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The U.S. Is Building a Nuclear Bomb That’s More Accurate Than Ever via Newsweek

The U.S. has built a better, smarter nuclear bomb capable of replacing all four of its predecessors and, as of last month, it’s ready to fly.

The U.S. Air Force said Thursday it conducted an inert test in March of an upgraded version of one of its primary nuclear gravity bombs, the B61, in an effort to refurbish the nuclear arsenal of the nation with the second-largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world. The long-awaited upgrade comes amid a new effort by President Donald Trump to conduct a massive review of the nation’s nuclear capabilities.

An F-16 dropped the non-nuclear B61-12 over the Nellis Test and Training Range Complex in Nevada, assessing functions such as the weapon’s fire control system, radar altimeter, spin rocket motors and weapons control computer. The B61-12 was set to replace four current models—the B61-3, -4, -7, and -10, according to the Aviationist. The initiative, which hoped to see the weapon in production by 2020, was part of the nuclear life-extension program overseen by the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center in conjunction with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

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That same 2014 report said that the $10.4 billion life-extension program and the $1.4 billion tail kit assembly of 500 B61-12 weapons made this the most expensive bomb project ever. Additional hundreds of millions would reportedly be spent integrating the weapons to fit aircraft and maintain stockpiles in Europe. Costs would be saved, however, by consolidating the capabilities of four previous B61 models into one weapon and retiring the B61-11, called the “bunker buster” for its nuclear earth-penetrating ability.

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Modernizing the U.S.’s entire nuclear arsenal would cost $400 billion by 2026, according to a figure released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office. Some military officials have reportedly suggested abandoning nuclear projects such as the Long-Range Standoff nuclear cruise missile (LRSO) in favor of optimized conventional strike options.

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