System Technology Modernization

Coordinate and adopt a Laboratory strategy for System Technology Modernization that aligns with the nuclear deterrence objectives of the United States, its allies, and partners.

LANL designs and develops a variety of systems in support of nuclear deterrence and threat reduction.

This Critical Outcome involves developing a strategy to ensure that we remain at the forefront of system technology development for national security. This new strategy will drive identification of specific technology needs from national planning factors (e.g., the Requirements Planning Document and the Stockpile Stewardship Management Plan). Drivers for technology needs will be traceable to an existing weapon system issue, a new weapon system requirement, a future weapon system concept, an operational improvement, or a disruptive innovation either helpful or harmful. Prioritization of technology maturation activities will be coordinated with the NNSA’s Defense Programs (NA-10) Technology Insertion Council, which is responsible for managing cross-cutting activities throughout the enterprise. When possible, this strategy will incorporate mature technologies from conventional weapons systems. This directly couples this Critical Outcome to the Laboratory’s mission expansion into conventional weapons system design.

This Critical Outcome supports all four of the Strategic Objectives in accomplishing the Laboratory mission: Nuclear Deterrence, Trustworthy Operations, Technical Leadership, and Trustworthy Operations. This Critical Outcome also complements the Critical Outcome on Experimental Advances, and it leverages Signature Institutional Commitments in AI, dynamic imaging, strategic deterrence, and advanced manufacturing.

In FY23, we made significant progress on multiple fronts, including optical initiation systems and processing capabilities within the Sigma facility for depleted uranium.

In FY24, we will build on these successes through 10 Supporting Initiatives. We have specific focus on high-explosive (HE) activities and continued efforts on depleted uranium fabrication.

Supporting Initiatives

  1. Deliver a technically mature and manufacturable initiation system for the next LANL weapon system that improves reliability and safety of the warhead and that is applicable to multiple weapons systems.
  2. Develop modern manufacturing techniques for beryllium parts.
  3. Advance HE formulations through an understanding of process-structure-performance interplay along with physics and chemistry at the mesoscale.
  4. Enhance HE pilot-scale synthesis, formulation, and advanced manufacturing capabilities to support product development within the NSE complex and to benefit Pantex.
  5. Develop effective manufacturing and supporting technologies for depleted uranium and enriched uranium that enhance fabrication readiness and agility at Y-12. This includes modernizing core facilities like Sigma.
  6. Develop effective manufacturing alternatives, including electron beam additive manufacturing for upcycling components related to manufacturing at Y-12.
  7. Develop effective manufacturing alternatives for polymers and other non-special nuclear material components to benefit the Kansas City National Security Campus and Y-12 (e.g., salts and special materials).
  8. Develop advanced applications for gas transfer systems, power, and surety that can be applied to new weapons systems to improve reliability, performance, and safety.
  9. Enhance and extend capabilities in delivery vehicle design: 
    1. Payload and system integration with hypersonic platforms: Collaborate with services and industry; participate in current and future designs.
    2. Hypersonic flight analysis and platform design: Identify gaps and develop options to bridge them; strengthen collaboration with the Texas A&M University’s University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics; ensure coordination of Lab-wide capabilities are applied to problems.
  10. Modernize facilities and infrastructure per LANL's current 10-year infrastructure planning.

primary Strategic Objectives

Trustworthy Operations - Consistently demonstrate and be recognized by diverse stakeholders for trusted and trustworthy operations.

Threat Reduction - Anticipate persistent and emerging threats to global security; develop and deploy revolutionary tools to detect, deter, and respond proactively.

secondary Strategic Objectives

Technical Leadership - Deliver scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs to advance relevant research frontiers and anticipate emerging national security risks.

Nuclear Deterrence - Lead the nation in evaluating, developing, and ensuring effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent, including the design, production, and certification of current and future nuclear weapons.