The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has revealed that it is currently developing a new nuclear 'gravity bomb' that is set to be 24 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The bomb in question, known as the B61-13, is a variant of the B61 family of gravity bombs. These bombs fall to their target rather than being guided.
The B61-13 will have the same explosive yield as its predecessor, the Cold War-era B61-7, which is estimated to be 360,000 tons. This incredible power would result in a blast radius covering approximately 190,000 feet, equivalent to the length of two Manhattans. The new bomb will include modern safety and control features, as well as an upgraded tail kit to enhance accuracy.
The primary objective behind the development of the B61-13 is to replace aging warheads in the U.S. stockpile. The B61-7 had been the primary nuclear gravity bomb following the end of the Cold War, but its viability has been hindered by a shelf-life of only 12 years due to radioactive decay. As a result, the Obama administration approved the development of its successor, the B61-12, in 2021. Notably, the B61-12 is less powerful than the B61-13, with a possible yield as low as 0.3 tons.
According to defense officials, the B61-13 will utilize the warhead from the B61-7 but will be modified with modern safety and use-control features, along with a guided tail kit for improved accuracy. The Department of Defense emphasizes that the development of the B61-13 is contingent upon Congressional authorization and appropriation.
While the proposal for a more powerful nuclear bomb has elicited concerns over its potential impact, officials have not specified any specific threats that justify the development of the B61-13. Some experts posit that the B61-13 is intended to replace the larger B83-1 bomb, while others argue that it represents a political compromise. The new bomb aims to strengthen deterrence against adversaries and assurance for allies by providing the President with additional options against military targets.
In conclusion, the Pentagon's development of the B61-13 nuclear bomb, which is significantly more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, marks an effort to replace aging warheads in the U.S. stockpile. The inclusion of modern safety features, a guided tail kit for enhanced accuracy, and improved control mechanisms make the B61-13 a formidable addition to the country's nuclear arsenal. However, concerns remain regarding the necessity and potential consequences of such a powerful weapon.