America’s Controversial Stealth Fighter Jet Can Now Carry Nukes

It was a routine Pentagon announcement during a regular briefing the Friday before the president typically submits his annual defense budget request to Congress on the second Monday in March.

As of October, a spokesman for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) F-35 Joint Program Office told Pentagon beat writers, that “certain” Air Force F-35As have been operationally certified to carry the B61-12 thermonuclear gravity bomb.

While the revelation hasn’t drawn much interest from general news media in the United States, it has spurred extensive commentary within the defense-tech industry. And it is echoing loudly in Europe, most certainly within the Kremlin where Russian President Vladimir Putin has been openly discussing the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

The F-35A nuclear certification and introduction of the B61-12 bomb are key components in a tactical nuclear weapons upgrade in Europe by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in response to Russian saber-rattling—and advances—in battlefield nuclear weapons.

While NATO’s U.S.-built F-16A/Bs and F-16C/Ds and United Kingdom-built PA-200 Tornadoes are also fighter jets authorized to carry nuclear weapons, the F-35A Lightning II is now the first “fifth-generation” stealth fighter to be “dual-capable” of carrying conventional and nuclear weapons, according to the Pentagon.

The F-35A will soon be among NATO’s primary attack-strike jets. Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey are all stocking their air forces with F-35s, with Germany explicitly doing so because it would be nuclear-capable.

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Zero Hedges

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