Four systems designed by Los Alamos

As 21st century geopolitical realities reshape our national security policy, it remains one of our nation’s priorities to deter nuclear attacks and prevent large-scale conventional warfare. The work of Los Alamos ensures the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and reduces emerging national security and global threats.

LANL is the design laboratory for four of the seven weapons systems in the nation’s on-alert deterrent:

  • B61 gravity bomb, deployed to a variety of strategic and tactical aircraft
  • W78, carried by U.S. Air Force’s Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles
  • W76 and W88, carried by U.S. Navy’s Trident missile submarines

The Laboratory is integral to the nation’s ability to assure its allies and adversaries that these warheads will remain safe, secure, and effective into the coming decades.

Safe, secure, effective deterrent

Los Alamos supports a safe, secure, and effective deterrent with science and engineering tools such as the following.

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Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility: DARHT allows scientists at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to study 3D implosion of mock nuclear weapons primaries.

Proton Radiography at Los Alamos Neutron Science Center: Invented at Los Alamos, proton radiography (pRad) provides high-resolution, high-speed, multi-snapshot imaging of a variety of materials in extreme conditions.

TA-55: The nation’s premier plutonium manufacturing and science facility supports pit manufacturing, surveillance, and special plutonium recovery.

Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building and Radiological Laboratory Utility and Office Building: These facilities help provide the actinide chemistry and materials characterization capabilities needed to understand material properties of plutonium and other actinides (i.e., radioactive elements on the periodic table).

High Explosive Laboratories and Firing Sites: The Laboratory maintains world-class R&D capabilities in the science of high explosives. Experimental work carried out at firing sites provides scientists and engineers with important information on aging explosives, as well as new and safer explosive formulas.

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Sigma Complex

Sigma Complex: Sigma focuses on prototype fabrication, materials research, and R&D in metallurgy and ceramics. Sigma capabilities have been applied to a variety of weapons activities, including Life Extension Programs (LEP) for the W76 and B61.

Supercomputing: Many modern experiments generate very large datasets that must be compared against computer calculations for scientists and engineers to make informed decisions about the nation’s deterrent. To manage all this information, the Lab maintains world-class modeling, simulation, and visualization capabilities, including some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, such as the petascale machine Roadrunner (the world’s first, which has been decommissioned). A petascale is a million billion calculations per second. Other high-performance supercomputers include Trinity and Snow.

Stockpile life extension work

Investments in scientific, experimental, engineering, and computational capabilities at Los Alamos allow the Laboratory to confidently extend the service life of the nation’s nuclear deterrent without full-scale underground testing.

LEP activities are extending the lifetime of warheads and bombs designed to meet Cold War requirements (high yield to weight) for an additional 20–30 years beyond their original expected lifetimes (10–15 years). LEPs also provide the opportunity to install enhanced safety and security features in existing weapons to meet today’s—and the future's—security environment.

Annual assessment

Stockpile stewardship allows the Laboratory to assess the safety, reliability, and performance of the Los Alamos–designed nuclear explosive packages in the B61 family of bombs and the W76, W78, and W88 warheads. As required by law, the Laboratory Director annually reports the results of these assessments to the President of the U.S. through the Secretaries of Energy and Defense.