This test comes in the midst of increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula between the United States and its adversaries, and ahead of an expected troop surge in Afghanistan.
The B61-12 was first tested in March.The test was unveiled to the public April 13, the same day a C-130 military aircraft dropped the 22,000-pound "Mother of All Bombs" on Daesh-Khorasan militants in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
The August 8 test run was conducted to determine the working condition of the weapon’s "non-nuclear functions," NNSA said. The second purpose of the August trial was to learn more about how well the F-15E could deliver the weapon. (The March test released the weapon from an F-16 aircraft.) The B61-12 will eventually be deployable from F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, B-21 Raiders, B-2 Spirits and P/A-200 aircraft operated by NATO allies in Europe, the Federation of American Scientists reported last year.
The B-2 stealth bomber was the only aircraft capable of dropping the B61-11, the bomb’s previous iteration, according to Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. By contrast, the B61-12 will be integrated with "virtually all nuclear-capable US and NATO aircraft," Kristensen wrote in 2016.
According to the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, approximately 150 US-owned non-strategic B61 warheads are stored in five NATO countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey.
Several European nations have elected to buy the expensive and behind-schedule F-35s. Lockheed Martin’s European clients for the fifth-generation plane include Denmark, the United Kingdom, Italy and Norway, the corporation’s website says.
North Korea conducted yet another ballistic missile test on Tuesday, firing a projectile that passed over Japan and traveled a total of 1,678 miles. "The flight range of the missile amounted to 5,000 kilometers [3,107 miles]," said Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera in wake of the news, noting that "obviously, a missile of that type could reach Guam."