Why are they doing nuclear sites online

Ramstein no longer a nuclear weapons warehouse?

by Otfried Nassauer

Apparently there are no more nuclear weapons in the US base in Ramstein. This results from new service regulations of the US armed forces. Only at the Büchel Airbase in the Eifel there are still US nuclear weapons. The Federal Government must now be asked why it considers this to be necessary.

The largest US nuclear weapons depot in Europe is apparently no longer in operation. The camp is located at the US Air Force Base Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate. In Germany there is only one nuclear weapons site, the Büchel Air Base in the Eifel, where the German 33rd Fighter-Bomber Squadron is stationed.

The evacuation of the camp is documented by a new regulation of the US Air Force in Europe from January 2007, which Hans Kristensen of the Association of American Scientists (FAS) in Washington drew attention to. The regulation describes which airfields with nuclear weapons storage facilities in Europe will be visited by American experts in the coming months.

All known European nuclear weapons locations are listed in the regulation, including Büchel. Ramstein is missing for the first time. Since the inspections are compulsory for all nuclear sites in Europe, Kristensen assumes that there are no more nuclear weapons stored in Ramstein.

Arms outsourced to the USA

The air force base "Ramstein Air Base" houses special storage facilities for a total of 216 atomic bombs. In the floor of the aircraft protection structures, 54 so-called nuclear weapons caves are embedded, each of which can hold four bombs. About 130 weapons were last stored there.

During the extensive construction work on the air base in recent years - Ramstein took over the tasks of the Rhein-Main Air Base in Frankfurt - the nuclear weapons were however outsourced to the USA for security reasons. It was expected that the weapons would be returned to Ramstein after construction was completed. That probably didn't happen.

Late satisfaction for red-green

The US renouncement of the re-storage of the weapons is a belated satisfaction for the former red-green federal government. Their defense minister, Peter Struck, and the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister Kurt Beck, during a visit to the construction site in 2005, expressed doubts about the need to store nuclear weapons in Germany in the future.

The Bundeswehr does not have its own nuclear weapons. In the event of a defense, German jets could also drop US atomic bombs within the framework of the "nuclear participation" agreed in NATO. The Tornado Squadron in Büchel trains such missions. However, the bombs remain entirely under US command until a state of defense is available.

The process also has an impact on the nuclear role of the German Tornado squadron in Nörvenich. She runs out with it. The nuclear weapons for Nörvenich were stored in Ramstein. The possibility of making Nörvenich an active nuclear site again is now being given up.

The squadron there is to be converted from nuclear-capable Tornado aircraft to the Eurofighter in the coming years. The Eurofighter, however, is not capable of nuclear weapons.

Just one more atomic location

In the future there will therefore only be one active nuclear weapons site in Germany. About 20 atomic bombs are still stored at Fighter Bomber Wing 33 in Büchel. Each has a multiple of the destructive power of the nuclear devices that wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In an emergency, these weapons are supposed to be used by the German Air Force tornadoes. An American maintenance and security team is always on site. In Europe there will still be seven nuclear weapons storage facilities with around 350 US nuclear weapons.

Doubtful military purpose

It is now more difficult for the federal government to justify the whereabouts of nuclear weapons in Germany. Many experts doubt that nuclear weapons in Germany still serve a comprehensible, military purpose: they tie up expensive personnel and cause high costs. Since Washington withdrew the nuclear weapons in Ramstein that were intended for American fighter jets, Berlin must now justify anew why the Air Force still needs nuclear weapons.

NATO is rethinking the need for nuclear weapons

In NATO, the so-called “high-level advisory group” is currently working out proposals for the future needs of the alliance for nuclear weapons. When the NATO defense ministers met on June 15, 2007 as the NATO nuclear planning group, they once again stated that the alliance maintained nuclear forces “to the smallest extent that is sufficient to maintain peace and stability”.

is a freelance journalist and heads the Berlin Information Center for Transatlantic Security - BITS