The US is preparing to upgrade its nuclear weapons based in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey, and the UK government has agreed – without discussion in parliament – to having US nuclear weapons based again in the UK, at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk.
US nuclear weapons were based in Lakenheath from 1954 until 2008, when the last 110 nuclear bombs were removed.
US nuclear weapons in the UK and Europe
Lakenheath is home to the US 48th Fighter Wing, the largest deployment of USAF personnel in Britain, with around 6,000 personnel. They are being equped with the latest nuclear-capable fighter – the F-35A. Training with the latest B61-12 guided nuclear bomb is expected to start in 2023.
Approximately 150 American B61 nuclear gravity bombs are already currently stationed in five countries in Europe: Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey, as part of NATO defence policy. The nuclear weapons stored in these countries are guarded by US forces, with a dual code system activated in a time of war – both host country and the US would need to approve the use of the weapons.
US nuclear weapons do not make us safer: they make us a target, and they tie us in to US foreign policy. Deploying more US nuclear weapons in Europe during Russia’s war in the Ukraine only increases tensions between Russia and Europe.
The US is the only country in the world to locate its nuclear weapons outside its own borders.
Nuclear accidents at Lakenheath
At least two major incidents involving nuclear weapons are known to have occurred at RAF Lakenheath.
In 1956 a B-47 bomber on a routine training mission crashed into a storage unit containing nuclear weapons, killing four servicemen. Official US documents declared it was a ‘miracle’ that none of the bombs detonated, and that ‘it is possible that a part of Eastern England would have become a desert’.
In 1961 an airplane loaded with a nuclear bomb caught fire following pilot error. The bomb was ‘scorched and blistered’, and scientists later discovered it could have detonated in slightly different circumstances.
Both incidents were covered up by the US and British governments, only being admitted in 1979 and 2003 respectively.
Please write to your MP and ask them to oppose US nuclear weapons returning to Britain by signing:
EDM 98: Storage of US nuclear weapons in the UK
That this House is deeply concerned that the United Kingdom has been added to the United States’ list of nuclear weapons storage site locations in Europe and that, according to information released by the United States’ government, these storage sites are being upgraded; is concerned that this signals a change in the nuclear status of RAF Lakenheath, and that, having been removed in 2008, US nuclear weapons may have already been returned to the base or that the base will receive nuclear weapons in the future; condemns the refusal of the Ministry of Defence to comment on this information to members of this House; notes that RAF Lakenheath, whilst owned by the Ministry of Defence, is run by the United States Air Force; further notes that storage of another country’s nuclear weapons on UK soil puts UK citizens at greater risk of nuclear attack; and calls on the Government to decline to host US nuclear weapons at RAF Lakenheath and to use all possible diplomatic efforts to de-escalate current nuclear tensions.
Here is a suggested email template that can be copied and pasted and sent to your MP. Please make any changes to it that you want, add your MP’s name at the top and your name, address and postcode at the bottom. If you get a reply, please forward it to Elizabeth Nakielny email@example.com so we can compile the responses from all Welsh MPs.
Welsh Members of Parliament who have signed EDM 98: Jonathan Edwards MP, Ben Lake MP, Liz Saville Roberts MP, Hywel Williams MP