Sandia National Labs has posted an incredible video showing how all the facets of a nuclear weapons delivery test mission come together in an incredibly elegant fashion.
In this case, F-15E Strike Eagles are seen dropping inert B61-3/4 tactical nuclear bombs. In one clip we can see the bomb’s spin-stabilization rockets fire and in a series of others, you can see a parachute deploy. These depict two delivery profiles. The first being a medium altitude delivery and the other a low altitude drop—at 900 feet to be exact
In regards to the latter, during an actual nuclear strike, the parachute would allow the F-15E to make it a safe distance away before detonation, with the warhead detonating at a pre-described height above ground, or in lay-down mode, where the bomb would lay on the ground a finite amount of time before detonating.
Related Link: List of Nuclear Weapons U.S. Has Lost and Never Found
Currently, the new ‘smart’ B61-12 is deep in development, some of which has occurred at Tonopah Test Range. The B61-12 is slated to replace all four B61 variants still in use.
Beyond the ominous nature of the test subject, the video gives a great sense of many of the components that go into a single test and just how heavily instrumented and staffed the range is during these evolutions. Among all the advanced sensors and gear we also see some of the range’s dilapidated infrastructure, which is unsurprising as it has been actively supporting America’s nuclear apparatus, among other duties, for 61 years.
Tonopah Test Range is a secure test range in the remote Nevada desert where the nation’s most critical assets are tested. Sandia Labs deploys an advanced suite of diagnostics to verify test assets perform as designed. This video shows the sequence of events for a B61 flight drop test. Using integrated engineering, testing, diagnostics, and advanced modeling Sandia ensures the safety and reliability of the US nuclear stockpile.