Could the stealth fighter get a new mission?
Earlier this year, the F-35 completed a series of weapons separation tests and is currently able to be armed with the AIM-9X, AIM-120, AIM-132, GBU-12, JDAM, JSOW, SDB-1 and the Paveway IV, Lockheed Martin data states. While it is not yet clear exactly how a nuclear weapon might integrate onto the platform, the F-35 is configured to carry more than 3500 pounds of ordnance in stealth mode and over 18-thousand pounds uncontested.
The Air Force is integrating the B61 Mod 12 nuclear weapon into the F-35 this year as part of a long-range plan to deploy a nuclear-armed, dual-capable F-35 able to give commanders a wider envelope of precision nuclear attack options.
“Detailed risk reduction activities have been completed ensuring the F-35A is fully compatible with the B61-12 weapon. Planning for Block 4 nuclear certification efforts have begun in anticipation of initial B61-12 integration on the F-35A this year,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
The Block 4 F-35, to fully emerge in the next decade, contains more than 50 technical adjustments to the aircraft designed as software and hardware builds — to be added in six-month increments between April 2019 to October 2024, she added.
The latest version of the B61 thermonuclear gravity bomb, which has origins as far back as the 1960s, is engineered as a low-to-medium yield strategic and tactical nuclear weapon, according to nuclearweaponsarchive.org, which also states the weapon has a “two-stage” radiation implosion design.
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