The US Defense Department has made an announcement that it intends to develop a new version of the B61 nuclear bomb. This new bomb will have 24 times the destructive power of the one dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. The Pentagon has stated that it will seek Congressional approval and funding for the development of this weapon.
The bomb, known as the B61-13, will have a similar yield to the B61-7, which it is intended to replace. The B61-7 has a maximum yield of 360 kilotons, making it 24 times more powerful than the bomb that devastated Hiroshima. However, it is worth noting that the B61-7 is not the most powerful nuclear weapon in the US arsenal. That title goes to the B83, a thermonuclear gravity bomb with a yield of 1.2 megatons of TNT.
The United States has a responsibility to assess and field the capabilities needed to deter and respond to strategic attacks and assure its allies. This announcement is reflective of a changing security environment and the growing threats from potential adversaries, said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb.
In addition, the US recently conducted an underground explosion at a nuclear testing range in Nevada, which was its first test of this kind since the early 1990s. This test came just hours after the Russian State Duma passed a bill on withdrawing ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). It is worth noting that the CTBT was never ratified by the US. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that if the US resumes nuclear testing as part of the modernization of its arsenal, Moscow will follow suit.
It is important to acknowledge that the most powerful nuclear bomb ever tested was built by the Soviet Union. Known as the ‘Tsar Bomba’, it was detonated in 1961 and had an estimated yield of 58 megatons, equivalent to over 1,500 Hiroshima bombs.
Overall, the development of this new version of the B61 nuclear bomb reflects the evolving security landscape and the need for the United States to maintain its deterrence capabilities. However, it also raises concerns about the potential escalation of nuclear arms race and the implications for global security. The actions and responses of other nuclear-armed nations will play a significant role in shaping the future of nuclear weapons development and disarmament.