W80-4 program achieves key review milestone

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Engineers in the W80-4 Life Extension Program conduct environmental testing on a mock test unit. Photo by Garry McLeod/LLNL.

The W80-4 Life Extension Program team in November successfully executed the Preliminary Design Review and Acceptance Group (PDRAAG) review at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Review by the PDRAAG is a critical mid-program review with the Department of Defense to show the warhead baseline design complies with DOD requirements, known as Military Characteristics (MC), and to demonstrate survival and performance in Stockpile-to-Target Sequence (STS) environments. Completion of the review represents a major milestone and is one of several entrance criteria for Phase 6.4 — Production Engineering — in the nuclear weapon lifecycle.  

Following the review, the independent panel affirmed that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) design will meet MC and STS requirements for the W80-4. PDRAAG reviewers included senior technical staff from the Air Force, Navy and Army who are experts in nuclear weapons design, production and deployment.

“The joint LLNL and Sandia PDRAAG review team acted as one seamless, unified group, assembling information and presenting to the Design Review and Acceptance Group members,” said Tom Horrillo, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) W80-4 program manager. “It was clear that our team’s presentations gave them confidence in the W80-4 design.”

The four-day review was accompanied by an extensive Preliminary Weapon Development Report detailing the design and qualification of the warhead. Preparation took months of close collaboration with partners across LLNL and across the nuclear security enterprise. The PDRAAG panel specifically recognized the amount of cross-team coordination with DOD and strong partnerships across DOE organizations.

“This is a significant and successful milestone for the W80-4 Program, and something we can all be proud of,” said Tom Tomasi, the W80-4 federal program manager, praising the professionalism and dedication of LLNL staff. 

“Not only was the review a huge effort for so many people at the labs, but all of that was preceded by an even greater team who participated in the design work demonstrated at the review.”

With PDRAAG executed, the W80-4 LEP team is marching toward NNSA authorization to continue into Phase 6.4, expected in 2023.