WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense announced on Friday that the United States will develop a modern variant of the B61 nuclear gravity bomb to respond to what it termed a "rapidly evolving" security landscape.
According to a new release by Yonhap News Agency, the initiative to produce the B61-13 variant aims to maintain U.S. military preeminence in a context characterized by China's rising assertiveness, Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, increasing tensions in the Middle East, and North Korea's defiance. "The decision to pursue this capability, which was undertaken in close collaboration with the NNSA, responds to the demands of a rapidly evolving security environment as described in the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review," the Department of Defense stated. The NNSA is the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb indicated that the development of the new variant reflects the need to address growing threats. "The United States has a responsibility to continue to assess and field the capabilities we need to credibly deter and, if necessary, respond to strategic attacks, and assure our allies," Plumb said.
The B61-13 will be designed to be deliverable by modern aircraft and aims to strengthen deterrence and assurance measures. According to the Department of Defense, it will provide the U.S. president with additional options against certain harder and large-area military targets. The new variant will replace some of the existing B61-7s in the nuclear stockpile and will have a yield similar to that of the B61-7, which is higher than the B61-12's yield.
Despite the timing, the Pentagon clarified that the decision to develop the B61-13 is not a reaction to any specific current event.