US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, 2011

By Hans M. Kristensen, Robert S. Norris | January 1, 2011

"A Globe" by MarkDoliner is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear weapons does the US have in Europe?

The new Strategic Concept, adopted by NATO at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, reaffirmed the continued importance of nuclear weapons to the security of the alliance. The document, which is intended to establish consensus on NATO missions and methods in light of new security challenges, did not, however, include a decision on the fate of the roughly 150—200 B61 tactical (nonstrategic) nuclear weapons that the US Air Force deploys in Europe for the purposes of extended deterrence. Instead, the NATO countries decided to tie the fate of the deployment to reductions in the Russian tactical nuclear weapons arsenal.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the United States unilaterally reduced its inventory of B61 bombs deployed in Europe by more than half.1 When the George W. Bush administration entered office in 2001, the United States had a stockpile of 480 bombs in Europe; the removal of weapons from Greece in 2001 combined with the effect of moves made under new nuclear policy guidance in 2004 reduced the stockpile to approximately 200 weapons by 2007. This included the withdrawal of weapons from two large US air bases in Europe: Ramstein in Germany and Lakenheath in the United Kingdom. It is also possible that the numbers of weapons at the US base at Incirlik in Turkey and from smaller national bases have been reduced. We estimate that the United States now deploys 150—200 B61 bombs in Europe. A reference to 180 warheads made by US Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller during a July 2009 NATO briefing appears to validate our estimate…

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The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists and Robert S. Norris, a senior fellow with the FAS. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.

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