More than a decade after the United States withdrew its last nuclear bombs from the United Kingdom, the Pentagon’s latest budget request, for the 2023 Fiscal Year, suggests that weapons of this type may be heading back to British soil. While unconfirmed for now, such a move would provide the U.S. Air Force F-35A stealth fighters and F-15E Strike Eagle combat jets in the United Kingdom with immediate access to B61 bombs, including the latest B61-12 variant that boasts a precision-guidance package for much-enhanced accuracy.
Biden's 2023 Department of Defense budget request to NATO shows that the military alliance has added the UK to a list of countries receiving $384 million in investments to store «special weapons." Other countries receiving this funding are Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, where the USA stores an estimated 150 American B-61 nuclear gravity bombs, according to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
The director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists, Hans Kristensen, first broke the story of the UK «quietly» being added to the infrastructure program. While not detailed in the budget, the former US airbase at RAF Lakenheath, near Cambridge, eastern England, was the most likely site being upgraded to store nuclear weapons, Kristensen's said.
The US decommissioned its Lakenheath base and the nuclear weapons store in 2008. Before they were mothballed, the 33 underground storage vaults could hold 110 nuclear bombs. As it is, the B61-12 bomb certainly offers capabilities that make it more relevant to the current security environment in Europe than the earlier models of B61 that were available to the U.S. Air Force at Lakenheath until 2008. When combined with the F-35A, the B61-12 is actually being viewed by the Air Force increasingly as a strategic weapons-delivery system, as well as being a tactical strike asset.