F-35A Stealth Fighter Certified to Carry B61-12 Thermonuclear LP Bomb
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By The Smartencyclopedia Staff & Agencies 

WASHINGTON – In a historic development, the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter has received operational certification to carry the B61-12 thermonuclear gravity bomb, according to a statement from the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO). The certification, achieved on October 12, precedes NATO’s deadline of January 2024.

This milestone makes the F-35A the world’s first 5th generation nuclear-capable aircraft, breaking ground in nuclear warfare capabilities not seen since the early 1990s. Russ Goemaere, the JPO spokesman, emphasized the significance, stating, “The F-35A achieved Nuclear Certification ahead of schedule, providing US and NATO with a critical capability that supports US extended deterrence commitments earlier than anticipated.”

Despite the breakthrough, details on the deployment of B61-12s to Europe remain unclear, with speculation arising that shipments might commence in December 2022, as reported by Politico. Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35, underscored the fighter’s continual advancements, stating, “The F-35 is the world’s only 5th Generation multi-role stealth fighter.”The certification exclusively applies to the F-35A variant, with no extension to the F-35B or F-35C variants. A spokesperson for the US Air Force Air Combat Command assured that all F-35As in the Air Force inventory are expected to be in a nuclear-certified configuration in the future.

Notably, the B61-12 certification is a crucial element of NATO’s deterrence strategy amid rising tensions, particularly in the context of the conflict in Ukraine and heightened Russian nuclear posturing. The Federation of American Scientists highlighted the importance of this achievement, calling it a milestone in America’s ongoing nuclear modernization effort.

The B61-12, part of a life extension program initiated during the Obama administration, replaces older models and is estimated to cost $9.6 billion over its lifespan. Furthermore, the Biden administration has announced the development of a new variant, the B61-13, expected to have a yield of up to 360 kilotons. However, experts anticipate that it will only be certified for use on bombers. Both the B61-12 and B61-13 involve transferring warheads from older bombs to new housings, not increasing the overall nuclear stockpile.

This development adds a new dimension to NATO’s defense capabilities, underlining the evolving nature of modern warfare and strategic deterrence.

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