The integrated of the B61 Mod 12 nuclear weapon into the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet isturned aviation munitions from tactical weapons into strategic ones, analyst Victor Esin told in an interview to the ‘Armeyskiy standart’.
Victor Esin is a leading Russian analyst and Researcher at the Institute for the US and Canadian Studies, Russian Academy of Science; First Vice-President, Academy of Security, Defense and Law and former Chief of Staff – First Deputy Commander-In-Chief, Strategic Missile Forces; Ph.D., Professor, Colonel-General.
Russia analyst suggested that the possibility of the F-35 aircraft carrying nuclear B61 Mod 12 gravity bombs to be deployed on NATO bases in Lithuania or Latvia “actually changes the status of these nuclear weapons.”
“In relation to Russia, it ceases to be tactical, as it is capable of reaching the objects of the central industrial region of the country, large cities, including Moscow,” – said Victor Esin in an interview.
It is worth noting that the U.S. Air Force is integrating the B61 Mod 12 nuclear weapon into the F-35 this year as part of a long-range plan to deploy a nuclear-armed, dual-capable F-35 able to give commanders a wider envelope of precision nuclear attack options.
The B61-12 consolidates and replaces four B61 variants in the U.S. nation’s nuclear arsenal. The first production unit in the weapon’s life extension program is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman also said: “Detailed risk reduction activities have been completed ensuring the F-35A is fully compatible with the B61-12 weapon. Planning for Block 4 nuclear certification efforts have begun in anticipation of initial B61-12 integration on the F-35A this year.”
According to a statement released by the U.S. Air Force, the main purpose of F-35 Lightning II carrying B61 Mod 12 nuclear weapons is for tactical deterrence. In case of the risk of a nuclear warfare, the F-35 fighter jets carrying B61 Mod 12 weapons will be spread out over the smallest airfields.
Unlike most aircraft that carry the B61, the multi-role F-35 Lightning II is up to enable strike and anti-air attacks with enhanced lethality and survivability in hostile, anti-access airspace environments.