News

America’s new super-nuke explained: B61-13 is the first ‘gravity bomb’ to feature guided tail kit and will unleash blast radius the size of two Manhattans


The Pentagon announced this week that it is developing a new nuclear ‘gravity bomb’ that is 24 times more powerful than the nuke detonated in Hiroshima. 

As the name implies, the B61-13 is the 13th variant of the B61 family of ‘gravity bombs,’ which fall to their target rather than being guided.

The new bomb will have the same explosive yield as its predecessor, the Cold War-era B61-7, estimated to be 360,000 tons, giving off a blast radius of roughly 190,000 feet, the length of two Manhattans.

The project will essentially see the same B61-7 warhead put into a new casing. 

Unlike the older model, the new bomb will feature modern safety and control features and an upgraded tail kit to help it fall straight and hit the target.

The uranium-based atomic bomb dubbed ‘Little Boy’ was dropped on Hiroshima, which was home to 320,000 people when it was released in 1945. Now, the Department of Defense (DoD) has proposed an even more powerful nuclear bomb, which packs a destructive force of 360 kilotons – 24 times more powerful than the World War II bomb

What is B61-13’s power compared to the Hiroshima warhead?

The uranium-based atomic bomb dubbed ‘Little Boy’ was dropped on Hiroshima, which was home to 320,000 people when it was released in 1945.

Nicknamed ‘Little Boy,’ the bomb weighed 9,700 pounds and measured 28 inches in diameter.

It also packed 141 pounds of uranium – while the new B61-13 is all plutonium. 

The impact released a blast with a destructive force equivalent to about 15 kilotons of TNT.

The explosion produced a supersonic shock wave followed by extreme winds that remained above hurricane force over one mile from ground zero.

A secondary and equally devastating reversed wind followed, flattening and severely damaging homes and buildings several miles away.

The uranium-based atomic bomb dubbed 'Little Boy' was dropped on Hiroshima, which was home to 320,000 people when it was released in 1945. Pictured is a postwar replica of the bomb

The uranium-based atomic bomb dubbed ‘Little Boy’ was dropped on Hiroshima, which was home to 320,000 people when it was released in 1945. Pictured is a postwar replica of the bomb

The explosion produced a supersonic shock wave followed by extreme winds that remained above hurricane force over one mile from ground zero

The explosion produced a supersonic shock wave followed by extreme winds that remained above hurricane force over one mile from ground zero

The intense heat of the Hiroshima bomb reached over 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit and scorched flesh and other flammable materials over one mile away.

Flash burns from the primary heatwave caused most of the deaths in Hiroshima.

Now, the Department of Defense (DoD) has proposed an even more powerful nuclear bomb, which packs a destructive force of 360 kilotons.

The detonation would create a mass fire with a more than four-mile radius, generating winds of hurricane force above 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

Experts believe the fire would also burn for over six hours, creating a lethal environment over more than 65 square miles – an area about 10 to 15 times larger than that incinerated in Hiroshima, according to Waging Peace, a human rights organization.

This is significantly larger [than Hiroshima], said Wilson.

‘If you drop it on New York City, it will blast Jersey City and all of Manhattan, causing a million fatalities and two million more casualties.’

The B61-13 features a tail kit, which increases the accuracy of the bomb and enables it to be used against targets that today require bombs with higher yields.

Why is B61-13 being produced?

The B61-7 nuclear gravity bomb was the primary warhead in the US’s stockpile following the end of the Cold War.

The bomb weighs over 1,000 pounds and has a destructive force of 360 kilotons. 

The warhead was produced from the 1980s to the early 1990s before being discontinued under the George W. Bush administration.

While some B-617s are still among the US’s nuclear bomb stockpile, these weapons have a shelf-life of only 12 years.

The B61-7 nuclear gravity bomb was the primary warhead in the US's stockpile following the end of the Cold War. The bomb weighs over 1,000 pounds and has a destructive force of 360 kilotons

The B61-7 nuclear gravity bomb was the primary warhead in the US’s stockpile following the end of the Cold War. The bomb weighs over 1,000 pounds and has a destructive force of 360 kilotons

The radioactive elements are decaying, hindering potency and performance.

The Obama administration approved the development of the B61-12, with the first unit being produced in November 2021.

‘The B61-12 program has been controversial because of its high price tag. It was estimated in 2010 to cost $4 billion, but the National Nuclear Security Administration’s estimate ballooned to $8 billion in 2012, and the Defense Department set the cost at $10.4 billion in 2013, according to a report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

‘The new guided tail kit will cost another $1.8 billion, and integration on five different aircraft will cost hundreds of millions more. 

‘The B61-12 program is probably by now the most expensive nuclear bomb program in US history.

The report notes that each B61-12 cost more to make than if it were made of solid gold.

However, the newly designed bomb features a guided tail kit instead of a parachute, which officials found provides a limited standoff capability that increases safer delivery.

And the nuke has both air- and ground-burst abilities. 

The B61-12 is also less powerful than the new nuke – its yield can be as low as 0.3 tons.

‘While the B61-12 [is] capable of holding at risk the same targets as current gravity bombs in the US stockpile, it [does] so with less yield and thus less collateral damage, including radioactive fallout,’ reads the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The Obama administration approved the development of the B61-12, with the first unit being produced in November 2021

According to defense officials, the B61-13 will use the warhead from the B61-7 but will be modified with new safety and use-control features and a guided tail kit, like the B61-12, to increase the bomb’s accuracy compared with the B61-7. 

What have officials revealed about B61-13?

The DoD revealed plans for the super-nuke on October 27, which is shared is pending Congressional authorization and appropriation.

‘The B61-13 will strengthen deterrence of adversaries and assurance of allies and partners by providing the President with additional options against certain harder and large-area military Targets,’ reads a fact sheet shared as part of the announcement of the B61-13. 

The fact sheet also notes that the development of the B61-13 is ‘pending Congressional authorization and appropriation.’

The B61-13 will feature two main assemblies: the bomb assembly and the tail kit guidance.

The tail kit is equipped with four maneuverable fins and tail suction. 

‘The B61-13 would take advantage of the current, established production capabilities supporting the B61-12 and would include the modern safety, security, and accuracy features of the B61-12,’ the DoD shared in the October announcement.

‘The B61-13 would be deliverable by modern aircraft, strengthening deterrence of adversaries and assurance of allies and partners by providing the President with additional options against certain harder and large-area military targets. 

‘It would replace some of the B61-7s in the current nuclear stockpile and have a yield similar to the B61-7, which is higher than that of the B61-12.’

However, officials noted in the announcement that no specific threats sparked the development of B61-13.

Experts Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda with he Federation of American Scientists claimed that the B61-13 is a way to replace the massive B83-1 (1,200 kilotons)  bomb with a larger weapon than the B61-12.

Geoffrey Wilson, director at the Center for Defense Information, told DailyMail.com: ‘[B61-13] is a Washington warhead. A political weapon. 

Some people in Congress are upset that Biden wants to get rid of the 83, and the [new bomb] seems like a compromise. 

‘Whether or not there is a use or utility, that is a real question that hasn’t been answered.’



Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button