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U.S. Tests Mock Nuclear Warhead

The United States has carried out a flight test involving a data-collecting Joint Test Assembly for the W-78 nuclear warhead, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration said on Friday (see GSN, June 27).

Vandenberg Air Force Base in California fired a Minuteman ballistic missile carrying the non-nuclear assembly for the test, which was the first to include new Command Receiver Decoder command destruct technology created for the Minuteman program.

Joint Test Assemblies are equipped with various data gathering and delivery components. The technology incorporates a mechanism to record information for a weapon reliability analysis created at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

“JTA flight tests are essential in ensuring that all weapon systems perform as designed,” NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator Brig. Gen. Sandra Finan said in a statement. “The working relationship between NNSA and the Department of Defense is vital as we continue our strong partnership in support of our national security.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration produced the mock weapon for the Joint Surveillance Flight Test Program, an effort that the agency oversees along with the Pentagon. Test-assembly trials seek to replicate real warhead configurations and employ the maximum amount possible of actual "war reserve hardware," according to the release.. The mock bomb was built at the Pantex Plant in Texas (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration release, July 8).

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