Earlier this month, the United States Air Force–in conjunction with the National Nuclear Security Agency–dropped an inert B61-12 nuclear bomb over the Tonopah Test Range as part of an ongoing Life Extension Program (LEP).
Designed and fielded in the 1960s as a tactical nuclear weapon, the B61 measures 11 ft 8 inches long, has a diameter of 13 inches, and weighs approximately 700 pounds. The casing of the bomb is streamlined, optimized for exterior carriage aboard aircraft capable of supersonic flight.
One wonders if this was a “shape” test, with a ballisticaly identical weapon, lacking any weapon components, or if it was an all up round, minus the physics package.
The B-61 has been the primary air dropped nuclear bomb for decades now. There was a time, not so long ago, where virtually every pilot that flew attack jets spent a not inconsiderable amount of his time becoming certified to fly nuclear strike missions. Not to mention being enrolled in the Personal Reliability Program, which was something like a continuous background check for a Top Secret clearance.
If any operational F-15E squadrons still train for a nuclear mission, I haven’t heard it.