The deployment of the new B61-12 bombs in Europe

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

NATO's "nuclear" exercise, Steadfast Noon, last October rekindled the lights on nuclear weapons, when it was now thought that a possible atomic war was only a legacy of the Cold War. Moscow's response with the launch, in exercise, of two intercontinental ballistic missiles, last October 26, certainly does not ease the tension between the parties.

Obviously, given the context of the war in Ukraine, such maneuvers take on particular significance, especially since Putin has repeatedly stated that he will use "all the means at its disposal to defend the territorial integrity and independence of Russia".

The NATO exercise concerned only the allies (Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey and Belgium) on whose territories American nuclear weapons, such as the B61 tactical nuclear bombs, are stored.

The technology of the B61 is also known as Dial-a-yield. This means that each bomb has an adjustable power: from a maximum equivalent of 50.000 tons of TNT to a minimum of 300. The operational use, therefore, can be calibrated according to the desired effect and the importance of the objective.

La National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the body under the Department of Energy, which deals with the stocks of American nuclear weapons, published, in November 2021, an information update that specifies the types of aircraft to be certified in the near future to carry the latest version of the B-61 (the B-61-12). The Tornado it is present, like the F-15, the F-16, the B-2 Spirit, the B-21 Raider and the F-35.

As for the Italian bases of Ghedi and Aviano, these should host a total of 30 to 50 B61-12 nuclear bombs. The six NATO bases in Belgium (Kleine Brogel), Germany (Buchel), Italy (Aviano and Ghedi), the Netherlands (Volkel) and Turkey (Incirlik) house around 180 American B61 Mod-3-4 nuclear bombs -7-10 (with the "double key" system). All the B61s located in Europe will be replaced with the latest version of the hydrogen nuclear bomb to be configured with the F-35A (Turkey having been excluded from the F-35 program will probably use the F-16C / D).

The B61-12 has a CEP (Circular Error Probable) of about 30 meters from the target and is equipped with a 50 kiloton warhead, capable of developing a detonating energy capable of pulverize any structure (including bunkers) within a range of 70/80 meters.

Photo: Sandia National Labs

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