Europe to receive new US nuclear bombs amid tensions with Russia.

A recently developed bomb is anticipated to serve as a replacement for approximately 100 currently deployed B61-3/4 nuclear warheads, which are stationed at various bases in NATO member nations including Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.

On April 12th, the Federation of American Scientists reported that mass production of new B61-12 guided nuclear bombs began in Washington in May, with plans for deployment in Europe in the near future. These new bombs are expected to replace roughly 100 existing B61-3/4 nuclear warheads stationed at bases in NATO member countries such as Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey.

The Federation of American Scientists also noted that Britain is among the countries modernizing a nuclear weapons storage facility, potentially at Lakenheath Air Force Base, situated 100 kilometers from London. This base, which formerly housed US nuclear weapons, was decommissioned in 2008. Recently, Lakenheath became the first airbase in Europe where nuclear-capable fifth-generation F-35A multirole bombers have begun deployment, with a total of 24 F-35As slated for deployment.

Designed to replace all existing old nuclear bombs, including the B61-3/4, the B61-12 possesses several options with small to medium capacities (0.3-50 kilotons). Although it has a lower destructive power, the upgraded tail section makes the bomb more controllable when launched from the air, with higher accuracy.

Currently, there are six active bases in five European countries and Turkey where around 100 B61 tactical nuclear bombs are housed in underground storage facilities at air bases. Among these bases are Büchel airbase in Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany), Kleine-Brogel (Belgium), Volkel (Netherlands), Aviano (Italy), and Incirlik (Turkey).

Last October, Politico reported that the US had announced it would expedite the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe, citing that countries within the nuclear sharing system (Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey) stored obsolete and unusable B61 warheads on their territory in the event of nuclear war. The decision to construct the B61-12 was made in 2015.

The B61-12 has the capability to penetrate the ground and detonate with a force of 1,250 kilotons, roughly 83 times the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945. The B61-12 can also be deployed on fighter aircraft owned by European countries, such as Tornado (Italy), F-15, F-16, B-2, B-21, and F-35 fighter jets.

As of now, the arrival of these new bombs in Europe has not been confirmed. This operation may be disguised by military secrecy; however, according to US experts, the deployment of the new bombs will occur incrementally.

This news arrives amid an atmosphere of growing conflict and tension in Europe, though Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder stated that the decision to deploy the B61-12 was unrelated to the conflict in Ukraine. It should be noted, however, that the deployment of the B61-12 is not solely the replacement of old and obsolete weapons, but also their modernization, thereby increasing the risk of nuclear escalation.

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