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Is the U.S. Preparing To Return Nuclear Bombs to England?

Aug. 29, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—On April 11, 2022, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists, reported on FY23 Biden Administration budget documents that added the Britain to the list of “special weapons” storage sites being upgraded as part of a $384 million military construction program underway for the past 13 years. The term “special weapons” is usually used to refer to nuclear bombs, but the document that Kristensen cited said little else. The document did not even name the location in the U.K. as RAF Lakenheath, which has hosted U.S. fighter jets for decades, and was determined most likely, as it was the last base in Great Britain to also host U.S. nuclear weapons. Kristensen reported, then, that U.S. B61 bombs were withdrawn from Lakenheath in 2008, but the 33 storage vaults for them were maintained in a usable condition.

Yesterday, in a new posting, Kristensen and his colleague, Matt Korda, offered new evidence, in documents and satellite imagery, contending that Lakenheath is being upgraded for a new nuclear mission.

• The Air Force’s FY24 budget submission includes justification for construction of a 144-bed dormitory at Lakenheath “as the result of the potential Surety mission.” The term “surety” is commonly used within the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Energy to refer to the capability to keep nuclear weapons safe, secure, and under positive control. “With the influx of airmen due to the arrival of the potential Surety mission and the bed down of the two F-35 squadrons there is a significant deficiency in the amount of unaccompanied housing available for E4s and below at Royal Air Force Lakenheath,” the document says.

• Kristensen also notes that the FY23 document named Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K., and Türkiye as countries where security upgrades were underway, but the FY24 document omits the list altogether. “The removal of country names from the Pentagon’s Military Construction Program budget request follows the denial of a recent FAS declassification request of previously available nuclear warhead numbers. These decisions contradict and undermine the Biden administration’s appeal for nuclear transparency in other nuclear-armed states,” he writes.

Kristensen concludes, “The past two years of budgetary evidence strongly suggests that the United States is taking steps to re-establish its nuclear mission on U.K. soil.” The circumstantial evidence includes the conversion of two fighter squadrons at Lakenheath to fly the nuclear capable F-35s and the replacement of the old B61 bombs in Europe with the upgraded B61-12. Kristensen notes that the upgrades, however, do not necessarily indicate that a decision has been made to deploy B61-12s at Lakenheath, only that the capability is being provided for them there, whether as a permanent deployment or in case of the temporary relocation of bombs from other bases in Europe.

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