Oct 31, 2013 ASDNews Source : AFPS
Defense Department officials testified on Capitol Hill yesterday about the program to modernize one of the oldest weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Madelyn R. Creedon, the assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, and Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, spoke at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee.
The B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb has the oldest warhead design in the U.S. nuclear stockpile, Creedon said, noting that some of the warhead’s components date back to the 1960s.
“Only through extraordinary measures has this aging family of weapons remained safe, secure and effective far beyond its originally planned operational life,” Kehler told the House panel. No full-scope nuclear modernization programs have taken place since production of new warheads was suspended in the 1990s, Creedon added.
The B61-12 modernization program is intended to address several components that are affected by age-related issues, Creedon said, and will give the B61-12 an extended lifespan while making sustainment more cost-effective.
The nation’s nuclear forces perform three key functions, Kehler told the subcommittee. They deter potential adversaries, assure allies and partners of the United States’ extended deterrence commitments to them, and “in the unlikely event deterrence fails, [they employ] nuclear weapons when directed by the president to achieve U.S. and allied objectives,” he said.