Sunday, May 19, 2024

Pentagon maintains a stockpile of nearly 150 nuclear bombs at European bases: scientific report

A team of scientists and researchers published a new report about the United States nuclear arsenal in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is among the few reliable statistical sources, which established in 1945 by experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project and wanted to warn the public about its dangers.

Their latest report shows that US nuclear arsenal, which remained roughly unchanged in the last year, with the Department of Defense maintaining an estimated stockpile of nearly 3,800 warheads.


“Most of these warheads are not deployed; approximately 2,050 warheads are held in reserve and approximately 2,385 retired warheads are awaiting dismantlement, giving a total inventory of approximately 6,185 nuclear warheads,” said in a report.

It should be stated that the Pentagon doesn’t increase a stockpile of nuclear tactical bombs at its operating bases in Europe.

“Of the approximately 1,750 warheads that are deployed … roughly 300 at strategic bomber bases in the United States, with another 150 tactical bombs deployed at European bases,” stated ф team of scientists.

For reference, a nuclear bomb is a low to intermediate-yield strategic and tactical nuclear weapon featuring a two-stage radiation implosion design. The U.S. Air Force has one type of nonstrategic nuclear weapon in its stockpile – B61 nuclear bomb, the primary thermonuclear gravity bomb in the United States Enduring Stockpile following the end of the Cold War.

According to the report, the weapon exists in two modifications: the B61-3 and the B61-4. A third version, the B61-10, was retired in September 2016. Approximately 230 tactical B61 bombs of all versions remain in the stockpile. About 150 of these (versions −3 and −4) are through to be deployed at six bases in five European countries: Aviano and Ghedi in Italy; Büchel in Germany; Incirlik in Turkey; Kleine Brogel in Belgium; and Volkel in the Netherlands.

Of the five nuclear weapons storage locations in Europe, Incirlik Air Base in Turkey stores the most – about 50 or one-third of the weapons in Europe, although there are unconfirmed rumors that the weapons may have been withdrawn.

The tactical nuclear bombs can be carried by F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 Falcon fighter jets.

What’s more, the Belgian and Dutch air forces (with F-16 aircraft), as well as the German and Italian air forces (with PA-200 Tornado aircraft), are assigned nuclear strike missions with US nuclear weapons. At least until 2010, Turkey was still using F-16s for the nuclear mission, although it is possible that the mission has since been mothballed. NATO states that do not host nuclear weapons can still participate in the nuclear mission as part of conventional supporting operations, known as SNOWCAT (Support Nuclear Operations With Conventional Air Tactics). Under normal circumstances, the nuclear weapons are kept under the control of US Air Force personnel; their use in war must be authorized by the US president.

However, they added that the B61-12 will be deployed to Europe beginning in 2022–2024, at which point the older B61-3 and B61-4 bombs will be returned to the United States. The B61-12 will use the nuclear explosive package of the B61-4, which has a maximum yield of approximately 50 kilotons, but it will be equipped with a guided tail kit to increase accuracy and standoff capability, which will allow strike planners to select lower yields for existing targets to reduce collateral damage. The increased accuracy will give the tactical bombs in Europe the same military capability as strategic bombs in the United States.

This story has been updated.

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Executive Editor

About author:

Dylan Malyasov
Dylan Malyasov
Dylan Malyasov is the editor-in-chief of Defence Blog. He is a journalist, an accredited defense advisor, and a consultant. His background as a defense advisor and consultant adds a unique perspective to his journalistic endeavors, ensuring that his reporting is well-informed and authoritative. read more



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