West News Wire: Pentagon budget records examined by a US think tank and British media indicate that the US may attempt to place nuclear weapons on British soil for the first time since 2008. The documents imply that American fighter jets equipped with nuclear bombing capabilities are also planned for the same UK air base.
The US military requested $50 million in March from Congress for a new “surety dormitory” at the Lakenheath Royal Air Force facility in Suffolk, north of London, according to the Telegraph on Wednesday.
According to the Federation of American Scientists, the term “surety” is frequently used by the Pentagon to refer to “the capability to keep nuclear weapons safe, secure, and under positive control.” While the budget document made mention of a NATO project to construct “secure sites and facilities” to store “special weapons” in the UK, officials have yet to confirm any new deployments at the base in question.
During the Cold War, RAF Lakenheath was one of three locations in Britain that housed US nuclear weapons, and it held 110 American warheads until a drawdown in 2008. Up until 1992, shortly after the demise of the Soviet Union, Washington also provided atomic bombs to UK forces in a programme known as “Project E.”
The new surety facility is likely to house nuclear weapons, according to Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commander of the UK-NATO Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Regiment, who spoke to the Telegraph.
“In this instance, a surety dormitory is a nuclear missile and warhead storage bunker. It needs to be secured and hardened so that if the Russians decided to put a bomb on them, there wouldn’t be a nuclear catastrophe.
Construction of the dormitory is scheduled to begin next summer and end in early 2026, the documents say.
The same Pentagon budget request also shows that Washington plans to station two squadrons of F-35 A fighter jets capable of tactical nuclear bombing missions – at RAF Lakenheath. Unnamed British military sources reached by the Telegraph said 54 F-35s are set to replace older US F-15s at the base sometime in the coming months.
Critics are concerned about the possibility of a new nuclear deployment in the UK, which the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament calls “beyond irresponsible.”
The campaign’s general secretary, Kate Hudson, stated that the deployment of the new B61-12 (gravity bombs) to Europe “undermines any prospects for global peace and ensures Britain will be a target in a nuclear conflict between the US/NATO and Russia.” “Lakenheath is once again a crucial cog in Washington’s overseas nuclear machine,” she continued.
During a recent briefing, when asked whether nuclear weapons would return to the site, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh responded that it is US policy to “neither affirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any general or specific location.”