The United States completed the modernization of its obsolete B61-3 and B61-4 tactical air-launched nuclear bombs and began serial production of their new version in the B61-12 variant. The first sample of the novelty has recently entered the troops. Already in 2022, the bulk of these bombs with a capacity of 0.3 to 50 kilotons are planned to be placed first in the United States, and from 2023-2024 – at NATO military bases in Europe, where, under the control of the American military, they will be stored in underground warehouses in Germany. , The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey.
What are these weapons? The development of the B61 bomb began in 1961. For such a venerable age, B61 was also called the bomb of eleven presidents. At first, it was considered so secret that even in the Pentagon, in conversations between friends, it was impossible to pronounce its name. As a result, the US military began to call it the “silver bullet”, as it was shaped like a cylinder with a silver fairing at the top.
For all the time, 3155 units of such “bullets” were fired. By the beginning of the 2000s, there were about 1200 of them left. The rest were disposed of according to old age. According to experts, today about 100-150 of these nuclear bombs are stored at NATO airbases in Europe.
However, in recent years, the United States has been actively engaged in the modernization of the old nuclear weapon, which has shown its high reliability over a long period of service. The design of the bomb, the body itself and the guidance system were significantly improved. She got a special unit, which turned the “old woman B61” of the updated version of the B61-12 into a guided high-precision weapon.
US plans now include the deployment in Europe of more than 480 of these new tactical nuclear bombs by 2025, intended as weapons for the B-2 Spirit strategic stealth bombers, the latest B-21 Raider, and the F-35A, F fighter-bombers. -15E and F-16C / D, which were also upgraded for it as carriers. Thus, it is planned to more than double the US tactical nuclear potential in the European theater of operations.
True, in Europe itself, not everyone is delighted with these plans. In particular, in Germany for more than one year there has been a discussion on whether the United States should be given the territory of their country for the deployment of nuclear weapons. Ten years ago, the Bundestag instructed the German government to get the United States to withdraw its nuclear weapons from the country, but this order was never carried out.
Now the German Social Democrats and the Greens are most actively opposed to the deployment of nuclear weapons. However, the German government is in no hurry to change anything. As a NATO member, Germany participates in the Alliance’s nuclear program, which formally guarantees it the right to vote in the planning and conduct of NATO military operations using nuclear weapons. For this, Germany should provide the Alliance with its territory for storing nuclear bombs, and, if necessary, its aircraft – their carriers.
Many German politicians consider such an exchange to be unfair, and therefore calls for the removal of American nuclear weapons have been louder in Germany lately. Especially after Washington adopted a new nuclear doctrine, which considers nuclear weapons not only as a strategic deterrent, but also provides for their use in local conflicts as a decisive argument that can turn the military situation in favor of the United States.
Tactical nuclear warheads, in fact, are not so low yield. Quite comparable to the bombs that the United States dropped in 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The theater of operations of the “mini-nuclear war” will be far from the territory of the United States. Although this is unlikely to save the United States from a nuclear retaliation strike. Europe, according to the Pentagon, fits well into the scenario of a limited nuclear war. The Germans understand this very well and therefore express their dissatisfaction.
But while they are expressing it, the Americans, meanwhile, continue to actively work on the creation of warheads with a lowered nuclear threshold, which can be placed on Ohio-class ballistic missiles, as well as nuclear bombs, including those stored at the air base in German Büchel.
At the same time, the Americans are not too worried about the anti-nuclear demarche of the German Social Democrats and the Greens. As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the other day, if Germany refuses to keep the American B61-12 nuclear bombs on its territory, then they can be deployed in Eastern Europe.
There is no doubt that countries such as Poland will definitely not give up this “honor”. This means that American nuclear weapons may soon move practically to the borders of Russia, which will enable NATO to reach the facilities of the central industrial region and our large cities, including Moscow, with these high-precision bombs.
In this case, the former chief of the Strategic Missile Forces General Staff, Colonel-General Viktor Yesin, believes that a situation is created when the status of such nuclear weapons in relation to Russia changes from tactical to strategic.
If earlier, during tests, the old B61 bombs were dropped exclusively from tactical aircraft, now the Americans dropped the layout of the modernized B61-12 from a strategic bomber. This makes the B-61-12 not only a universal precision weapon, but at the same time a significant addition to the strategic offensive forces that are currently in the US nuclear arsenal.
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