The US has accelerated the fielding of an upgraded nuclear bomb at its European bases, Politico revealed, citing US diplomatic sources.\r\nOriginally scheduled to be fielded next spring, the B61-12 air-dropped gravity bomb is now planned for fielding in December, the outlet wrote, citing a closed-door meeting involving US and NATO officials.\r\nTwo people familiar with the upcoming delivery to Europe have corroborated the revelations, according to the outlet.\r\nCounterintuitive Move: Experts\r\nThe development emerges amid heightened tensions in Western capitals over the growing Russian threat to use nuclear weapons but has come as a surprise to many observers. NATO countries have carefully avoided reacting to Moscow\u2019s nuclear saber-rattling.\r\n\u201cIt would be odd to rush it in,\u201d director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists Hans Kristensen told Politico.\r\n\u201cThey have been saying we don\u2019t respond to this situation with nuclear weapons. I don\u2019t think they want to go down that [road].\u201d\r\nMove Aimed to Address Europe\u2019s Nuclear Anxieties\r\nDirector of policy at disarmament group the Ploughshares Fund, Tom Collina, said the move may be aimed at Europeans more than Moscow.\r\n\u201cThere are [older] B61s already there. The Russians know that. They work just fine. The new ones will be newer, but it\u2019s not really that much of a difference. But it may be a way to assure the allies when they are feeling particularly threatened by Russia.\u201d\r\nHowever, Collina acknowledged that the move could be \u201cescalatory\u201d and have unintended consequences.\r\nLow-Yield Bomb\r\nThe B61-12 Life Extension Program is a $10 billion, nine-year Department of Energy program to replace around 100 earlier versions of the B61 at six European air bases in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey.\r\nThe low-yield, more accurate B61-12 is capable of being air-dropped \u2014 either through \u201cgravity or guided drop modes,\u201d allowing the air force to deploy it for \u201clow-yield nuclear attack, earth-penetrating strikes, above surface detonation, and bunker-buster explosions,\u201d according to National Interest.\r\nThe bomb\u2019s upgraded features allow military commanders to use it as deterrence against \u201ca more limited or tactical nuclear strike,\u201d a possibility experts have hypothesized due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.\r\nAccording to Politico, the bomb\u2019s \u201cexplosive power can be dialed up or down depending on the target, making it either a low- or medium-yield weapon.\u201d\r\nThe new version is designed to be carried by a range of US and allied bomber planes and fighter aircraft such as B-2 and B-21 bombers and F-15, F-16, F-35, and Tornado fighters, which was not possible with the previous variant.\r\nIn a related development, the US Air Force recently flight-tested a B-2A bomber radar-aided targeting system, enabling navigation for guided nuclear weapons such as the B61-12 in a non-GPS environment.