Several sources cite that the F-35 will be able to be modified or simply equipped to carry some variant of the B-61 nuclear bomb. However, I know that most strike aircraft such as the F-15 Strike Eagle seat two crew as so for nuclear weapons there must be confirmation of arming the weapon by both crew members. No variant of the F-35 seats two, so I assume that there must be some way of having two-factor authorization of this protocol anyways. Is there a publicly known practice of arming nuclear devices on the F-35 or any other single seat aircraft or were the sources stating it could deliver the B-61 incorrect?

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    $\begingroup$ Which sources are you referring to? $\endgroup$
    – Bram
    Feb 10, 2019 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ Many. News organizations are announcing all the time about operators of the F-35 intending to field nuclear weapons on that platform. Regardless of whether they will implement this, the F-35 is capable of it, and that raises the issue in my question about how the decision to arm and launch the weapon in a single-seat only fighter is made. $\endgroup$
    – Jihyun
    Feb 10, 2019 at 23:59
  • $\begingroup$ Would these aircraft normally carry nuclear bombs around? If not, the act of equipping one is at least one level of authorization; if not to use it, at least to acknowledge that it may need to be $\endgroup$
    – Pheric
    Feb 11, 2019 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ No, it's not solely a nuclear weapon delivery platform, but it is certainly capable and equipped of delivering a B-61 without extensive modification. In other words, the nuclear weapons for aircraft of its size are certainly part of the F-35's arsenal. $\endgroup$
    – Jihyun
    Feb 11, 2019 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


Traditionally many single seater aircraft have had nuclear weapons capabilities.

To name a few:

  • A-4
  • F-104
  • F-105
  • F-84
  • F-16
  • A-7 (I think)
  • F-102
  • F-106
  • F-88
  • F-101

This list isn't exhaustive. The release of the weapon will typically be authorised before takeoff, the pilot then having the electronics on board to enter the final arming codes that will bring the weapon life. I'm not in the know about the exact procedures here, but my guess is someone on the ground acts as the first of the two keys before the flight starts, and the pilot entering his codes into the arming console during the flight acts as the second. This is far more reliable and less error prone than having the code transmitted to the weapon during flight over a radio link which may be jammed, detected, or simply not work in a nuclear war scenario.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm such an idiot I completely forgot about these other strike aircraft! slaps head Yes unless anybody finds a super long list I'll probably accept this answer. Thanks for aiding a stupid amnesiac! $\endgroup$
    – Jihyun
    Feb 11, 2019 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ The F-35 is positioned very much as the successor to the F-16 (single-engine single-seat multi-role fighter, sold to NATO allies). And the F-16 definitely has this role, even those sold to NATO allies who do not have nuclear weapons themselves. $\endgroup$
    – MSalters
    Feb 11, 2019 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ Bingo, and let's not forget the Army can deliver tac nukes as well. I would keep my F35s with the Spitfires and Hurricanes, and make sure the air control role is fulfilled. Even a BUFF could come in low and deliver stand off tactical support, but I would call the Army first and ask if they needed it. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2019 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertDiGiovanni I'm not sure the US Army still has a nuclear capability. Lance was retired, so were the nuclear artillery shells and I think the nuclear demolition charges/mines. Longest range artillery rockets the Army has right now I think are MLRS, and AFAIK no nuclear version of that was ever created. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Feb 11, 2019 at 9:21
  • $\begingroup$ Which brings us to the question as to why we would mount a B-61 on a F35 anyways. We could, but should we? For what purpose? If the military decides they need it, they will have it. I wonder about range and survivability. Would have to see applications. Any type of nuke would be a desperate move and would make a mess of the place, inviting a response in kind. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2019 at 12:50

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