About those Turkish nukes…

07/23/201624 Comments

The actual nukes (about 50 of them) stored at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey are B61 gravity bombs. They are “dumb” bombs first developed back in the days when a tactical nuclear bomber raid of the Soviet Union’s Eastern European flank was a plan kicking around the offices of RAND’s real-life Strangeloves. In other words, they serve no conceivable use in any current day situation.

So of course the US just spent $8 billion upgrading them to B61-12s by adding moving fins so they can be more effectively steered toward their targets after they’re dropped. Controls have also been added so that the bomb’s yield can be adjusted before they’re deployed, all the way down from their full yield of 170 kilotons (11 Hiroshimas) to 0.3 kilotons (a measly 2% of a Hiroshima). The idea is to make these nukes “small” enough so that their use is conceivable and acceptable to the public…the entire opposite of the MAD doctrine that was used to promote their development and stockpiling in the first place.

So as spectacular as the Turkish coup and all of its myriad internal and geopolitical ramifications no doubt are, one of the most hair-raising stories coming out of post-coup Turkey has centered on Incirlik. On July 16th, as the coup plotters lost control of the event, power was cut to Incirlik. Shortly thereafter the base’s commander, General Bekir Ercan Van, was arrested in the post-coup purge.

Now, any time a week-long disturbance of this sort takes place at a major US Air Force base in a strategic location housing the forces for a key, ongoing tactical operation, that is a big deal. But given Incirlik’s role as a NATO nuclear stockpile, that’s a very big deal indeed.

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