The United States is planning to deploy nuclear weapons in the UK for the first time in 15 years in response to an escalating threat from Russia, according to The Telegraph, citing Pentagon documents.
The proposal suggests placing warheads, three times more potent than the Hiroshima bomb, at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.
RAF Lakenheath previously housed nuclear missiles during the Cold War, but they were removed in 2008 when the perceived threat from Moscow diminished.
Pentagon documents obtained from the US Department of Defence’s procurement database indicate plans for a new facility at the airbase.
The documents reveal procurement contracts for equipment such as ballistic shields, and construction of a housing facility for US soldiers at the base is set to commence in June.
The contracts for a new facility at RAF Lakenheath reveal the US’s “imminent” plans to station B61-12 gravity bombs.
The Pentagon had declined to provide any comments regarding the conjecture surrounding a recently disclosed “surety dormitory,” as first outlined in budget documents last year.
Operated by the US Air Force under British regulations and laws, RAF Lakenheath could potentially accommodate tactical nuclear weapons deployable by F-35 fighter jets.
In Pentagon terminology, “surety” denotes the imperative to ensure the safety of nuclear weapons during periods when they are not actively deployed or in use.
Activists protested outside RAF Lakenheath in 2022 when reports surfaced about the potential deployment of US warheads.
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova had expressed concern, attributing the move to the United States and NATO adopting an aggressive stance against Russia.
She stated that such actions compelled Russia to take countermeasures to safeguard its security interests and those of its allies.
On the other hand, the UK Ministry of Defence spokesperson adhered to the longstanding policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons at any specific location, in alignment with both UK and NATO policy.
Details About US Nuclear Weapons Deployment In UK
The reported plans appear to be part of a broader NATO initiative aimed at developing and bolstering nuclear facilities in response to rising tensions with Russia.
In recent weeks, prominent figures within the United Kingdom have been urging the civilians and government to brace themselves for a possible conflict between NATO and Russian forces.
Admiral Rob Bauer, a senior NATO military official, recently warned that civilians should brace themselves for a potential full-scale war with Russia within the next two decades, necessitating significant lifestyle changes.
General Sir Patrick Sanders, head of the British Army, echoed this sentiment, suggesting that the public might be called upon to join the fight due to the army’s insufficient size.
However, Downing Street promptly dismissed the notion of conscription in response to Sir Patrick’s remarks.
Then UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson voiced support for Sir Patrick’s proposal for a citizen army, pledging his readiness to enlist if the UK were to engage in conflict with Russia.
With these developments, there’s a strong likelihood that the UK could soon be hosting nuclear weapons.
According to reports from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), the UK has been included in the list of countries undergoing infrastructure upgrades to store “special weapons” in Europe, alongside Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.
Close to 100 B61 gravity bombs are estimated to be stored in these five countries, having been withdrawn from the UK in 2007, albeit with storage facilities remaining intact.
The deployment of US nuclear weapons in the UK began in 1954, primarily at RAF Greenham Common and RAF Molesworth, but also at RAF Lakenheath.
At one point, RAF Lakenheath boasted shelters capable of storing up to 110 air-launched B61 nuclear bombs.
Despite being viewed as relics of the Cold War era, the B61 bombs have undergone upgrades to extend their lifespan and improve accuracy rather than being retired.
RAF Lakenheath is anticipated to accommodate the B61-12 gravity bombs, boasting a variable yield of up to 50 kilotons—more than three times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Although the arrival of the new B61-12 version in Europe was expected last year, no official confirmation has been provided.
The new F-35A Lightning II fighters have received certification to be equipped with modernized bombs.
The US has announced intentions to deploy two squadrons of fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets capable of carrying these bombs, stationed with the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath.