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B61 Life Extension Program Advances

More than a half-century after its creation, the nation’s oldest nuclear warhead is one step closer to a new life.
December 1, 2016
B61 Life Extension Program Advances

The B61 LEP refurbishes both nuclear and non-nuclear components to extend the bomb’s service life while ensuring it remains safe, secure, and reliable.


  • Managing Editor
  • Clay Dillingham
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The B61 is undergoing a life-extension program at Los Alamos to convert four earlier versions of the warhead into a single modification: the B61-12.

One of the many weapons carried by the B-52—and some fighter jets—is the nuclear-armed B61 gravity bomb, which can be dropped at high speeds from as low as 50 feet. The warhead can be dropped free-fall or deployed (and slowed down) with a parachute. The B61 can be detonated in the air or on the ground.

Los Alamos designed and engineered the B61 in 1963. Most B61s were produced in the 1970s, and production ended about 20 years later. The B61, which initially had a life expectancy of 10 years, is the oldest type of nuclear weapon in the stockpile. Over the years it has been modified many times to meet changing military requirements.