The U.S. Department of Defense announced on Friday that it wants to pursue the development of a new nuclear bomb that is 24 times larger than one of the bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.
The new bomb, which was already given the designation B61-13, will not add to the current stockpile of nuclear weapons as it will replace some of the B61-7s, according to a Defense Department press release.
Upon Congressional authorization and appropriation, the bomb will be produced by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
A Pentagon fact sheet about the B61-13 states that it will have a yield similar to the B61-7 but will include the “modern safety, security, and accuracy features of the B61-12.”
The B61-7 has a yield of 360 kilotons, which makes it 24 times larger than the 15-kiloton bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II, according to Fox News. In comparison to the 25-kiloton bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, the B61-13 is roughly 14 times larger.
Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, said he was briefed on the bomb. He claimed it was likely the result of a compromise between Democrat and Republican lawmakers who have debated the production of high-yield weapons.
“This is a sweetener to the hardliners in Congress to basically say: ‘OK guys, you want something with a high yield. Here’s a small number of them … but you also get one with a tail kit that will be more accurate,’” said Kristensen to Defense News.
Kristensen added that defense officials do not expect many B61-13s to be produced if Congress approves production.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb claimed the announcement of the new bomb was not in response to any specific development in the world but to an overall “changing security environment and growing threats from potential adversaries.”
“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 added in the Defense Department press release.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) released a joint statement about the announcement, saying they agree with the development but calling it “only a modest step in the right direction.”
“The B61-13 is not a long-term solution, but it will provide our commanders, particularly in INDOPACOM and EUCOM, with more flexibility against these target sets,” the two lawmakers said.
“As the Strategic Posture Commission recently noted, China and Russia are in a full-on arms race, and the U.S. is running in place. Dramatic transformation of our deterrent posture — not incremental or piecemeal changes — is required to address this threat.”