B61 Nuclear Bomb
Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum
B61 Thermonuclear Bomb
The B61 nuclear bomb is the primary thermonuclear weapon in the U.S. Enduring Stockpile following the end of the Cold War. When the B61 was still classified, aircrew were not allowed to use the term "B61," instead they referred to the weapon as a "shape," a "silver bullet," or even simply "external delivery."
Built by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the B61 began its life as a program for a lightweight, streamlined weapon. Total production of all versions was approximately 3,155, of which approximately 1,925 remain in service, and some 1,265 are considered to be operational.
Nine versions (or "Mods") of the B61 have been produced. Each shares the same nuclear components but with different yield options. The newest variant, the B61 Mod 11, deployed in 1997, is a ground-penetrating bunker buster for use against targets buried deep underground.
The B61 has been deployed by a wide variety of U.S. military aircraft over the years. Most recently the F-15 Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle, and F-22 Raptor have been designated as B61 delivery platforms. British, German, and Italian Panavia Tornadoes plus Belgian and Dutch F-16 Fighting Falcons can also carry the B61.
The B61 is a variable yield bomb designed for carriage by high-speed aircraft. It has a streamlined casing capable of withstanding supersonic flight speeds. Most versions of the B61 are equipped with a parachute retarder the weapon in its descent, giving the aircraft a chance to escape the blast (or to allow the weapon to survive impact with the ground). The B61 can be set for airburst, ground burst, laydown detonation, and can be released at speeds up to Mach 2 and altitudes as low as 50 feet.
The U.S. is refurbishing the B61 bombs under its Life Extension Program with the intention that the weapons should remain operational until at least 2025.
Length: 11 feet, 8 inches
Diameter: 13 inches
Weight: 700 lbs
Yield: Variable kiloton range