In December, the United States is bringing new nuclear warheads to Europe. The B61-12 warhead is a more advanced warhead from the ones currently deployed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
Boeing designed the bomb’s new guided-tailkit, giving it additional maneuverability and the appearance of more precision. But, it’s a nuclear weapon, and has different yields, from 0.3kt to 50kt. These bombs can detonate beneath the Earth’s surface, increasing their destructiveness against underground targets to the equivalent of a surface-burst weapon with a yield of 1,250 kilotons––the equivalent of 83 Hiroshima bombs.
These nuclear weapons are coming to Europe in a time of heightened nuclear tension on the continent, and even as the majority of people in European host countries want to remove nuclear weapons and join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Combined with the lack of transparency around nuclear sharing, this moment raises questions about whether citizens in the host states would agree to be complicit if these weapons are ever used. Even if the bombs are American and the US retains launch authority, they would most likely be dropped by Europeans. If the US decides to use its nuclear weapons located in Germany, the warheads are loaded onto German planes and a German pilot drops them.
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