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Was There a U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accident At a Dutch Air Base? – Federation Of American Scientists

Was There a U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accident At a Dutch Air Base? – Federation Of American Scientists

2023-04-03 13:42:57

Did the U.S. Air Pressure endure a nuclear weapons accident at Volkel Air Base?


Did the U.S. Air Pressure endure a nuclear weapons accident at an airbase in Europe a couple of years again?

A photograph in a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) student briefing from 2022 exhibits 4 individuals inspecting what seems to be a broken B61 nuclear bomb. The doc doesn’t establish the place the picture was taken or when, however it seems to be from inside a Protecting Plane Shelter (PAS) at Volkel Air Base within the Netherlands.

It should be emphasised up entrance that there isn’t any official affirmation that the picture was taken at Volkel Air Base, that the bent B61 form is an actual weapon (versus a coach), or that the harm was the results of an accident (versus a coaching simulation).

If the picture is certainly from a nuclear weapons accident, it could represent the primary publicly identified case of a latest nuclear weapons accident at an airbase in Europe.

Most individuals would describe a nuclear bomb getting bent as an accident, however U.S. Air Pressure terminology would probably categorize it as a Bent Spear incident, which is defined as “evident harm to a nuclear weapon or nuclear part that requires main rework, substitute, or examination or re-certification by the Division of Vitality.” The U.S. Air Pressure reserves “accident” for occasions that contain the destruction or lack of a weapon.

It isn’t a secret that the U.S. Air Pressure deploys nuclear weapons in Europe, however it’s a secret the place they’re deployed. Volkel Air Base has saved B61s for many years. I and others have provided ample documentation for this and two former Dutch prime ministers and a defense minister in 2013 even acknowledged the presence of the weapons. Volkel Air Base is one in all six air bases in Europe the place the U.S. Air Pressure presently deploys an estimated 100 B61 nuclear bombs in whole.

The USA is modernizing its air-delivered nuclear arsenal together with in Europe and Volkel and the opposite air bases in Europe are scheduled to receive the brand new B61-12 nuclear bomb within the close to future.

Picture Description

What does the picture itself present? It seems to point out a broken B61 nuclear bomb form strapped to a four-wheel trolly. The rear of the bomb curves considerably to the left and one in all 4 tail fins is lacking. There may be additionally pink tape overlaying attainable harm to the rear of the tail. The picture first (to my information) appeared in a Los Alamos National Laboratory student briefing printed final yr that amongst different matters described the mission of the Accident Response Group (ARG) to supply “world-wide assist to the Division of Protection (DoD) in resolving incidents and accidents involving nuclear weapons or elements in DoD custody on the time of the occasion.”

The personnel within the picture additionally inform a narrative. The 2 people on the ground who look like inspecting the outside harm on the weapon have shoulder pads with the letters EOD, indicating they in all probability are Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel. According to the U.S. Air Force, “EOD members apply categorised methods and particular procedures to reduce or completely take away the hazards created by the presence of unexploded ordnance. This consists of standard army ordnance, prison and terrorist do-it-yourself objects, and chemical, organic and nuclear weapons.”

The particular person to the left overseeing the operation seems to be holding a folder with purple dotted colour markings which might be much like colour patterns seen on categorised paperwork which were declassified and launched beneath the Freedom of Data Act (FOIA) (see picture to the precise). The civilian to the precise is presumably from one of many nuclear weapons laboratories. Los Alamos and Sandia each produced elements to the B61 bomb.

What triggered the harm to the B61 form is unknown, however it seems to have been a major power. It might doubtlessly have been hit by a car or bent off form by the weapons elevator of the underground storage vault.

Picture Geolocation

There may be nothing within the picture itself or the doc wherein it was printed that establish the placement, the weapon, when it occurred, or what occurred. I’ve looked for the picture in search engines like google and yahoo however nothing comes up. Nevertheless, different images taken inside Protecting Plane Shelters (PASs) at Volkel Air Base present options that seem to match these seen within the accident picture.

A type of images is from April 2022 (the identical month the Los Alamos briefing was printed), when Dutch princess Catharina-Amalia visited Volkel Air Base and was taken on a flight in one of many F-16s. The Dutch Air Pressure commander highlighted the visit in a tweet that features a number of images, together with one from inside an plane shelter. The picture exhibits the princess with Dutch air power officers together with what look like the pinnacle of the Dutch air power and the commander of the nuclear-tasked 312th squadron at Volkel, an F-16 fighter-bomber, and a part of the lid of an underground Weapons Storage System (WS3) vault constructed to retailer B61 nuclear bombs (see picture beneath).


The 312th Squadron is a part of the Dutch Air Pressure’s 1st Wing and is supplied with F-16 fighter-bombers with U.S.-supplied {hardware} and software program that make them able to delivering B61 nuclear bombs that the U.S. Air Pressure shops in vaults constructed beneath 11 of the shelters on the base. Dutch pilots obtain coaching to ship the weapons and the unit is inspected and licensed by U.S. and NATO businesses to make sure that they’ve the abilities to make use of the bombs if mandatory. In peacetime, the bombs are managed by personnel from the U.S. Air Pressure’s 703rd Munition Assist Squadron (MUNSS) on the base. If the U.S. army advisable utilizing the weapons – and the U.S. president agreed and licensed use, the U.Ok. Prime Minister agreed as effectively, and NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) permitted – then the weapon could be loaded onto a Dutch F-16 and the strike carried out by a Dutch pilot. Such an operation was rehearsed by the Steadfast Noon exercise in October final yr.

One among these pilots (presumably), the commander of the 312th squadron, appeared in a Dutch Air Force video printed in February on the one-year anniversary of the (second) Russian invasion of Ukraine. Within the video, the commander climbs into the F-16 and places on his helmet. At first a visor cowl may be seen exhibiting an orange-yellow mushroom cloud illustrating a nuclear explosion. Nevertheless, when the video cuts and the commander turns to face the digicam, the nuclear mushroom cloud cowl is gone, presumably to keep away from sending the unsuitable message to Russia (see beneath). The nuclear mushroom visor cowl was additionally seen in the course of the NATO Steadfast Noon exercise at Volkel AB in 2011.


These photos and movies present options that point out the B61 nuclear bomb accident image is from Volkel Air Base. In contrast to plane shelters at different nuclear bases in Europe, the Dutch shelters have ceilings made up of three flat surfaces: the 2 sides and the highest. The surfaces embody distinctive lighting fixtures and meet the facet partitions with distinctive pipes and grids. Furthermore, the shelter wall has a grey construction define that’s similar to one seen within the video. These completely different matching options are highlighted within the picture beneath.

See Also

Nuclear Accident Administration

Nuclear weapon designs such because the B61 are required to be “one-point protected,” which suggests the weapon should have a chance of lower than one in a single million of manufacturing a nuclear yield if the chemical excessive explosives detonate from a single level. But when the weapon shouldn’t be intact, equivalent to throughout upkeep work inside a truck inside an plane shelter, a U.S. Air Pressure security assessment discovered in 1997 – almost three many years after the one-point security requirement was established – that “nuclear detonation could happen” throughout a lightning storm. Improved lightning safety was rapidly put in.

Administration of accidents and incidents involving U.S. nuclear weapons at overseas bases is carried out in accordance with nationwide and bilateral preparations. The USA has held that the 1954 Standing of Forces Settlement (SOFA) referring to the stationing of U.S. armed forces within the Netherlands was adequate for regulating , however the Dutch authorities has been urgent for higher session within the Netherlands United States Operational Group (NUSOG), a particular bilateral a coordinating physique established to develop and handle U.S. nuclear weapons accident response plans, procedures, coaching, and workouts. Disclosure of a dispute in 2008-2009 as soon as extra confirmed the presence of nuclear weapons within the Netherlands.

Though nuclear detonation from an accident is unlikely, detonation of the chemical excessive explosives within the weapon would probably scatter plutonium and different radioactive supplies. An accident inside a vault or shelter doubtlessly would have native impact, whereas air pollution from the crash of a C-17A cargo plane carrying a number of weapons may very well be much more intensive. A picture published by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2020 signifies {that a} single C-17A can carry a minimum of 30 B61 nuclear bombs (see picture beneath). That signifies that all of the 10-15 B61 bombs estimated to be saved at Volkel Air Base may very well be moved in only one flight.


Background data:

FAS Nuclear Notebook: US Nuclear weapons, 2023
NATO Steadfast Noon Exercise and Nuclear Modernization in Europe
The C-17A Has Been Cleared To Transport B61-12 Nuclear Bomb To Europe
Lakenheath Air Base Added To Nuclear Weapons Storage Site Upgrades

This analysis was carried out with beneficiant contributions from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Basis, the New-Land Basis, Ploughshares Fund, the Prospect Hill Basis, Longview Philanthropy, the Stewart R. Mott Basis, the Way forward for Life Institute, Open Philanthropy, and particular person donors.

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