There’s been clear evidence for over a year that the US is planning to return its nuclear weapons to Britain. They intend to locate them at Lakenheath in Suffolk — nominally an RAF base but in fact wholly controlled and run by the US. If this is allowed to take place, Britain will once again be a forward nuclear base for the US in Europe.
110 US free-fall B61 nuclear bombs were removed from Lakenheath in 2008, following sustained protest at the base by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and other anti-nuclear campaigners. The Pentagon now plans to replace them with an upgraded version of the previous bomb, the new B61-12 guided nuclear bomb. The new bomb will also be located in five other European countries, in some cases against the wishes of their own governments. These bombs are assigned to NATO — and their return will increase global tensions and put Britain on the front line in a potential NATO/Russia war. The presence of these US nuclear weapons in Europe has already been used by Putin to justify his recent movement of Russian nukes to Belarus.
The news broke last year when the US Department of Defense added the UK to a list of NATO nuclear weapons storage locations in Europe being upgraded under a multi-million dollar infrastructure programme. The UK’s inclusion in the budget was first spotted by Hans Kristensen, the director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
RAF Lakenheath hosted US nuclear weapons for more than five decades, first arriving in September 1954. By the time of their removal in 2008, the site had thirty-three underground storage vaults and stored 110 B61 gravity bombs that could be dropped from F-15E warplanes based there. The latest news again comes from the Federation of American Scientists, which says that US Air Force budget documents dated March 2023 ‘strongly imply’ that Washington is in the process of re-establishing its nuclear weapons presence in Britain.
The latest documents, published as part of the USAF 2024 budgetary justification package, express the need for a ‘surety dormitory.’ As FAS notes, ‘surety’ is a term used by US government departments to ‘refer to the capability to keep nuclear weapons safe, secure, and under positive control.’
The 144-bunk dormitory, the documents say, is needed, as 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 [corporal and specialist military personnel] and below at Royal Air Force Lakenheath’. Construction is expected to last from June 2024 to February 2026.
It’s clear that Lakenheath is once again a vital cog in Washington’s overseas nuclear machine — despite refusals from the British government to acknowledge this reality. The deployment of the new B61-12 to Europe undermines prospects for global peace and ensures Britain will be a target in a nuclear conflict between the US/NATO and Russia. It’s beyond irresponsible that the UK government is allowing this deployment. Over the decades, from Lakenheath to Greenham Common, persistent popular protest has been vital in getting US nuclear weapons removed from Britain. Now, we must stop them coming back.