The bomb will be made by a B61-7 warhead inside a B61-12 casing, providing another option with a higher yield.
The U.S. Department of Defense announced the development of yet another, more powerful variant of the B61 nuclear bomb, the B61-13. The decision arrived shortly after the B61-12 entered full scale production but, noted the DoD, it will still be dependent on Congressional authorization and appropriation before becoming effective.
“The 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”, said the press statement. Shortly thereafter, the document is quick to clarify “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”.
In fact, the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review observed that U.S. competitors continue to expand, diversify, and modernize their nuclear forces while increasing reliance on nuclear weapons. Because of this, it was decided to adopt a balanced approach to the security environment, investing in deterrence while renewing a commitment to pursue arms control and other risk reduction measures.
According to the DoD, the number of the nuclear bombs in the inventory will not change following this decision, as the B61-13 will replace some of the B61-7s in the current stockpile and the number of B61-12s to be produced will be lowered by the same amount as the number of B61-13s produced. The B61-13 will have a yield similar to the B61-7 (reportedly 340-360 kt), reusing its warhead, and will include the modern safety, security, and accuracy features of the B61-12.
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