UK military vaults upgraded to store new US nuclear weapons

UK military vaults upgraded to store new US nuclear weapons
# 13 April 2022 07:58 (UTC +04:00)

According to fiscal year 2023 US defense budget records, military bunkers in the UK are being refurbished so that they can once again be used to store US nuclear weapons after a 14-year hiatus, APA reports citing The Guardian.

As the document indicates, the UK was added to the list of countries where 13-year NATO infrastructure investment is underway at "special weapons" storage sites, alongside Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey - all the countries where the US stores an estimated 100 B61 nuclear bombs.

NATO "is wrapping up a 13-year, $384m infrastructure investment program at storage sites in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, and Turkey to upgrade security measures, communication systems, and facilities," the budget request for 2023 reads.

According to Hans Kristensen, the director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), the US airbase at RAF Lakenheath, 100 kilometers northeast of London, is mentioned as being upgraded.

According to Kristensen, this is a significant shift, as the list of "active sites" in the 2016 contract for the modernization of Europe's nuclear weapons storage site did not include RAF Lakenheath.

Lakenheath, which had 33 subterranean storage vaults in the 1990s, was used by the US Air Force to store nuclear gravity bombs. There reportedly were 110 B61 gravity bombs in the vaults by the early 2000s ready to be delivered by F-15E aircraft of the 48th Fighter Wing.

As of now, it remains unknown whether nuclear weapons have been returned to the site or if NATO is upgrading it to be ready to receive nuclear weapons in the future if needed.

Moreover, the spoken B61 has been given a fresh lease on life as part of the US nuclear modernization program, with a guidance system, the B61-12 type, set to go into full production in May.

According to the FAS, the nuclear upgrade comes as RAF Lakenheath prepares to be the first US Air Force installation in Europe to receive the nuclear-capable F-35A Lightning fighter jet, as in December 2021, the first fifth-generation fighter-bombers arrived.

At the base, the 495th Fighter Squadron of the 48th Fighter Wing will reportedly be made up of 24 F-35As. Within the next year, the US Air Force plans to begin training nuclear units in Europe in preparation for the new B61-12s.

It is reportedly probable that the first B61-12 bombs will be delivered to Europe in 2023, replacing the B61-3/-4 bombs now in use.

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