The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will be late with initial deliveries to the Pentagon of two refurbished nuclear weapons, the head of the semi-autonomous nuclear-weapons agency said Wednesday
NNSA is part of the Department of Energy. The agency is refurbishing the B61 nuclear gravity bomb for the Air Force and the W88 submarine launched ballistic missile warhead for the Navy
Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the NNSA administrator, told Defense Daily her agency has been evaluating the problem with the capacitors for “the last couple of months,” and that it will take several more months to decide what to do about the bad components: commercial items procured by NNSA’s Kansas City National Security Campus. Honeywell [HON] operates that site, which builds and buys non-nuclear components for nuclear weapons.
The Air Force was supposed to get its refurbished B61, to be called B61-12, in 2020. The Navy was supposed to get its first W88 Alt 370 in December 2019. Both those dates are now “expected” to slip, an NNSA spokesperson said. How far is yet to be determined.
In NNSA’s B61-12 life-extension program, the agency aims to homogenize four existing versions of the B61 gravity bomb and extend the weapon’s life for 20 years. On top of NNSA’s expected $8 billion bill, the Air Force’s work to provide a guided tail kit to help the weapon maneuver is expected to push the program’s cost to about $12 billion over the 20 years ending 2025.
In the W88 Alt 370 program, NNSA will replace non-nuclear detonation hardware on the newer of the Navy’s two active submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and replace the conventional high-explosives used to spark the warhead’s fissile core. That will cost about $4 billion over roughly 10 years through 2024. The bill includes up to $3 billion in NNSA expenses, according to DoE and Pentagon documents.
NNSA plans to build some 480 B61-12 bombs and has some 350 W88 warheads, the nonprofit Federation of American Scientists estimated this year.