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New Air Force B-2 ‘earth-penetrating’ nuclear weapon changes strategy

File photo – A B-2 Stealth Bomber performs a flyover at the 126th Rose Parade in Pasadena, California January 1, 2015. (REUTERS/David McNew)

The Air Force’s B-2 Stealth bomber has test-cases, an upgraded multi-function B61-12 nuclear bomb that an improvement of the accuracy, integrates various attack options in one of the bomb and the changes to the strategic landscape with regards to nuclear weapons mission opportunities.

Earlier this summer, the air force dropped a B61-12 nuclear weapon from a B-2 at Nellis AFB, marking a new developmental flight test phase for the upgrade, bomb, Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Hope Cronin told the Warrior Maven.

“The updated weapon will improve the safety, security and reliability,” Cronin said.

The B61-12 adds significant new levels of precision to focus and consolidate different kinds of attack options in a single weapon. Instead of separate variants of the weapon for the various functions, the B61-12 enables the earth-penetrating attacks, low yield, labor strikes, high-yield attacks, above the surface detonation and bunker-buster options.

The latest version of the B61 thermonuclear gravity bomb, of which the origin far back in the 1960s, is designed as a low to intermediate yield strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, according to nuclearweaponsarchive.org that is also in the coat of arms has a two-stage radiation implosion design.

“The main advantage of the B61-12 is that it packs all the gravity bomb capability against all of the attacks scenarios into a bomb. That starts with a very low-yield tactical “clean” with a low fall-out to more dirty attacks against underground targets, ” Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists, told the Warrior Maven.

Air Force officials describe this, in part, by reference to the upgraded B61-12 as having an “All-Up Round.”

“The flight test achieved dedicated B61-12 developmental test requirements, and the “All Round” level of the system integration testing on the B-2,” Cronin said.

The B61 Mod 12 is designed with a special “Tail Subassembly” to the bomb increased accuracy, allowing a new level of precision targeting with the help of inertial navigation systems, Kristensen said.

“Now the B-2 has only B61-7 (10-360 tons), B61-11(400 kt earth-penetrator), and B83-1 (high-yield bunker-buster). The B61-12 covers all of these missions, with less fall-out, plus a very low-yield attacks,” he added.

The evidence that the B61-12 can penetrate below the surface has important implications for the types of targets that can be held at risk with the bomb.

By bringing a “earth-penetrating” component, the B61-12 will significantly increase the target scope, or the envelope of the attack. It allows more one-dimensional or localized strikes at high value targets underground without anywhere near the same level of devastation above the ground or over a wider area.

“A nuclear weapon that explodes after penetrating the earth more efficiently transmitting the explosive energy to the ground, so it is more effective in destroying deeply buried targets for a given nuclear yield. An explosion above the ground, on the other hand, results in a larger fraction of the explosive energy is reflected on the surface,” Kristensen explained.

Huge B-2 Upgrade

The testing and integration of the B61-12 is a piece of a huge fleet-wide B-2 upgrade designed to support the bomber in the coming years, large numbers of the new B-21 Raider are available. A range of technical amendments are also intended to be the preparation of the 1980-era bomber for very advanced, high-end modern threats.

The B-2 is getting a better digital integration of weapons, new computer’s processing power is reported to be 1,000-times faster than the existing systems and the next generation of sensors designed to help the aircraft avoid enemy anti-aircraft batteries.

One of the effort of the main changes is designed to improve the bomber’s Defensive Management System, a technology designed to help the B-2 recognize and escape from enemy anti-aircraft batteries, with the help of various antennas, receivers and display processors.

The Defensive Management System for detecting signals or “signatures” emitting from the ground anti-aircraft weapons, Air Force officials have said. The current improvements to the technology are described by Air Force developers as “the most significant change of the effort that the B-2 has tried.”

The modernized system, the so-called a-B-2 “DMS-M” unit, consists of a replacement of the legacy DMS subsystems, so that the aircraft can be effective against the newest and most deadly enemy air defenses. The upgrade system integrates a suite of antennas, receivers, and displays that provide real-time intelligence information to crew, service officials said.

Upgrades of the existence of better antennas with advanced digital electronic support measures, or Esm in combination with software components that are designed to integrate new technologies with existing B-2 avionics, according to an Operational Test And Evaluation report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The idea of the upgrade is, among other things, to inform the B-2 crews about the location of enemy air defences, so they can avoid or maneuver around high-risk areas where the aircraft is more likely to be detected or the target audience. The DMS-M is used to detect radar emissions of air defense, and B-2 air crews with faster mission planning information while in flight.

Air Force officials explain that, while many of the details of the renewed DMS-M unit are not available for reasons of safety, the improvement of the system enables the malignant B-2 to operate more successfully in more high-threat, high-tech environments – as intended by the air force strategists as a very “contested environments.”

Many experts have declared that the 1980’s stealth technology is known to be less effective against the best made of the current and new air defenses – the newer, more integrated systems use faster processors, a digital network and a wider range of detection frequencies.

The DMS-M upgrade will in no way affect the stealth properties of the aircraft, which means that it does not change the contours of the hull or change the heat signature to a degree that it would make the bomber more susceptible to enemy radar, developers said.

Many advanced air defenses use of X-band radar, a high-frequency, short-wavelength signal is able to supply a high resolution imaging radar, such as that for targeting. The S-band frequency, which operates from 2 to 4 GHz, the other is also used by a lot of air defenses, among other frequencies.

X-band radar operates from 8 to 12 GHz, a Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, sends ahead, and electromagnetic “ping” for analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, speed, size, and location of an enemy threat. SAR gives a view of types of a given target area. X-band offers both precision tracking as well as horizon scans, or searches. Stealth technology, therefore, makes use of certain contour configurations and radar-absorbing coating materials, confuse, or thwart electromagnetic signals from the air defense.

These techniques are, in many cases, designed to work in tandem with the IR (infrared) suppressors used to minimize or remove a “heat” signature detectable by air defenses’ IR radar sensors. Heat coming from the exhaust or engine of an aircraft can provide air defense systems with an indication that an aircraft is overhead. This stealth-technologies that are meant to be a stealth bomber to generate little or no return radar signal, causing the air near operators an incomplete, not-current or inaccurate representation of an object flying overhead.

The absence of vertical structures more likely to generate a return signal from the enemy radar is another important element of stealth strategy; this is the reason why the B-2 is flat, with an internal motor designed for limiting the heat emission. The idea is to have a B-2 seem to be equivalent to a bird or insect to enemy radar.

The B61-12 is also being prepared for the F-35 and a few other Air Force platforms.

Also the B-2 is scheduled to fly in addition to the services’ emerging B-21 Raider next generation stealth bomber; this platform, in order to be ready in mid-2020, is said by many air force developers to provide a new generation of stealth technologies significantly extend the current operational range and capabilities of existing stealth bombers. In fact, Air Force leaders have said that the B-21 will be able to find a purpose in the world is in danger, always.

The air force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them is based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can heights reaching more than 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, considering his ability to fly as far as 6,000 nautical miles without the need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia prior to the launch of bombing missions in Afghanistan.

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