NBC Weapons: U.S. Nukes In Europe Going, But Not Gone

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NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS

 

July 12, 2007: Without any official announcement, the United States appears to have reduced its once enormous nuclear weapons stockpile still further. An administrative document showing that there would no longer be nuclear weapons inspections at Ramstein airbase, means that the U.S. no longer stores nuclear weapons there. These bombs were intended for the use by German aircraft, in the event of a major war with, well, there don't seem to be any suitably scary enemies available any more. There are still apparently about 300 American nuclear weapons stored in Europe, all of them believed to be 1960s era B61 nuclear weapons, configured as a half ton bomb that can be carried by most U.S., and some European, fighter-bombers.

 

Some 3,200 B61s were built since the design went into service in the mid-1960s, and about half of those remain available for use. Some are being refurbished, so they will good for another two decades. The basic B61 nuclear bomb weighs 700 pounds, is 330mm in diameter and about twelve feet long.  Those stored in Europe, and these are not being refurbished, meaning that those withdrawn are probably approaching the end of their shelf life. Without the refurb, all these older warheads will be useless in less than a decade. Most B61 warheads were variable yield, and could be set to provide an explosion ranging from less than a kiloton, to over 300 kilotons.

 

During the early 1970s, the United States had over 7,000 nuclear warheads stored in Europe, most of them 8 inch and 155mm artillery shells. This was in the belief that, if the Russians, and their Warsaw Pact allies, invaded Western Europe, they would do so using these "tactical" (a yield of under 100 kilotons) nuclear weapons. Plans were drawn up to use hundreds of these warheads in battles with the invading Russians. But eventually, it was realized that such use would destroy Western Europe, and probably lead to a full scale nuclear war that would devastate the planet. So, by the end of the Cold War in 1990, there were only about 4,000 U.S. nukes left in Europe. By the end of the 1990s, there were only about 500 left. Most of these were for the use of NATO allies. During the Cold War, European nations were to be provided with American nuclear weapons, in the event of a major war. Most of these agreements are still in effect.

 

 

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