Sandia News

Nuclear Deterrence

Image of A first production capability unit built into a development joint test assembly
A first production capability unit built into a development joint test assembly.

B61-12 program initiates landmark build processes

The B61-12 program produced four first production capability units that exercised the multisite nuclear security enterprise’s build processes, critical in proving readiness for war reserve, full-scale production. This effort included Sandia as system integrator, Kansas City National Security Campus’ hardware provisioning, Pantex’s build processes and Los Alamos National Laboratory’s design agency activities and surveillance. Two first production capability units built into development joint test assemblies were flight tested at Tonopah Test Range, concluding the test series for F-35 baseline certification. (2000, KCNSC, Pantex, LANL)

Cross-cutting impact of Nuclear Deterrence governance improvements

The technical governance and system analysis center developed the Find It Now search tool that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable collection and sharing of lessons learned. 

The Global Futures briefing series was reestablished, informing Labs leadership on emerging trends that influence global and national security, covering such topics as hyperconnectivity, space futures, collective security and climate change. The center successfully completed requisite Nuclear Deterrence assessments in support of the Cycle 26 Annual Assessment Review that culminated in the Lab director’s stockpile assessment letter to the secretaries of energy and defense. (5000)

Image of Thermo-mechanical shock platform at the Z Pulsed Power Facility
New platforms, like the thermo-mechanical shock platform at the Z Pulsed Power Facility, support completion of the milestone. The thermo-mechanical shock platform measures mechanical shock propagation in materials irradiated by high-fluence X-rays.

The hostile survivability baseline capability

Sandia, in collaboration with Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories, completed an NNSA Defense Programs milestone to establish a baseline of capabilities to assess and deliver weapons that meet hostile environment survivability requirements for U.S. nuclear deterrence. The five-year effort culminated in the development of multiple new platforms at facilities across the NNSA (including Sandia’s Annular Core Research Reactor, Saturn and Z Pulsed Power Facility, and LLNL’s National Ignition Facility) and advances in modeling and simulation tools that enable the science of discovery, model development and testing components and materials in extreme radiation environments. (1000, 2000, 5000, LANL, LLNL)

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B61-12 EA1 first production unit

The B61-12 Electronics Assembly 1 Product Realization Team achieved its first production unit, the culmination of more than 10 years of collaboration with organizations across Sandia and the Kansas City National Security Campus. (2000, 5000, 7000, 8000, KCNSC)

Mechanical engineer Ryan Schultz adjusts a microphone for an acoustic test on a B61-12 system.
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Gigahertz transverse electromagnetic facility used for qualification of B61-12 components and system.

B61-12 component and system electromagnetic qualification

B61-12 qualification became a top priority to NNSA and Sandia in fiscal years 2020 and 2021. Qualification in electromagnetic environments was of particular concern due to technical and schedule drivers with hard deadlines. Preplanning by the team eliminated single point failures, minimizing electromagnetic qualification risks. The qualification was completed months ahead of schedule, thanks to the team’s dedication. The systems partner said this was the best executed qualification test series he had experienced. (1000, 2000)

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A new automated calibration system measures wide ranges of voltages and frequencies. The caution tape indicates high voltages around the system.

Calibration system for electrical standards

The Primary Standards Lab developed a new automated calibration system for alternating current measurement standards. The new system covers a wide range of voltages from 600 microvolts to 1,000 volts and frequencies from 10 hertz to 50 megahertz.

The new system allows calibrations to be performed in-house instead of outsourced. The new process reduces calibration time and cost, eliminates the possibility of damage during shipment and results in improved physical control of the assets. (2000)

W80-4 WCS3/WSS3 integration testing success

The W80-4 Life Extension Program team performed successful integration testing of warhead communication simulators to support W80-4 rapid and agile design maturation. The W80-4 team conducted significant, critical electrical and mechanical testing at the Sandia Programs Engineering and Assembly Research facility to prepare for successful integration tests at both Sandia and Raytheon. (2000, 8000)

New nondestructive parts verification method

Verification of part conformance, particularly verifying the thickness of coatings, often relies on a statistical evaluation of destructive physical analysis of parts pulled from a population. Sandia engineers teamed with the Kansas City National Security Campus to enable a new, more comprehensive X-ray fluorescence methodology for nondestructive verification of thin film coatings thicknesses. This new application of X-ray fluorescence results in 100% nondestructive screening and verification without large-scale destructive sampling. (1000, 2000, 5000, 6000, 9000, KCNSC)

Image of Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile takes off
The Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile takes off.

W88 ALT 370 systems successfully achieve FPU and DRAAG approval

The W88-0/Mk5 Alteration 370 system successfully delivered the first production unit July 1, signifying completion of the first mark-quality war reserve W88 ALT 370 system. In October 2021, a Design Review and Acceptance Group evaluated the weapons system design relative to DOD requirements. At the review’s conclusion, the group recommended the W88-0/Mk5 ALT 370 as a standard stockpile item. These accomplishments represent years of work and successful completion of numerous qualifications and cross-site activities. (2000)

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A W80-4 test unit collides with a rigid target during the Abnormal Shock Breach Phase 2 series in April.

W80-4 program completes abnormal shock test series

Two impact tests executed with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory successfully completed the W80-4 Abnormal Shock Breach Phase 2 test series. The tests provided information about abnormal mechanical shock environments for nuclear safety assessments and model calibration. (2000, LLNL)

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Example of the laser ablation capabilities in the Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory.

Advanced manufacturing of war reserve components

The Neutron Generator Enterprise Advanced Manufacturing Lab successfully demonstrated the use of its laser-cutting capabilities to rapidly develop and produce parts for war reserve applications. Averting a stoppage threat posed by lost suppliers and stringent specifications, this cross-organizational effort by production, design and applied sciences executed process development and qualification in only six months. With consistently high yields, the new technology is one of the options being explored for qualifying a future vendor. (1000, 2000, 7000)

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An experimental test system is mounted on the centrifuge arm prior to combined environments testing at the Sandia Superfuge/Centrifuge Complex.

Full-system superfuge test development

A team of Sandia engineers developed a new testing capability in support of its nuclear weapons mission. The team completed its first combined-environments test on a full-scale weapons system at the Sandia Superfuge/Centrifuge Complex. In a successful test, weapons engineers simulated three environments — acceleration, vibration and spin — simultaneously on an inert experimental test system built by Sandia and used in collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (1000, 2000, LLNL)

Transformation initiative

Sandia’s Commercial Off the Shelf Transformation Initiative developed a technical and supply chain assurance framework and policies to enable reliable, predictable and repeatable use of the commercial supply chain to provide electronic parts for Sandia’s nuclear weapon component designs. Based on benchmarking of peer agencies, the initiative created a new approach for high-rigor engineering with commercial electronic parts for nuclear deterrence applications and, in partnership with Kansas City National Security Campus, increased Sandia’s ability to transfer leading-edge research to these applications. (1000, 2000, 5000, 7000, 10000, KCNSC)

W87-0 firing set assembly first production unit

Ensuring the W87-0 is sustained for the duration of its protected period in the stockpile, the W87-0 firing set assembly achieved first production unit status for the 107 suffix. The unit is a culmination of more than a decade of work and represents a significant milestone in the W87-0 program. The effort received contributions from Sandia’s Strategic Firing Subsystem and W87-0 System Engineering teams, as well as several additional Kansas City National Security Campus and Sandia collaborators. (1000, 2000, 7000, 8000, 10000, KCNSC)

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Members of the Sandia Weapons Quality Assurance team are responsible for Sandia’s independent inspection.

Redelegation of Sandia’s independent inspection

In February 2021, Sandia renewed its delegation authority to conduct inspections and diamond stamp materials on behalf of NNSA quality assurance. This is a critical capability for Sandia’s production agency mission and is only bestowed on fully qualified staff who conduct these activities per the applicable requirements of NNSA’s Weapon Quality Policy. The renewed delegation was granted following NNSA’s Quality Assurance Survey 2, which reevaluated the adequacy and effectiveness of Sandia’s inspection program. The inspection concluded with zero findings and three remarks. (2000)

W87-1 team demonstrates system architecture

The W87-1 team, including NNSA, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and production agency partners, selected a warhead single architecture. It reviewed and validated source requirements and interfaces, decomposed warhead-level functions, created use control and nuclear safety themes, completed system design trades and allocated requirements to each major component. Since successfully passing the system feasibility gate, the team has positioned the program to enter the design definition and cost study phase. The program more than doubled in size and met all milestones in FY21. (2000, 8000, 10000, NNSA, LLNL)

Component design via set-based concurrent engineering

Furthering the Labs’ model-based design and advanced digital engineering initiatives, Sandia’s Component Science, Engineering and Production team led adoption of component design via set-based concurrent engineering. Sandia successfully completed the baseline design review gate of a power source component, which was designed using set-based concurrent engineering principles that allow deep understanding, trade-offs and dependencies in design decisions, leading to more agile iterations and, ultimately, more robust designs. (1000, 2000, 7000)

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The Military Liaison team stands with a model of a Mark 5 bomb in front of the entrance to the Weapon Display Area, a key site to train stakeholders and partners.

Military Liaison weapon lifecycle support

Military Liaison provided engineering weapon lifecycle support to the enduring stockpile and weapon modernization programs, resolving 549 weapon system-related anomalies, publishing 4,185 pages of technical procedures and conducting 114 technical training sessions. Staff met several key B61-12 program milestones, ensuring the DOD was well prepared to receive weapons in the field. Military Liaison collaborated with use control systems to deliver several publications and field training to the Air Force, enabling smooth transition of new equipment in the field. (7000)

War reserve parts delivered

Despite challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sandia’s Production Agency delivered more than 34,500 war reserve parts affecting 53 major components in seven technology areas: power sources, explosives, neutron generators, application specific integrated circuits, heterojunction bipolar transistors, switch tubes, and timers and detonators. Sandia manufactured all neutron generator, application-specific integrated circuits and heterojunction bipolar transistors parts onsite, more than 26,800 parts for 24 major components. (5000, 7000, 9000)

First internally produced explosive component

In response to supply chain issues that posed risk to the W88 ALT 370 Program, Sandia’s Explosive Technologies Group stood up the Labs’ first internal production capability for explosive components. The first lot of an internally produced detonator was delivered Aug. 19 after defect-free acceptance by the Sandia Field Office. The lot, which was delivered ahead of schedule, exhibited improved production yield and superior performance compared to the externally produced product. (7000)

Innovative website serves nuclear deterrence community

A Sandia team collaborated to design, build and launch a WordPress website to serve as a hub for nuclear deterrence information across Division 8000. The team of professionals from Communications, Strategy and Recruiting integrated strategy, accomplishments, job opportunities, recognition and culture, building relevant content for each section and reinforcing a cohesive “one team” nuclear deterrence community message. The project team sought feedback to guide the project and ensure effectiveness of future iterations. (8000)

W80-4 completes full-scale thermal and mechanical tests

In October 2021, the first W80-4 full-scale thermal and mechanical tests under normal conditions successfully demonstrated the warhead’s survival of these conditions throughout its lifetime. In addition to helping qualify warhead design, these test results provided data to validate modeling and simulation tools, supporting component-level development of environmental specifications and performance requirements. (2000)

W80-4 program completes functional testing milestones

The W80-4 Life Extension Program completed major milestones in functional testing by maximizing collaboration and agility between cross-site component and system test, qualification and design teams. The functional electrical test teams completed temperature testing of the joint test assembly configuration, demonstrating successful firedown and data acquisition for the flight test unit. The Sandia Programs Engineering and Assembly Research laboratory in California completed subsystem integration testing with war reserve prototypes. The combination of these efforts enables the release of component design engineering holds to ensure a successful final design. (2000, 8000)

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Rendering of a neutron tube.

Scrapping of neutron tube eliminated

Sandia’s Source End Diode Conversion team eliminated scrapping of neutron tubes, saving $3 million annually for the neutron generator enterprise. In collaboration with tube design and production, Neutron Generator Science and Technology department identified a production improvement opportunity that translated into a change in the tube testing process, resulting in increased yield. The tested tube configuration also increased confidence that delivered tubes will perform to specifications. (7000)

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The B61-12 system test equipment at the Weapons Evaluation Test Laboratory in Amarillo, Texas.

Stockpile surveillance testers

Multiple system testers were qualified by staff at Sandia and the Weapons Evaluation Test Laboratory for stockpile surveillance and evaluation. Qualifications were issued for the B61-12 bench command disable and stronglink safety testers, as well as for a W80-1 small centrifuge conversion. Previously qualified B61-12 and W88 ALT 370 system test equipment successfully tested first production capability units and E-test units. Active testing, continuous improvement feedback and modernization of tester subsystems are driving operational efficiencies in stockpile testing. (2000, 7000)

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An inert B61-12 test unit approaches its impact site during a qualification test drop at Tonopah Test Range.

Tonopah Test Range mission excellence

Fourteen flight tests supporting B61-12 qualification, full-weapon system demonstrations and stockpile systems surveillance requirements were conducted at the Tonopah Test Range. The range team expertly recovered 20 dropped assets, ensuring hardware was safely preserved for forensic analysis. They also responded quickly to a 120-gallon diesel fuel spill, ensuring spill containment, reporting to stakeholders and remediation from the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection. (2000, 7000)

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The team reviews modeling and simulation to prepare for the B61-12 final design review.

Abnormal mechanical support for B61-12 design review

A team of system and component analysts provided abnormal mechanical technical basis data for the B61-12 Final Design Review and Acceptance Group meeting. The team used Sierra/SM, the massively parallel non-linear solid mechanics finite element software package, on high-performance computing platforms to explore the mechanical nuclear safety response of a weapon for a series of abnormal mechanical environments. Acceleration histories from these analyses were used directly in the examination of the nuclear safety component-level mechanical response. For each case, derived requirements were assessed to determine the mechanical nuclear safety state of the weapon. The data provided insight into mechanical nuclear safety strength of the weapon and how different nuclear safety features interact with each other. The approach also aided exploration of the weapon’s mechanical nuclear safety response in the vast stockpile-to-target-sequence accident space. This information, along with data from full-system tests, contributed to the abnormal mechanical technical basis that supported the successful qualification of the design. (1000)

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Rendering of the W80-1 warhead.

W80-1 Alt 369 last production unit

W80-1 Alt 369 successfully completed its last production unit at the Pantex Plant on May 12, 2021. The alteration extends the life of the W80-1 warhead until replacement, addressing identified aging issues and refurbishing the system in a managed and affordable fashion. The program was a major collaborative effort between Sandia, Pantex, NNSA Headquarters, the NNSA Production Office, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Kansas City National Security Campus and the Savannah River Site. (8000, Pantex, NNSA, LLNL, KCNSC)

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Subsystem test setup used in hybrid system prediction approach to enable block-upgradable modular testing.

Advances in block-modular testing

Sandia has matured testing and analysis capabilities for qualifying block upgradeable weapon systems. In partnership with the Joint Technology Demonstrator, Delivery Environments and Verification and Validation programs, Sandia demonstrated a hybrid system-model approach on a reentry body system to assess impact on dynamic performance when modules are swapped in and out of the system. Sandia now can rapidly characterize an upgraded system, evaluate performance impact and reduce the need for repeating select qualification activities. (1000, 2000)

Advancing computational simulations on next-generation platforms

The Advanced Simulation and Computing Structural Dynamics and Thermal Fluid computational simulation teams have delivered to nuclear deterrence analysts the ability to run mechanical and normal thermal simulation under normal conditions on the next-generation computing platform at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, called ATS-2. The structural dynamics and thermal applications are now production ready applications on ATS-2 that make efficient use of the graphics processing units. Using ATS-2, the most powerful computer in the NNSA complex, W80-4 system model analyses that previously took days can be completed in hours, greatly increasing the value of these analyses for component and experiment design cycles. Equally important advances were enabled in model setup, meshing at scale and developing credible workflows to improve efficiency. Next year, W80-4 analysts will leverage the increased throughput enhancement, using the new machines for system uncertainty quantification via ensemble analyses. (1000)