The US Department of Defense recently announced its intent to pursue the development of a modern variant of the B61 nuclear gravity bomb, designated as the B61-13.

This strategic decision, pending Congressional authorization and appropriation, signifies a noteworthy step towards enhancing America’s deterrence capabilities in a rapidly changing world.

In this article, we will explore the details of this announcement, its implications, and the factors behind the pursuit of the B61-13 variant.

A Response to a Dynamic Security Environment

The United States, in collaboration with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), is developing the B61-13 nuclear gravity bomb in response to the demands of an ever-evolving security environment, as outlined in the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review.

This comprehensive assessment recognizes the growing threats from potential adversaries and underscores the need for credible deterrence and the ability to respond to strategic attacks.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb emphasized that the US has a responsibility to assess and field the necessary capabilities to ensure both deterrence and assurance of its allies.

F-35A Lightning II
An F-35A Lightning II taxis at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and is set to complete the final B61-12 test, September 21, 2021 (Image source: DVIDS)

The B61-13: Features and Capabilities

The B61-13 will be a modern variant of the B61 nuclear gravity bomb, delivering a significant upgrade in terms of precision, flexibility, and strength.

Here are some key features and capabilities of the B61-13 according to its released fact sheet: