Source: Knoxville News Sentinel | Brittany Crocker | January 24, 2018
The Y-12 National Security Complex will soon build parts for W88 nuclear warheads, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration.
The W88 nuclear warhead entered the nuclear stockpile in late 1988 and has been deployed on U.S. Naval Ohio-class submarines for the last three decades.
“Several updates are required to address aging issues and to maintain its current state of readiness,” the NNSA said, adding that the updates would not change the military requirements or capabilities of the warhead.
The Oak Ridge plant will create replacements for the missile warhead’s arming, fuzing and firing subsystems, part of a maintenance program called W88 Alteration 370 that has been in a kind of test phase since 2012.
During the developmental phase, the NNSA said, plants like Y-12 assessed their ability to produce the proposed weapon design.
In 2014, the Nuclear Weapons Council expanded the program to include a refresh of the conventional high explosive inside the warhead, for which the NNSA reportedly began gathering equipment in February 2017.
The warhead’s subsystem design was recently approved in a review at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, and received a “pass with no conditions,” which the NNSA called the best possible outcome for a design under review.
Y-12’s subsequent approval to build the replacement parts put the warhead’s production nearly two years ahead of schedule. The NNSA first said it expected to begin production of the missile’s replacement parts next year and complete it by 2024.
“This early engineering authorization will help ensure that the program stays on track when it reaches First Production Unit, currently scheduled for December 2019,” the NNSA said in a release, crediting existing supply inventories and qualified test specimens for the early start.