There Are 50 American Nuclear Weapons At The Incirlik Air Base

There’s been some discussion on the threads about this, but I figured that a post might be helpful.

The United States has maintained 50 nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey for some time. Since the attempted coup of 2016, when Incirlik was inaccessible for some time, there have been calls to remove those weapons. Having those weapons based so close to Russia is also a sore point in Russian relations. I won’t go into the full back and forth about Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons; just that there is a reasonable argument that these weapons aren’t that useful to the US.

Hans Kristensen, who keeps track of nuclear weapons around the world for the Federation of American Scientists, has summarized what we know about those nuclear weapons and what might be done to remove them.

Today President Trump essentially confirmed that nuclear weapons are stored at Incirlik. It wasn’t a clearcut statement, but how he answered a reporter’s question.

There’s a reasonable caution to that –

Here’s a thread on some of the issues surrounding removing the nukes. Hint: conferring with NATO is required, but lots of things like that are going by the board these days.

Leto linked to the Wikipedia article that describes the vaults in which they are stored (top photo; caption: Weapons Storage and Security System vault in raised position holding a B61 nuclear bomb. ). Turkey would have to get the vaults open and then figure out the permissive action links (which require a code or somesuch to allow the weapon to work) in order to use the weapons. This is not impossible but would take some time.

Questions? Open thread

69 replies
  1. 1
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Command disable sounds like our best option now that Trump has opened his big mouth.

  2. 2
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Fortunately they and the base are under the command of LTG Thompson, who is the Commanding General of Allied Land Command. Here’s his bio:

    I think, though I’m not sure, that I know him.

  3. 3

    @Adam L Silverman: The US military stood up well during the Turkish coup attempt. I would guess they’re in a similar mode now.

  4. 4
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I did know the CG at that time. I was actually providing reachback support to him on a push/pull basis as needed. He knew his business and I expect that LTG Thompson does as well.

  5. 5
    Mary G says:

    I doubt even Edogan is going to try anything with these. Maybe I’m wrong.

  6. 6
    Dan B says:

    Is the risk in transporting them that dropping them from altitude could result in releasing the plutonium? Or is there some other risk?

  7. 7
    piratedan says:

    something I guess I am still a bit unclear on….

    Trump has moved the US closer and closer into a virtual proxy for Russian interests, any idea on who gave the orders to start blowing up our facilities as we unass our forces out of the area? I know that we essentially gift wrapped at least one facility, were the wrong guys (in this case, The Turks) getting too close to the others, hence the great use of using our own weapons to blow up our own facilities? Is anyone taking care of the intel or are we scooting out so fast to avoid any conflict with anyone that this is going down the memory hole?

    Is anyone providing unsanctioned assistance to our Kurdish allies to ride out the storm?

    Any possibility that as we leave and the Russians move in that IS will turn their attention back to the Syrians, Russians and Turks?

  8. 8
    Raven says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Leto did a nice rundown of this earlier.

    “Zero. The Turks don’t store them, they have no possession over them, they have zero control over them. In the event that they somehow manage kill every single American there, they still don’t have the machinery/equipment necessary to get any of the items out of the vaults. In the event that the base lost positive control, the F-16s at Aviano will make a straight run to Incirlik and level the Protected Aircraft Shelters they are stored in. Every single American on base becomes a security forces member in that event (base is overrun). They train for this all the time, including the specific scenario of, “If the host nation turns on us…”

    Here’s the system in which they’re stored: WS3”

  9. 9
    Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes says:

    Or, if you’re Turkey, you seize the weapons and extract the pits. Christ, you can detonate them using 40s era technology – it can’t be that hard to rig a C4 set of shaped charges around it.

  10. 10

    @Dan B: Over the years, there have been a number of airplane accidents in which the plane was carrying a nuclear bomb or bombs. In some of them, the bombs broke apart and released plutonium (Palomares, Spain, for example). Changes have been made to the design of weapons so that various types of damage to the bombs have become less likely. But you can never be completely sure what will happen in an accident. So aircraft accidents in which the aircraft gets mangled up are the biggest danger.

    I was talking to a friend yesterday, and we kind of agreed that two B-61s per aircraft was probably the max cargo. Also, the plane has to be fitted with appropriate racks and such for handling the bombs.

  11. 11
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Raven: Okay.

  12. 12
    SFAW says:

    I feel fortunate to be living in America during a time when the greatest threat to the security of our country and the world is the Oval Office Occupant.

    Yeah, OK, it’s a wild overstatement. Unfortunately, “back in the day,” it would have been an insane statement. Not any longer, I’m a-thinking.

  13. 13
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    providing reachback support to him on a push/pull basis

    Good thing we’re a non-judgmental crowd here at B-J. Really, Adam, whatever you choose to do in your personal time is fine by us. As long as you both are happy, that’s all we care about.

  14. 14
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: You see this yet?

  15. 15

    @Adam L Silverman: Yes. I’ll bet they had various types of gauze and plastic bags to put it in to sample surfaces. Also sharp eyes.

  16. 16
    Raven says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: One of them is still banging around off Tybee !

  17. 17

    @Raven: Yes. It sank in the mud, and they never found it!

  18. 18
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Adam L Silverman: According to Russia, they had properly notified authorities of their travel plans to Archangelsk. Which is not Severodvinsk.

  19. 19
    Leto says:

    Turkey would have to get the vaults open


    and then figure out the permissive action links (which require a code or somesuch to allow the weapon to work) in order to use the weapons.


    I’ll always wonder how they get pictures of trainer assets out. Lots of good information here. Thank you, Cheryl :)

  20. 20
    RAVEN says:

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes: You really think that would work huh? You think they would light them up in their own country?? WTF!

  21. 21
  22. 22
    NotMax says:

    @Cheryl Rofer

    Dolt 45 will send them to Murmansk. “Half the distance to America! BIG Fuel Savings. HUGE DEAL on Rent-A-Space there!!”


  23. 23
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Gin & Tonic: That was my understanding

  24. 24
    Leto says:

    Our WiFi died so I’m on the phone:

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes: that won’t work. Same with the C4 charges.

    @Dan B: @Cheryl Rofer: One book I always recommend people read is, “ Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. I figure Cheryl has read it, or knows most of its contents, but for everyone else it’s really illuminating.

  25. 25
    RAVEN says:

    @Leto: Great read.

  26. 26
    Mike in NC says:

    Jared is shopping around those 50 bombs.

  27. 27
    HumboldtBlue says:

    This isn’t going to get any better, is it?

  28. 28
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @HumboldtBlue: Not for a while. Things will get worse before they begin to get better.

  29. 29
    NotMax says:

    @Mike in NC

    Plenty of empty space at 666 Fifth Avenue.


  30. 30
    Laura Too says:

    Question, how to sleep tonight? Only half joking. Thanks Cheryl for lots to think about, I’ll probably come up with a question around 3 am.

  31. 31
    WaterGirl says:

    @Laura Too: I was just saying on the next thread that all the news today is making me feel anxious. If the phone rings at 3am, I will know it’s you. Nice to see you here. And now I really am off to put on my PJs and watch some mindless TV and pretend that the world isn’t really on fire.

  32. 32
    Mike in NC says:

    Watching a documentary on WW1. Kaiser Wilhelm II is described as “mercurial and bombastic” and also very insecure. Gee, remind you of anybody?

    And just how did that work out for the Germans in 1918?

  33. 33
    cain says:

    Why is this even public knowledge now? Why is Trump admin leaking this shit?

  34. 34
    Dan B says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Thanks! At first I read gravity bombs and wondered if they could detonate if dropped.

  35. 35
    Laura Too says:

    @WaterGirl: We’ve started watching Chernobyl, so yeah, it will be a disturbing call. :)

  36. 36
    Leto says:

    @Laura Too: @WaterGirl: *ominous music plays* If the phone rings at 3am, will she be ready!?!?!?!

    @cain: Because he won’t stop opening his mouth. I’m eagerly awaiting all the RWNJs telling us how Trumpov is allowed to talk about this. /smfh

  37. 37
    Ken says:

    @cain: To repeat the Jeffrey Lewis tweet, “He’s just not that smart.”

  38. 38
    HumboldtBlue says:

    @Mike in NC:

    If you haven’t seen The Wipers Times I recommend it.

  39. 39
    Laura Too says:

    @Leto: Shivers, and made me think,,,it’s coming from inside the house.

  40. 40
    hells littlest angel says:

    Trump: “We’re confident and we have a great, great airbase. It’s a large powerful air base.”

    He’s nothing but a fucking real estate hustler.

  41. 41
    Leto says:

    @cain: Something else that Avalune mentioned is that he wants to show off. He’s showing off “all that he knows”, and trying to impress. It’s embarrassing. Again, the president* of the US can’t be trusted with sensitive/secret information because he’ll blab it.

    @Laura Too: /sagenod

  42. 42
    sigaba says:

    Is the Command Disable process permanent? Does it actually blow fuses or destroy the detonation system? Or is it a reversible process?

  43. 43

    @Leto: My one criticism of “Command and Control” is that the author doesn’t say that the weapons designers have learned from the accidents and corrected some of the things that went wrong or posed dangers during the accidents. And yes, I knew Bill Chambers, who was the guy who had to look for the warhead in the Damascus accident. A really great guy. He died about a year ago.

    And I’ll disagree a little with you about the safes and PALs. Even Sandia, who designs them, admits that the PALs are defeatable by a national adversary, but it takes time, which is useful.

  44. 44

    @Laura Too: I’ll check back on this thread in the morning.

  45. 45
    kindness says:

    I don’t think Turkey wants out nukes. Erdogan just wants Trump’s nuts in a mason jar on the shelf. Apparently Putin is sharing them.

  46. 46
    LevelB says:

    In another life I was a classified documents clerk in the army stationed at Cakmakli, a small NATO base near Istanbul (1976). The mission of the base was to store nuclear warheads for deployment in case WWIII broke out – but mainly I think to piss off the Soviets. The weapons were Honest John warheads and howitzer shells.

    We definitely trained for hostile activities from the host nation – my job would have been to empty my filing cabinets of the instruction and maintenance manuals into a 55 gallon drum kept outside my office, and set off a thermite charge on it. The folks who maintained the warheads constantly trained on how to quickly destroy them using shape charges. We also had a platoon of infantry to set up a defense and give us the time needed to accomplish this.

    Our backup came from an airbase in Italy (Aviano, I think). We were in hourly contact with them, and if we failed to give the proper codes, they scrambled their fighters to check us out.

    Wrapping this up – getting control of these weapons could not have been accomplished without US casualties, and would have triggered an immediate lethal response. There were standing orders to not let these weapons be taken under any circumstances.


  47. 47

    @cain: Trump leaks because he has no concept of national interest, or anything outside his ego. So he takes in a bit of the Presidential Daily Brief, mixes it up with whatever else is in his head, and emits stuff from time to time.

    But people like Hans Kristensen have surmised, from government documents and such, much of the basing information. And if they can, so can the Russians and whoever else may be interested. So it’s not a big deal in that sense. The government admitting it, though, is something the Russians could use in arms control talks, for example, if we ever get back to arms control talks.

    And I don’t want to hear about how the President can declassify anything he wants to. In the first place, his classification authority is a part of national security. In the second, it’s clear he’s just letting his mouth run.

  48. 48

    @sigaba: Command Disable is permanent.

  49. 49
    Leto says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Regarding not learning from the accidents, maybe the author’s questions on that weren’t answered? Couldn’t be? Speculation on my part. That sucks about Bill.

    Regarding safes/PALs… time component is key. Everything is designed around time. The time needed to get to items is greater than flight time from Aviano, or Spangdahlem. I guess I shouldn’t laugh too hard because the authorization for that action comes from one person. (Queue scene with Ralphie helping his dad from A Christmas Story: fuuuuuuudddddggggge)

    I’ll also say that the Sandia scientists and engineers I’ve met/spoken with are some of the nicest people around. Thanks Cheryl :)

  50. 50
    jimmiraybob says:

    One not-ideal option that doesn’t involve physical transfer would be to ….

    Yeah Sure. But what’s the worst possible option? I mean the worst. You know, the one that the stable genius with the best brain will choose?

  51. 51

    @Leto: Some parts of the author’s questions could be answered. One of the sites I was responsible for in the environmental remediation program was where hydronuclear tests were done underground in 1960 to check out an issue about one-point safety. That didn’t directly enter into the incidents described in “Command and Control,” but it’s an indication that when an issue came up, it was dealt with. Presidential permission was needed for those tests because at the time, the USSR and the US were observing a test moratorium.

    Likewise, after Palomares, insensitive high explosive was developed so that the pits wouldn’t be blown apart to contaminate wide areas.

  52. 52

    @Dan B: They have to be armed first.

  53. 53
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @Laura Too:

    Question, how to sleep tonight?

    Watch some Scooby Doo while nodding off?

  54. 54
    a lurker says:

    You really don’t want to think about that. I was writing up a comment in that vein (back in the prehistory of 4 weeks ago) just before the Ukraine shit sandwich hit the fan.

    The problem is that no matter what completely insane scenario you dream up, when you go back and reconsider “hmm, would the traitor really react that way?”, the answer was always “of course he would. actually he’d somehow manage fuck it up even harder”.

  55. 55
    Leto says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: What would you recommend for reading about the underground tests and their after effects?

    @mrmoshpotato: I’m watching Property Brothers. I’m continuing to collect ideas for when we eventually own another home :)

  56. 56
    Leto says:

    @a lurker:

    back in the prehistory of 4 weeks ago

    Future generations will update the Robin Williams “Jumanji” meme to: WHAT WEEK IS IT? In response to the Trumpov era.

  57. 57

    @Leto: This is a nice summary of the tests.

    The work plan I used was on line at one time, but it’s gone now. The aftereffects were small. There are 40 kilos of plutonium and 85 of enriched uranium in the mesa, but there has been little migration. It’s a very dry environment. Water was collecting under an asphalt pad that had been put over one experimental area, but we removed that and emplaced a cover that would allow evaporation. There is now an active operation in the area, so people would notice if anyone started unauthorized digging.

  58. 58
    mapghimagsik says:

    Thank you, Cheryl, et al. This addresses a lot of thoughts I had.

  59. 59
    Kattails says:

    How to sleep tonight? A woman was softly whistling this tune today while shopping; when I engaged her she did not know the title, but said she’d woken up with it in her head. I remembered the song but couldn’t remember whether it was from Snow White or Cinderella. So after coming home & catching about half way up on the day’s BJ news I looked it up. Ilene Woods, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from 1950, on the Perry Como show, youtube. Post WWII and pre-cold war. On a roll, I also did “Play it Sam”. Different times.
    Thanks so much all you knowledgable people for keeping us up to speed in understanding things I really have zero experience with.

  60. 60
    Sally says:

    @NotMax: That’s what I was thinking too. But without the snark.

  61. 61
    Leto says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Thank you for this! Read through it and learned a bunch. 1) I’m glad we developed better computers/computer models and 2) regarding TWR-DIR-1479… I can never see something like that being said about our current president*.

  62. 62
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @Leto: Your budget is $100,000 dollars, and you want a pool, a hottub, a moat, a drawbridge and a unicorn?

  63. 63
    Jager says:

    My first girlfriend’s dad was a B52 pilot. They were transferred to Incirlik in the 60s, Ann’s dad joked, “Now I won’t have so far to go to work.”

  64. 64
    Pablo says:

    Breaking: USAF planing to bomb Incirlik to keep nukes out of escaped Isis prisoners hands.

  65. 65
    JAFD says:

    Good morning, fellow Jackals,

    Must be up at Univ Hosp at 9 for MUGA test, where (as I understand it) they shoot some radioactive fluid into your blood, then take some pics with super-geiger-counter-camera. Mayhaps one of you experts can tell me if there be places to avoid so I set off alarms afterwards – not.
    (I once told a young lady that she seemed to be glowing in the dark, but methinks that was just excess infrared spreading into the visible spectrum.)

    Have great weekend, everyone.

  66. 66

    @Pablo: I am not seeing anything to that effect. I see rumors of cargo planes on the way, perhaps to pick up the nukes, perhaps to reinforce security. Will try to track with some people I know who are reliable.

    If you’ve got a link, please share. I think we’re a long way from that.

  67. 67

    @JAFD: Ask the techs at the hospital. Chances are, for a diagnostic screening, the amounts are pretty small.

  68. 68

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    First. Palpated is NOT the only time nuclear fuels have been released. And, how much do you “trust” our government’s wisdom or motivation…? I could make a list an arms length, but I will only mention a couple. The Bomarc Missile Incident (1953), Ft. Did/McGuire AFB, NJ, The South Carolina Incident, etc., … However, what about all the ones we don’t know?! I am a veteran and have been to Incirlik AB, are the bombs secure, no question however, I am also of Armenian descent. While hearing stories as I grew up of half my family being brutally butchered at the hands of Turkey (The Armenian Genocide which they still won’t admit happened 100+ years later), might make me somewhat “biased” to some that’s not the case. The Turks are a funny people. Personally, I trust them as far as I can throw them, however, they are our alleged allies. In an ideal world that would be enough. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world much to my sadness. Turkey is out for Turkey, period. Everyone should see this, just do your due diligence. Watch the news today (Russian Global TV), Trump is unequivocally, lost. This can possibly end badly for a number of reasons that the “experts” know and I won’t bore you with. So, excuse me, but if it comes down to trusting Turkey or removing the weapons I am all for their prompt removal (which could be done easily)! If they got them to Turkey then they can remove them from Turkey, it’s that simple. These weapons are obsolete in the Nuclear Triad anyway so… Why keep them there? They SERVE NO LEGITIMATE PURPOSE. Thank you for the forum. @piratedan:

  69. 69

    Why would they (Trump and his lackeys) release this information?! Are you serious? And, ask the Kurds what happened believing in Trump!? Watch the Global Russian TV today to see how quick Trump will remove our Forces from the region. Come on America, WAKE UP! You voted this character in, live with now!

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