replaced with the new B61-12. About 400 of the new bombs were scheduled to enter full production in 2020 and be deployed after 2023, but the $10 billion program has been delayed because of the delivery of faulty commercial electronic parts.
Asked in May 2019 if the B61-12 will be ready in 2023 as planned, National Nuclear Security Administration head Lisa Gordon-Hagerty said, “That should be beyond 2025,” she said, noting that “an issue” had arisen, without elaborating. Energy officials later said the delay to the B61-12 could last 18 months, Congressional Quarterly News reported.
At present, Turkish, Dutch, Italian and possibly Belgian air forces are planning to buy some F-35 fighter jets from the United States, and the F-35s could begin replacing existing NATO warplanes in 2024. Germany is expected to extend the use of its Tornado fighter jets through the 2020s. German Tornado fighter jet pilots at Büchel Air Base practice in the use of the US B61s to initiate nuclear war.
In July 2018, after a group of International Week protesters occupied the air base runway, the chief pilot from the base made a personal visit to the peace camp to complain. The chief pilot said to Susan Crane of the US delegation that the protesters had “endangered themselves and the pilots.”
Crane replied that the “pilots endanger the whole world by planning and preparing for war with US nuclear weapons.” The chief then said, “There were no nuclear weapons on those jets today.” -JL
—Sources: Congressional Quarterly News, Sept. 17, 2019; Nuclear Weapon Archive; The National Interest, “Why the B61-12 Bomb Is the Most Dangerous Nuclear Weapon,” Oct. 9, 2018; Nuclear Threat Initiative; Government Accounting Office, “B61-12 Nuclear Bomb: Cost Estimate,” May 31, 2018.