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U.S. Drops B-61 Bomb Exterior in Earth-Penetration Test

The United States on Tuesday said it dropped a B-61 nuclear-bomb exterior in a test that rammed the unarmed weapon through the earth's surface.

Sandia National Laboratories said it saw no surprises in the outcome of exercise, which used a B-61 Mod 11 bomb lacking any atomic materials. The analysis at the Coyote Canyon Test Range was the New Mexico facility's first test in seven years to scrutinize how such a weapon -- rocket-propelled for the trial drop -- makes contact with the earth's surface, according to a press release.

Laboratory personnel outfitted the armament with thrusters to slam it into the ground, as well as measurement tools to gather data on its physical behavior. As part of the examination, workers chilled the weapon's inner and outer parts to a level significantly below 0 degrees Fahrenheit prior to its release.

Such "surveillance" assessments focus on how bomb parts act in a specific environment, and can involve a range of physical situations.

Initial findings from the latest test indicate that the weapon's performance was satisfactory in the least-accommodating environment in which it is still expected to be highly dependable, senior manager Patrick Sena said in provided comments.

"One important way to assure deterrence is to have a successful surveillance test that shows our systems work," he said.

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