The Pentagon is keeping a close eye on nuclear weapons life-extension programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) during the COVID-19 pandemic, but to date there have been no signs of any delays, a senior Defense Department official said Wednesday.

“I don’t believe that there have been any COVID-related implications to the life-extension programs,” Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, said in a webinar hosted by the Arlington, Va.-based Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

That is consistent with the message since March from the NNSA, when the semiautonomous Department of Energy nuclear-weapon agency — like the rest of the country — radically altered its approach to daily life amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

NNSA sites have established protocols including physical distancing, required use of personal protective equipment in some areas, and mandatory quarantines for personnel who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus 2019. However, at least some workers have continued to report for work at the agency’s three main weapons production sites throughout the pandemic.

The agency is also not on the hook to mass-produce refurbished weapons for almost another year, at the earliest. The first major refurbishment in the queue is the W88 Alt-370 program to refresh the conventional high explosives, and some other parts, of the larger of the Navy’s two submarine-launched ballistic-missile warheads. That work will not start until after the NNSA cranks out the first production unit of the weapon: a milestone on the slate for July 2021, the agency has said.

A first production unit is an early copy of a weapon design intended for deployment. The NNSA takes the unit apart to prove both its design, and the process that will mass produce it, are ready to go.

The next big production run after W88 Alt-370 is the Air Force’s nuclear gravity bomb, the B61-12. The first production unit is supposed to be done by November 2021, the NNSA has said. The weapon will homogenize four earlier iterations of the bomb, including one with a limited Earth-penetrating capability. The new version will also add a tail kit, adding enough maneuverability for what the Air Force called a modest standoff capability.