US launches qualification tests for upgraded nuke bomb

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are claiming success with the first in a new series of test flights that are part of an effort to upgrade one of the nuclear weapons that has been in the U.S. arsenal for decades.

An F-16 from Nellis Air Force Base dropped an inert B61-12 bomb over the Nevada desert last month to test the weapon’s non-nuclear functions as well as the plane’s ability to carry the weapon.

With a puff of dust, the mock bomb landed in a dry lake bed at the Tonopah Test Range.

Scientists are planning to spend months analyzing the data gathered from the test.

Officials say the first production unit of the B61-12, developed under what is called the Life Extension Program, is scheduled to be completed in 2020.