The US accelerates deployment of its new nuclear bomb in Europe

The United States has accelerated the deployment of a new version of its tactical nuclear bomb in Europe, more precisely, at NATO air bases in Europe, the site Politico said Thursday, citing a U.S. diplomatic cable and two people close to the file.

The arrival of the B61-12 enhanced gravity bomb, originally planned for next spring, is now slated for December, US officials told their NATO allies during a closed-door meeting in Brussels in mid-October, the online-cited cable reveals. media. The move, which involves replacing older B61s with newer versions at various storage facilities in Europe for possible use by US and allied fighter jets, comes amid heightened tensions with Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin continues to threaten to pursue nuclear weapons. event“attack”.

The U.S. announcement at the Brussels meeting came days before NATO began its annual nuclear exercise known as Steadfast Noon. The exercise takes place from October 17 to 30 and brings together around 60 aircraft from 14 countries, some of which operate from the Belgian air base Klein-Broegal (Limburg).

Allies are nervous

Russia, for its part, organized nuclear drills on Wednesday, which its Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu described as training for a massive counterattack against an enemy.

“It would be strange to be in a hurry” In the current context, said Hans Christensen, a Federation of American Scientists (FAS) expert on nuclear weapons who has followed the B61 modernization program closely. According to Politico, two people familiar with the plan to deploy B61-12s in Europe, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the acceleration mentioned in a secret diplomatic cable.

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The document, written for circulation within the Pentagon and State Department to give decision makers an overview of what was discussed among defense ministers at the NATO meeting, makes clear that the allies are on edge. During the meetings, the cable pointed out that France, a member of NATO’s 15 allies, did not participate in the work of the Nuclear Planning Group (GBN) – a concern expressed by the alliance. “Do not give in to Putin’s nuclear threat”.

Modernization of nuclear weapons It has been planned for a long time

Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told Politico via email. “The modernization of the B61 nuclear weapon has been underway for several years and plans to safely and responsibly replace older weapons with the upgraded B61-12.” “This has been planned for a long time. It is in no way related to the Ukrainian news and is in no way accelerated”he added.

Launched in February 2012, the project makes it possible to modernize nuclear and non-nuclear components by improving the life of the current bomb. “Security” And his “reliability”. Weighing about 400 kg for a length of four meters, the B61-12 bomb will replace the current B61-3, -4, -7, and -10, some of which have been in service since the late 1970s.

The power of each bomb varies from 0.3 to 50 kilotons, or the equivalent of 50,000 tons of TNT, according to the FAS. The cost of the project is estimated at ten billion dollars. Production of the first machine was completed at the end of last year. “After more than nine years of component design, development, qualification and manufacturing”, According to the US Department of Energy (DoE).

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American bombs of older versions discontinued in Belgium

Full-scale production is slated to end in fiscal year 2026 — starting on October 1, 2025. Experts estimate that the U.S. maintains 150 to 180 B-61 bombers in older versions at six air bases in five European countries: Germany, Belgium (Klein-Broeckel), Italy, the Netherlands, and in Turkey, “dual-capable” fighters such as the F-16A and Tornado (conventional and nuclear) reserved for US use only, except for those at Incirlik, a Turkish base for use by aircraft under the “dual force” policy (US and national).

Most of these aircraft will be replaced in the next few years by the F-35, the fifth-generation stealth fighter. Klein-Brogel Air Base is thought to have ten to twenty of these Star Bombs that could be deployed by F-16s of the 10th Tactical Wing and the 701st Munitions Support Squadron (701 MUNSS).

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