A SEDUCED SOMETHING REMAINS
In the second half of September of this year. in the media referring to the German television channel ZDF, it was reported that the US is preparing to deploy in the foreseeable future in Germany a new modification of its B61-12 nuclear bombs, under the carriers of which it was decided to adapt the Tornado fighter-bombers from the German Air Force. It was reported that 20 such bombs will be placed at the Büchel air base in Rhineland-Palatinate, and in the future they will appear in Turkey and Italy.
Washington "kept the intrigue" for a while, but after a couple of days at the National Nuclear Security Administration, the United States stated that, say, new aerial bombs could not be placed in Germany in the near future, since their production, or rather, modernization of the existing bombs of the family B61 earlier modifications will start no earlier than 2020 of the year. And funds in the budget are allocated only for upgrading the actual carrier aircraft - Tornado fighter and F-61 fighters-bomber aircraft to the B16 version.
The fears have been dispelled, but the sediment, as they say, has remained: as soon as the B61-12 bombs appear physically, they, apparently, first of all materialize exactly at airbases in Europe. Aircraft carriers for them by that time will be ready, and the pilots will receive appropriate training. Although speaking frankly, the fact that the Pentagon is requesting funds to adapt the German and Italian Tornado and Belgian, Dutch and Turkish F-16А / В to the German and Italian Tornadoes and plans to implement it in 2015 – 2018 years was known in 2014 year. So the German channel revealed the secret of Polichinel. It is not clear only - why.
However, this does not negate the main thing: in the end, all the arguments about the possibility of the withdrawal of the latter type of American nuclear weapons deployed in Europe remained useless conversations. The tenth serial modification of the B61 family of bombs, which faithfully served the 11 presidents of the United States, will continue to pose a threat to the idea of a nuclear-free world and the next owner of the Oval Office.
For a long time, the nuclear air bombs of the B61 family were the most versatile and most widespread type of nuclear ammunition in the arsenal of the US armed forces and their NATO allies. It is noteworthy that the only significant changes that were recently made to the design of the bombs since its introduction into service in the 1967 year, were improvements to ensure a higher degree of safety of its storage and operation, plus a modification was created, designed to defeat deeply underground and well-protected enemy targets. And only В61-12 is already a seriously modified version, which can be attributed to the new generation.
The base B61 has a caliber of 700 pounds (about 317,5 kg), a little more than 3,5 m in length and a little more than 33 diameter. See, however, there are several other modifications of the bombs, which already have often quite significant differences. So, the B61-11 Earth Penetrating Nuclear Gravity Bomb bomb (translated from the English “Penetrating (Deeparable) Nuclear Free-Falling Bomb”) weighs about 1200 pounds (about 544 kg).
In total, it is alleged, 3155 bombs of the B61 family were released, and the total stock of bombs in the arsenal of the US Armed Forces, including those stored in European NATO countries, is estimated by a number of experts in 1925 units, including those that are in storage. In the report “B61-12: A New Guided Nuclear Bomb Used Outside the Zone of Enemy Air Defense Forces” (“B61-12: The New Guided Stand Nuclear Nuclear”) by Hans M. Christensen, Director of the Nuclear Weapons Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS ), from 2014, it is indicated that today the US Armed Forces have 825 equipped with B61 bombs of various modifications, including 180 - at air bases in Europe.
The development of a B61 type nuclear bombs (TX-1968 before the 61 of the year), begun by experts at the Los Alamos laboratory at the turn of 1960 – 1961 as part of the “light nuclear munition” program, was completed on the whole in 1963. Pre-production for the assembly of the first, experienced, ammunition was launched in 1965 year, and the first bombs of the new family descended from the "death conveyor" in October 1966 year. The following year, the V61 was adopted by the US Armed Forces, but due to a number of identified problems, the high-volume production of this type of bombs was started only in the 1968 year.
According to information published in American specialized sources, the B61 family of nuclear bombs were mass-produced in six modifications: Mod 0, Mod 1, Mod 2, Mod 3, Mod 4 and Mod 5. Mod 1/3/4 modifications were withdrawn from service and destroyed and the rest - Mod 0, Mod 2 and Mod 5 - went through modernization, including with the aim of increasing the safety of their storage and operation. However, the program for further modernization of the B61 family of bombs was canceled, and the modifications of Mod 6, Mod 8 and Mod 9 were not born. Strategic aviation only the B61-7 bomb turned out to be, while the tactical B61-10 is a “remade” combat unit of the Pershing II BR.
For several decades, nuclear bombs of the B61 family were, as the Americans say, bread and butter for specialists at the National Laboratory in Los Alamos, constantly acting as guinea pigs or laboratory mice for nuclear physicists and nuclear weapons specialists.
In the period from 1963 to 1968, a series of underground nuclear explosions (tests) were conducted at the test site in the state of Nevada to check the current state of the B61 type bombs and practically confirm their characteristics, which was required by the customer. So, 30 June 1966, the test was carried out bomb type B61 at full capacity, received the code name Shot Halfbeak. The power of a nuclear explosion was 350 kt. In the same year, another five underground nuclear explosions were carried out, and in the middle of 1970-ies - a new series of nuclear explosions to test the B61-3 / -4 bombs entered service by the US military in 1979.
The combat use of the B61, depending on the modification, could have been carried out from a high or low altitude in four ways that are still relevant today:
- an airborne nuclear explosion under the condition of the so-called free fall of the bomb;
- air nuclear explosion, carried out with a temporary delay;
- a ground (or surface) nuclear explosion subject to the free fall of an aerial bomb;
- a ground-based nuclear explosion subject to the execution of a bombing from a height of no more than 50 feet (about 15,24 m).
The latter low-altitude bombing method was called laydown in American military terminology, and the main condition for its successful implementation is the non-destruction of the 61 after its impact on the ground. A special braking parachute system is intended to help in this. Moreover, the parachute reduces the free-fall speed of the aerial bomb, and corrects its trajectory. In the first versions of the 61, a nylon parachute with a dome diameter of 17 feet (5,18 m) was used, then a larger one, with a dome diameter of 24 ft (7,32 m), the parachute, which was used to manufacture two types of material, nylon and kevlar, was used.
Nuclear air bombs of the B61 family entered service with various strategic aircraft (in this case bombs with a maximum power charge were used) and tactical (modification with a lower power charge) aircraft of the US Air Force and the Air Force of their NATO allies, including:
- strategic aviation: aircraft B-52, FB-111, B-1B, B-2A;
- tactical aviation: aircraft F-100, F-104, F-4, F-105, F-15 / F-15E, F-16 of various modifications, F-111, F-117 and Tornado of various modifications.
The first flight tests of the B61-12 were conducted using the F-15E fighter. Photos from www.nnsa.energy.gov
This bomb was also adopted by the US Navy and the US Marine Corps: modifications of the B61-2 and B61-5 were included in the ammunition of A-4, A-6, A-7 and F / A-18 aircraft. However, after the US Navy command, in the beginning of the 1990s, taking into account the changing world military-political situation (the disappearance of the main strategic enemy in the person of the USSR), refused to use aircraft carrier as a means of delivery of nuclear weapons, all B61 bombs were eliminated from the arsenal fleet.
Note that the 61 was used in the work on the creation of a whole group of nuclear warheads of other weapons:
- type W69 - for short range ALCMs AGM-69 SRAM, which was part of the B-52, FB-111A and B-1В armament (warhead length - 760 mm, diameter - 380 mm, weight - 124,7 kg, power - from 100 to 200 ct). Issued about 1500 such warheads;
- type W73 - for the AGM-53 "Condor" long-range ALCM. The program for creating the warhead was closed in 1970 - the only decision was made to create a non-nuclear warhead for the rocket, and in March the Condor program itself was closed for the 1976;
- type W80-0 - for BGM-109 TLAM-N “Tomahawk” SLCM (warhead length is 797,5 mm, diameter is 300 mm, weight is 131,5 kg, power is 5 ct or 170 – 200 ct). 367 warhead released;
- type W80-1 - for ALCM AGM-86 ALCM and modernized ALCM AGM-129 AFM. Characteristics are similar to the previous warhead, released around 1750 warheads;
- type W81 - the planned version of a nuclear warhead with 2 – 4 kt capacity for the SM-2 SAM “Standard” SAM missile system, did not go into development;
- type W84 - developed by the Livermore National Laboratory. Ernest Lawrence option for a ground-based cruise missile BGM-109G "Griffin", created on the basis of SLCMB "Tomahawk". In general, the warhead was similar to warheads of the W80 type for SLCM and ALCMs, but it had several excellent characteristics: length - 863 mm, diameter - 330 mm, weight - 176 kg. About 300 – 350 of W84-type combat units were released, with the Griffin missile systems destroyed under the INF Treaty, but, according to American sources, the combat units are still in storage;
- type W85 - for the Pershing II rocket (warhead length - 1100 mm, diameter - 330 mm, weight - 400 kg, power - from 5 to 80 кт). 120 combat units were released, later converted into В61-10 aerial bombs;
- type W86 - planned to develop a modernized warhead for Pershing II missiles, designed to destroy deep in the ground and well-protected enemy targets. In the development and production is not transferred.
An interesting episode occurred with the W85 warhead of the medium-range Pershing II missiles. December 7 The 1987 of the Year was signed by the Treaty on the Reduction of Medium and Short Range Missiles (INF), which among other things obliged the US to eliminate all Pershing II. However, the Americans, having destroyed all the missiles and their launchers by the middle of 1991, dismantled the combat parts of the missiles and “converted” into nuclear bombs of the type B61, which then, according to American sources, were returned - already in a new capacity - to Europe. Thus, having removed missiles with nuclear warheads from European countries - NATO allies, the American military-political leadership actually returned the same combat units back, but already in the form of the ВХNUMX-61 bombs. To do this, the nuclear "filling" was removed from W10 and placed in the body of the bomb. In general, the Americans, observing what is called the letter of the treaty, violated its spirit, not at all contributing to the reduction of nuclear tensions. True, today B85-61 are no longer located in Europe, they are removed from service and sent to storage.
The US military subdivides all the B61 family bombs in service today into two types: strategic and tactical. The first is the B61-7 modification produced from 1985 to 1990 year, as well as a later modification - “penetrating” B61-11, obtained by upgrading an earlier modification. The tactical B61 family is represented by the Mod 3, Mod 4 and Mod 10 variants.
The B61-7 aerial bomb was included in the payload of the B-52 and B-2 strategic bombers, its distinguishing feature is the ability to change power: 10 or 340 CT. An interim version was reported, but the information about it was not officially made public. In turn, the B61-11 is a “penetrating” ammunition for hitting deep-seated highly protected objects.
A distinctive feature of the B61-11 is its fixed power: according to different data, either 10 CT or 340 CT. Although some foreign specialized sources state that the nuclear “stuffing” of the 11 model bombs is no different from that of the 7 model, and therefore the B61-11 should have three options: 10 CT, 340 CT or an intermediate version, information about which is missing. A number of sources mention that the B61-11 is equipped with a special set of its stabilization in flight — two small rocket engines fixed in the middle part of the bomb.
Flight tests of the 61-11 were conducted at ranges in the states of Nevada and Alaska from the F-16, B-1B and B-52 aircraft. The first four serial bombs of this type were transferred to the US Air Force in December 1996 of the year. In 1997, the 50-61 aerial bombs were converted to 7-61 and transferred to storage at Whiteman Air Force, Missouri, where B-11 bombers, which had a total of 4, were wed. ammunition. The remaining B2-1997 aerial bombs were deposited in the arsenals of Barksdale (Louisiana), Minot (North Dakota), Nellis (Nevada) and Kirtland (New Mexico) air bases.
It is noteworthy that during the test was planned for the role of "killer bins» (bunker busters) V61-11 bomb held in 1998 year at the landfill in Alaska bombs able to penetrate deep into the frozen ground only 2-3 m, whereas conventional, non-nuclear bomb GBU -28 caliber 5000 pounds (about 2268 kg) can, under equal conditions of combat use, punch up to 6 m of reinforced concrete. Thus, a nuclear explosion at B61-11, having a QUO around 110 – 170 m, will occur very close to the surface, without causing an enemy object located deep underground. GBU-28, however, has a large mass and can not be used by every aircraft, but it is cheaper and easier to use, and most importantly it does not apply to nuclear weapons and does not require additional “gestures” to give legitimacy to the fact of its combat use.
As for tactical aerial bombs, today the US Armed Forces have modifications Mod 3, Mod 4 and Mod 10, the vast majority of which, according to American sources, are stored in the arsenals of the Nellis and Kirtland airbases. The 61-10 bombs are stored only. Presumably, a number of tactical B61 can be located at Seymour Johnson, North Carolina airbase, and at least 150 bombs are located in the territory of European NATO countries and are reserved for use by their air forces in a special period.
For the “nuclear missions”, aviation units in Belgium are defined (Klein Brogel airbase is near 10 – 20 bombs, 44 bombs can be stored as far as possible, carriers are F-16А / B of the Belgian Air Force), Germany (Büchel airbase is approximately 10 – 20 bombs, maximum - 44 bombs, carriers - PA-200 "Tornado" of the German Air Force), Italy (Aviano and Gedi Tore airbases - 50 and 10 – 20 bombs, respectively, maximum - 72 and 40 bombs, carriers - American F-16C / D and Italian RA -200 "Tornado"), the Netherlands (Folkel Air Base - 10 – 20 bombs, maximum - 44 bombs, n The axles are F-16А / In the Dutch Air Force) and Turkey (Incirlik Air Base - 60 – 70 bombs, carriers - F-16А / In the Turkish Air Force and US Air Force aircraft deployed here on a rotational basis).
Greece declined such “honorable” responsibility, and in 2001, the B61 bombs stocks were withdrawn from its territory by the Americans. In addition, if at 2001 a year, the total stocks of nuclear bombs of the B61 family in Europe were estimated at about 480 units, then in subsequent years the deadly arsenal of the Americans was still reduced. The report “American Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe, 2011 Year” by Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Christensen states that by 2007 due to the evacuation of stocks of B61 nuclear bombs from the arsenals of Ramstein airbases (Germany) and Lackenhit (United Kingdom), the cumulative The type of nuclear bombs in Europe has been reduced to less than 200 units. According to Assistant US Under Secretary of Defense for Politics James N. Miller, he told 2009 in July at a briefing with journalists, in Europe, the US military has 180 bombs from the B61 family. At the same time, we note that the NATO air forces regularly conduct exercises to test the “distribution and use” of the VXNXX air bombs stored in Europe in a special period.
In May, 2010 of the year, the National Nuclear Security Administration, organizationally part of the US Department of Energy, requested 40 million from the congress to upgrade B61, including its adaptation to the new carrier, the Lightning II F-35 (JSF). According to the information contained in the request, the new fighter was to receive, by 2017, the ability to carry this type of nuclear weapon in the internal weapons compartment. Moreover, the United States 2010 Nuclear Policy Review states: “Production of a JSF aircraft carrying a nuclear weapon and a B61-12 nuclear bombs will allow the United States to retain the ability to deploy advanced non-strategic nuclear weapons in order to fulfill NATO allies obligations.” The document also notes that the implementation of the program will not lead to the creation of a munition "capable of solving new combat missions" and will not allow "expanding combat capabilities."
A new modification of the bomb was given the designation Mod 12 (B61-12). It was planned to create a 50 CT bomb on the basis of the B61-4, but with the inclusion in its design of "a number of elements and features of the B61-3, B61-7 and B61-10 models", which it should replace in the future. B61-12 will also allow the disposal of a small number of B83-type 1,2 MT-made nuclear bombs, which were put into service in the 1983 year, intended for use only on B-2A bombers and described by the US military as a “relic of the Cold War”.
Moreover, it was decided to equip the bomb with a special TSA kit (Tail SubAssembly), designed to convert conventional free-falling non-nuclear bombs into actually controlled munitions with increased range and accuracy of use (the generic designation Joint Direct Attack Munition is assigned to the data family of aviation weapons).
The new tail section will make it possible to abandon the parachute system and improve the accuracy of the bombs: the QUO will be 30 m, which, taking into account the bombshell 30 – 68 m diameter created by the explosion, depending on the type of soil, according to the former US Air Force commander Gen. Norton Schwartz , will allow in any case to “cover” the attacked bunker. Increased accuracy also reduces the power of a nuclear warhead bomb. “Without a doubt, increased accuracy and lower warhead power are extremely necessary,” General Schwartz stressed in January 2014 during a special event dedicated to the B61 family of bombs modernization program. At the same time, answering the question of whether this will ultimately lead to an expansion of the range of targets being hit or simply make existing weapons better, the general said: “The effect will be twofold.” He also added that the capabilities of the new bomb will enhance the effectiveness of the nuclear deterrence policy, since the enemy will know: America has high-precision nuclear weapons, which it is ready to use if necessary.
Structurally, the TSA kit is a nozzle with four rudders, controlled by commands from the onboard inertial navigation system, and gives the bomb another feature: it can be dropped from an aircraft at a greater distance from the target, without entering the enemy's air defense zone.
The B61 (Life Extension Program - LEP) program for upgrading and extending the service life of bombs, within which it is also planned to unify the entire family, is one of the most expensive in the defense budget of America. The first work on the topic was started jointly by specialists from the Air Force and the US National Nuclear Security Administration in February 2012, after approval received from the Nuclear Weapons Council, formed by the Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Directorate of the US Department of Energy for increasing the efficiency of interaction and coordination between the two ministries in the field of the development, production and operation of nuclear weapons.
However, as the work progresses, the cost of the program has seriously increased - more than doubled. And already in 2013, the Pentagon requested more than 11 billion dollars for these purposes (initially around 4 billion), of which 10 billion was for upgrading the bombs and their nuclear charge, and 1,2 billion for equipment for the TSA set of bombs.
Plus, several hundred million dollars, it is estimated, will be spent on upgrading a new bomb of five types of aircraft, including the corresponding fighter-bombers of the Belgian, Dutch, Italian, German and Turkish Air Forces (plus 154 million dollars to increase the security of bombs at European airbases), as well as such aircraft of the American Air Force - F-15E fighters (modification of aircraft started in 2013 year), F-16C / D, F-35A and B-2A bombers. Moreover, adaptation of only F-61A under 12-35 already in 2012 was estimated at no less than 340 million dollars. Serial production was planned for 2021 year, and the lifetime of 400 – 500 modernized bombs should be at least 20 years.
Congress, of course, such expenses for which B61-12 even received the nickname “golden bomb” from American journalists, met with hostility, demanding that they once again study the issue and look for an alternative. However, later, on the wave of the beginning of the new confrontation along the east-west line, the program received a green light. Moreover, they even moved the start of production - by 2020 year.
As part of the development of the B61-12 modification, its model was run-in in a wind tunnel at Arnold airbase. It is alleged that in the framework of this test, the joint work of a stabilization kit borrowed from the B61-11 and a new tail set with rudders was studied. The very first flight test, the throwing one, was performed by experts from the US Air Force and the US National Nuclear Security Administration from the F-15E fighter “Strike Eagle” 1 on July 2015 of the year, at the Tonopah range in Nevada. For the tests, a bomb designed by the specialists of the Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, assembled at the enterprises of the national nuclear complex and equipped with a Boeing tail kit was used. The study of the behavior of the latter, as stated, was one of the main objectives of this test. Two more flight tests of the B61-12 prototype must be conducted before the end of the year, and a preliminary project assessment is planned for 2016.
The first flight test caused a rather sharp reaction in Russia. In particular, the Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, Anatoly Antonov, stressed that the work on improving the B61 family of bombs and the test "confirm the US intention to preserve deployed nuclear weapons in Europe that can reach Russian territory and ensure their maximum combat effectiveness." “We also see this as evidence of the persistent unwillingness of the American side to refuse to involve non-nuclear NATO member states in the implementation of joint nuclear missions,” the deputy minister said.
Let us add that by improving its tactical nuclear weapons, and even storing them outside the national territory while simultaneously teaching its use to military personnel from other countries (even if they are allies in the bloc - a relic of the cold war), Washington loses any moral right to even stammer tactical nuclear weapons or greater transparency on the part of Moscow in this matter. And the words of President Obama about some kind of nuclear-free world look in the light of such actions somewhat, to put it mildly, strange.
It should be especially emphasized that today the B61 family of air bombs remained the only type of nuclear weapons of the US Armed Forces, which are outside the United States on a permanent basis. Not counting, of course, nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles of strategic submarine rocket carriers that are in combat duty in the depths of the ocean, since the other warships and US aircraft, according to the Pentagon, do not carry nuclear weapons on board.
This creates the threat of the use of such weapons in a wider range of situations than the use of strategic nuclear weapons or tactical nuclear weapons stored in the territory of the United States. And the more incomprehensible is the Pentagon’s desire to keep the B61 nuclear bombs in Europe, given that a number of Washington’s NATO allies have their own nuclear weapons. NATO’s strategic concept, adopted at the Lisbon summit in November 2010, reaffirmed that the alliance will continue to rely on the safety of its members on nuclear weapons, and on the fate of the B61 family of nuclear bombs located in European countries - members of the bloc, it was decided to link their arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons with Russia.
The deployment of modernized B61-12 bombs in Europe will seriously worsen the situation and create new threats, in particular - for the national security of Russia. This is due to the fact that as a result of such a move, the US will place in the Old World not just an improved nuclear weapon, but actually controlled highly accurate nuclear weapons, which, being tactical by classification, will in reality be able to erase the boundaries between tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. This state of affairs in no way contributes to defusing international tensions, but only once again will lead to a deterioration in relations between the United States and its NATO allies on the one hand, and Russia on the other. It also creates a dangerous precedent for the application of these bombs during any conflicts or problem situations on the European continent.