Our hydrogen bombs or Erdogan’s?


"Erdogan to announce tomorrow major policy change after the National Security Council (MGK). Could be something drastic, like leaving NATO, or giving up the EU membership application. Or even maybe declaring himself president for life, effectively taking over the entire state apparatus. Or even disbanding the parliament, and calling for a new referendum and election."  A Turk


"As of 2005, 180 tactical B61 nuclear bombs of the 480 U.S. nuclear weapons believed to be deployed in Europe fall under the nuclear sharing arrangement.[7] The weapons are stored within a vault in hardened aircraft shelters, using the USAF WS3 Weapon Storage and Security System. The delivery warplanes used are F-16s and Panavia Tornados"  wiki on Nuclear Sharing


"The WS3 system consists of a Weapons Storage Vault (WSV) and electronic monitoring and control systems. One vault can hold up to four nuclear weapons and in the lowered position provides ballistic protection through its hardened lid and reinforced sidewalls.[1] The WS3 system allowed storage directly underneath the aircraft intended to carry the bombs. The location inside the aircraft shelter increased the weapon survivability in case of any kind of attack and prevent monitoring of preparations to use the weapons. The electronic systems include various classified sensors, electronic data-transmission and security equipment such as video, motion detectors, closed circuit TV coupled with thermal imaging devices. These facilities enabled remote controlled weapon safety and made the large security forces obsolete."  wiki on weapons storage  and security system


"A Turk," whose words are quoted above is a long term commentator on SST.  I consider him to be a good source.

There are between 50 and 90 B-61 variable yield thermonuclear weapons  (hydrogen bombs) stored at Incirlik Air base in SE Turkey.  This base was built by the US starting in 1951 but it has always been a TURKISH base with US tenants.   Some of the weapons are earmarked for US use and some for Turkish use against US/NATO agreed on targets if they are ever released by the US National Command Authority.  The weapons are stored there in a semi-automatic system in vaults under the delivery aircraft.  Small point – There are no US delivery suitable aircraft now stationed at Incirlik.  They would have to brought in from somewhere else to mate them with the bombs.  At the same time, the Turkish Air Force no longer has nuclear weapons certified pilots.


1.  What are the targets for which these weapons would possibly be used?   Are there any?  Really?

2.  How firmly are the American airmen at the base in control of these weapons, weapons situated on a foreign base?

3.  Can the weapons be disabled, perhaps remotely?

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that Erdogan controlled forces make a move to seize control of the hydrogen bombs on THEIR BASE.  What could the US do about it?

IMO the US should remove the weapons or disable them as soon as possible.  pl

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69 Responses to Our hydrogen bombs or Erdogan’s?

  1. Bill H says:

    Perhaps this is a silly question but, with the end of the Cold War and especially given that we have no delivery aircraft in place, why are these weapons still there?

  2. Allen Thomson says:

    On 3., the Wikipedia article on the B61, mostly referencing http://www.glennsmuseum.com/controller/controller.html , says that there is a manual disable capability that fries the weapons electronics. There were some designs in later years that had a way to disable the physics package itself, but the B61, being of mid-1960s design, probably doesn’t have that. This all is separate from the PAL codes, strike enable plug, etc.
    Of course, if you didn’t mind scattering some plutonium around, a chunk of C4 would be pretty disabling.

  3. HDL says:


  4. Fred says:

    Allowing the Sultan to have our nuclear weapons, whether 1 or 90 of them, would mean we could expect extortionate demands forever. Just whose side is this administration on?
    “What could the US do about it?” I have a suggestion but it wouldn’t be acceptable to the majority of contributors or the public. Obama wouldn’t have the backbone either.

  5. sillybill says:

    Q2, Back in the ’80’s when I was in the Navy aboard my ship (a guided missile destroyer) I helped guard the ‘special weapons’ that were onboard. We had security alert drills everyday, many different scenarios, lot’s of guys running around the ship with guns. We were taught that for nukes there is no such thing as a hostage situation. Just shoot the terrorist. Didn’t matter if the hostage was the captain, your mom, or the president. And we (the part time members of the Security Alert Team) were just amateurs. There are specially trained nuclear force protection teams that are real pros.
    Q3, All it takes is a bullet or a hammer. Deforming the warhead or the shaped triggering charge will turn it into a highly radioactive paperweight.
    I am confident that the professionals running security there have got all sorts of contingency plans, including their own deaths.

  6. robt willmann says:

    When the information popped up the other day that the U.S. had nuclear weapons at the Incirlik air base, it got my attention fast. My first thought was to get them the hell out of there immediately. The next thought was like Bill H: what are they doing there in the first place these days?
    Tayyip Erdogan knows that the European Union is loaded with panty-waisted wimps, and so it was easy for him to extort 6 billion “euros” from them. He is a corrupt person with bad personality traits, and will continue to manipulate the U.S. in whatever ways he can. Sure, he knows that the U.S. is not the EU, but he is not a lapdog. It is not useful to keep the bombs there and create a temptation for Erdogan or others, or by their existence to give him an easy bargaining chip to use.
    When Russia revealed that Erdogan was buying oil that ISIS took from Syria, which helped ISIS financially, and from which he and his family also made money, he did not even blink.

  7. Jack says:

    “The number of individuals who been purged in Turkey after the coup attempt reaches 45000+.
    via @ashishjena94 (https://mobile.twitter.com/TurkeyUntold/status/755419303772651520?s=03/when-the-world-turns-upside-down-22cdaf0e187f#.gcnwhnl11)
    It looks like the purge was well planned. The faux coup creates the pretext for a witch hunt. Many innocents will get caught up.
    Before the Sultan decides to act to create a “hostage” ransom situation with the nukes, can the hapless Obummer do anything to retrieve them or render them inoperative?

  8. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Col. Lang, SST;
    re: “Let us say, for the sake of argument, that Erdogan controlled forces make a move to seize control of the hydrogen bombs on THEIR BASE. What could the US do about it?”
    Let me re-phrase this question with the change of one premise and one word:
    Change of premise: Incirlik was a Turkish base with Russian tenants.
    Change of word: ” Let us say, for the sake of argument, that Erdogan controlled forces make a move to seize control of the hydrogen bombs on THEIR BASE. What could Putin do about it?”
    I have my guesses. What do y’all think?
    Ishmael Zechariah

  9. Bill H,
    It is not a silly question at all. But before you can talk about targeting, you have to think about the larger question of what is the U.S. nuclear arsenal – or indeed the British or French – actually for?
    Among key specific questions, is it simply intended as a counter to the nuclear capabilities of others, or is it still – as in the Cold War – intended to counter non-nuclear threats?
    If it is the latter, then obviously the continued refusal to rule out the ‘first use’ of nuclear weapons which is characteristic alike of American, British and French nuclear doctrine makes sense. If the former, it makes no sense.
    On all this, a recent piece by Daryll G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, on the ‘War on the Rocks’ website, entitled ‘Taking First-Use of Nukes Off the Table: Good for the United States and the World’ may be worth a look.
    (See http://warontherocks.com/2016/07/taking-first-use-of-nukes-off-the-table-good-for-the-united-states-and-the-world/ .)

  10. HankP says:

    Col. Lang –
    Does it have to be a “nuclear capable” jet to merely remove the bombs? Couldn’t they be moved in a regular cargo plane?

  11. turcopolier says:

    Of course. pl

  12. turcopolier says:

    For good or ill we are not the Russians I think. pl

  13. Fred says:

    And just how long is the base security detail going to last against a brigade of the Sultan’s armor?

  14. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In the article below, a certain Richard Nephew, insinuates that the nuclear weapons in Incirlik are meant as a reassurance to Arabs and others against any Iranian nuclear provocation.
    In the statements below, the current UK Foreign Minister, was supportive a nuclear-armed Iran:
    I must say, someone, or a cackle of them, are mad as hatters.

  15. Both Fred and IZ wondered what we would do if Turkey made a move to seize the nuclear weapons. I’ve worked with the folks guarding such weapons. They will shoot to kill, destroy those weapons if they must and certainly die if they must to prevent those bombs from falling into unauthorized hands. These are seriously committed people.

  16. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Col. Lang,
    Point taken. However, if the US permits tayyip to even see these weapons, it would be a crime against humanity.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  17. ThePanzer says:

    At the rate he’s going maybe it’s easier to list who hasn’t been purged yet in Turkey.
    By the end of the week the Turkish govt may just consist of Erdogan, a few family members, and a janitor.

  18. Allen Thomson says:

    > Couldn’t they be moved in a regular cargo plane?
    B61s are surprisingly small: about 700-750 lb, 12 ft long, 13 inches diameter. Probably they have standardized shipping containers that would add to that somewhat.

  19. ThePanzer says:

    My hope is we’re already flying them out right now, or past tense, we did it back when they evacuated the dependents.

  20. ked says:

    Recall how the shit hit the fan (& resonated for quite some time) when cruise missiles w/ nuclear warheads were miss-shipped to Barksdale? The outcome of that event might provide some small comfort about how serious is our physical security of weapons (yet, “mistakes happen…”), at least on the operational side… on the policy side, one wonders if we treat Cold War era policies like some kinda biblical commandment from on-high. Long term momentum of unexamined policies can lead to some surprising and dangerous scenarios.

  21. VietnamVet says:

    The bombs are hostages along with the several thousand service personnel and contractors. Erdogan will demand billions of dollars more in ransom. He may well ally with Russia and China for protection. I am afraid of what the mad hatters will do. The French citizens are jeering their politicians. The West’s leaders are totally incompetent. I think the President realizes that if 90 nuclear bombs are seized in working order by Turkey that is the end of the Democratic Party and his legacy. This is orders of magnitude worse than Jimmy Carter’s Desert One Debacle. The Republicans, every day, shoot themselves in the foot. The Empire is dead. Will they pay the ransom or is a rescue mission and a World War the only option left?

  22. Fred says:

    “destroy those weapons if they must”
    The President needs to order them moved back to the US.

  23. sillybill says:

    Since they are in hardened storage facilities inside hardened aircraft hangars, they should have enough time to deactivate/destroy the warheads.
    I would think that the attempted theft of nuclear weapons by an allied army would be considered an act of war. I don’t think Tayyip has the stones for that one.
    I do agree with all here that there is no good reason for the warheads to be there and they should be removed.

  24. sillybill says:


  25. irf520 says:

    Worst case scenario they could detonate one of the bombs in situ to prevent them falling into the wrong hands.

  26. wisedupearly says:

    After Brexit the Sultan may have decided to pivot eastwards. The West is too demanding and Putin is making all sorts of comforting noises.
    How much would Putin give to move Turkey into his sphere.

  27. mike says:

    Brendan McGarry of military.com believes the US will keep those nukes at Incirlik despite recent events. He does not cite any govt or pentagon sources so it could just be speculation on his part. Or not?

  28. bth says:

    So our old friend Sadr has announced he is going to ‘target’ US troops in Iraq specifically with reference to prospect of an air base at Qayarra. He does it right as Turkish base is in jeopardy. What a coincidence. No doubt his cut on the shake down of trucking supplies to the base will have to go up. A lot of good Americans have died because of him. http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/07/us-troops-are-a-target-for-us-iraqs-muqtada-al-sadr-says.php

  29. Fred,
    If those weapons haven’t been moved by now, the whole lot of them are dumber than turnips.

  30. bth says:

    If we leave them there, even if they are under US control, it will be like leaving children as hostages in an unstable land. We need to get the hostages out of the dungeon. Let Erdogan make his announcement, suck up to Putin or whomever but give us the excuse to move them out. We’ll lose the base, but I’m not sure it is doing much for us anyway.

  31. Fred says:

    “He may well ally with Russia…”
    He will have to betray ISIS first by sealing the border with Syria and allowing Assad’s government to succeed.

  32. different clue says:

    If things get that bad, one hopes these bombs were built with a built-in self-destruct charge which would blow the plutonium chunks apart instead of blowing them together. And also which would make un-analyzable the other most-secret things inside the bombs.

  33. different clue says:

    How much would Erdogan give up to be permitted to move into the Putin sphere?

  34. Ghostship says:

    FWIW, my best guess is that Turkey will join the Eurasian Economic Union and then that moron Hillary will crow about how Putin is recreating the Soviet Union ignoring the fact that Turkey was never part of the Soviet Union in the first place and that Turkey was always hostile to the Soviet Union. As for those who thought that Putin should attack Turkey for shooting down a Russian aircraft in dubious circumstances…………
    BTW, why would Erdogan want the US thermonuclear bombs when he could probably have his own in a few years anyway.

  35. turcopolier says:

    ghost ship
    Turkey is a long way from being able to make anything like that. pl

  36. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    I am sure the protection forces are very well trained, dedicated professionals. They would, absolutely, disable the devices and die as necessary. My question was really about the overall US response after such an occurrence. I would hazard the guess that if someone tried this gambit against Putin, they and their entire security apparatus would be disassociated to sub-atomic particle level during the attempt. I also think that this would be the correct response. I further think that Putin would not countenance tayyip taking anything more than an M-60 out of Incirlik. Comments?
    Ishmael Zechariah

  37. turcopolier says:

    Hank Foresman
    At a minimum secular Kemalist Turkey is dead and gone. Kerry warned Erdogan today of possible expulsion from NATO today if the purges continue. We should get on with that. Tayyip broadened his purge today to include 15,000 teachers. They were the very heart of secularism in Turkey. we will see how far he will go after their NSC meeting tomorrow. pl

  38. turcopolier says:

    I agree that the Russians would not countenance this kind of theft. It would be far too disruptive of the international order. “and die as necessary” Not so sure of that. I was once commander of an analogous facility in which you were supposed to die rather than surrender it. I was required to explain that to the men. They just laughed. I guess I am just not a good leader. pl

  39. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Colonel Lang,
    In actual case your soldiers would have surprised you, I think. Jesting aside, I, for one, would happily die in a fire-fight, taking out as many of the damn bastards as I can along with me. It would be far better than enduring their tender mercies after surrender. This all reminds me of the poem “The Young British Soldier” by Kipling:
    “If your officer’s dead and the sergeants look white,
    Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight:
    So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
    And wait for supports like a soldier.
    Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .
    When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier…”
    Good sentiments sir.

  40. turcopolier says:

    I have commanded a lot of very tough men who needed little encouragement to fight but I have my doubts about REMFs (Rear Echelon Mother F—ers). I am not trusting of anyone who does not think of himself as a fighter. pl

  41. Fred says:

    ” I further think that Putin would not countenance tayyip taking anything more than an M-60 out of Incirlik.”
    Working or in need of a complete overhaul?

  42. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Colonel Lang,
    I would have thought that the protection group would be combat infantry with extra training, rotated to guard duty as needed. Just guarding a bunch of devices behind lines would not keep the spear sharp.
    Ishmael Zechariah
    P.s: BTW, if anyone in SST thinks that the Kipling poem is hyperbole, I would ask them to remember the Russian spotter who called a strike on his own position when surrounded by the jihadis. May the earth rest lightly on him.

  43. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    The firecracker, not the tank.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  44. VietnamVet says:

    Perhaps, but imminent beheading concentrates the mind and improves unit cohesion.

  45. mike says:

    Or that Trump will say that Erdogan deserves nukes to protect Turkey from Assad or Putin or Rouhani or take your pick.

  46. turcopolier says:

    That implies the Trump is an idiot. I don’t think so. I am not going to vote for him nor Hillary but I do not think he is and idiot. pl

  47. turcopolier says:

    People tend to hope that they will not be killed by the mob or whatever. People are still surrendering in Syria when it is clear that the jihadis of any kind will kill you if you do. I have been in a lot of combat in places you would not expect where there were not supposed to be people like me. The kind of service I had in intelligence and SF led to that. People vary enormously in their reaction to situations of danger. Perhaps the USAF custodial people would blow themselves to preserve US custody of the weapons. I would prefer not to rely on their fidelity to duty. We should remove the weapons and if that takes force, so be it. pl

  48. turcopolier says:

    B-61 is the firecracker.

  49. turcopolier says:

    From what I understand these are USAF technicians. If that is not so, someone tell me! pl

  50. Fred says:

    Thank you. I appreciate your sentiment.

  51. Tigersharktoo says:

    Well, if they are willing to detonate one bomb, they won’t survive, but neither will the armor, and the remaining bombs will be useless.

  52. Dabbler says:

    Wouldn’t Putin (and others) be rather pleased with tayyip if the latter’s actions caused the B-61s to be removed from Incirlik? Just a thought…

  53. James Loughton says:

    My knowledge is almost 50 years out of date by now and based solely on my experience as a high school student whose father was a wing commander of B-52 wings from 1966 through 1969. One weekend day dad let me ride along as he took a tour of the flight line including the active alert area. My recollection was that there were several perimeter guards and the several guards around each armed aircraft They carried rifles and pistols, but appeared to be Airmen rather than (Army) soldiers. Perhaps they were military police with additional training, or perhaps they had some other training. I didn’t ask, so cannot say.
    I had never really thought about it until today, but my guess is that few, if any had ever fired a shot in anger. Perhaps someone more knowledgable than I can improve on this.

  54. James Loughton says:

    As for Question 3: Can the weapons be disabled, perhaps remotely?
    The best information I could find is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permissive_Action_Link
    It’s not clear to me whether they can be disabled remotely or not. I does appear they can be disabled on site.

  55. Lloyd D. Herod, Jr. says:

    Col., and SST;
    For answers and informed speculation to some of the questions posed about the safety and security of US devices in this thread, I recommend Command and Control by Eric Schlosser. The safety and security measures mentioned in the book come from extensive interviews by the author of engineers, physicists and military personnel with knowledge of nuclear weapons design, safety and control.
    There is an article in the current New Yorker dated 7/17/2016 by Schlosser entitled “The H-Bombs in Turkey” There are entrys for the B-61 and it’s variants in the National Security Archive website, The nuclearweaponsarchive.org website also contains information on the B-61, some of it duplicating information found in the Nationa Security Archive website.

  56. turcopolier says:

    Yes, Putin would be pleased. So what? pl

  57. Peter Reichard says:

    It is difficult to imagine any scenario with the possible exception of Korea where the rapid use of tactical nuclear weapons would become necessary. The current instability in Turkey shows that the risk/benefit ratio of deploying these weapons overseas is enormous, they should be withdrawn to US territory or kept on ships.

  58. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to turcopolier 19 July 2016 at 08:20 PM
    I’d always been told they had breakout capability for creating the munitions but not for the delivery. Is that still the case?
    I’ve got a great deal of respect for the level of ability one finds in Turkish universities.

  59. turcopolier says:

    They could create nuclear weapons but to achieve the miniaturized industrial processes needed to produce weapons like the B-61, etc. is a far different matter. Their first weapons would probably be something like the ones we used on Japan. pl

  60. Dabbler says:

    It likely wasn’t necessary for Erdogan to make a move (or feint) toward Incirlik in order to defeat the coup and conduct the purge. The fact that he did make such a move should have the effect of causing the US to re-think its storage of B-61s at the base, as folks here have suggested. If Erdogan’s move against the base does result in the US moving the B-61s further from Russia, Iran, etc., the possibility of rapprochement between Turkey and various Eurasian countries may increase.
    Removal of the weapons is sensible from the US POV. Prodding the US to remove the weapons would be sort of a housewarming gift from Erdogan to Putin and others. The above senario implies that Erdogan or someone else was thinking ahead a little, with intent to accomplish more than one end. If Erdogan had threaten the base absent the simultaneous failed coup and purge, the B-61 issue would have become much more visible and provocative.

  61. Allen Thomson says:

    Looking around for possibly relevant information, it turns out that an F-16 can carry two 750-lb B61s on wing stations plus a center-line fuel tank. People who know more about F-16s than I might want to comment on what that means in terms of mission radius.
    Also, and relating to transportation of B61s, https://fas.org/blogs/security/2013/08/volkelnukes/ has a couple of pictures. The bottom one shows a complete B61 being loaded into a C-17 — a small bomb going into a big airplane. The top picture is more interesting; see https://fas.org/blogs/security/2007/09/flying_nuclear_bombs/

  62. turcopolier says:

    Allen Thompson In a pinch you could probably put the whole group pf bpmbs in 3 C-130s. pl

  63. Allen Thomson says:

    I agree. Getting them out shouldn’t be a big deal unless the Turks were being difficult about it.
    BTW, on carriage, it seems that an F-16 can carry a B61 and a biggish fuel tank on each wing: https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5443/6997234036_941607d241_b.jpg

  64. Ghostship says:

    Some believe that Turkey was the unknown fourth customer of A Q Khan and technically they are probably more advanced than Pakistan so they might not be there by 2020 but 2025 may be possible. And with the reactors they’re buying from Russia and the Franco-Japanese consortium, I’ve seen reports that Turkey intends to do the enrichment and reprocessing themselves and with reprocessing being so expensive compared to the cost of clean new LEU, it suggests they want to get their hands on some plutonium.
    BTW, if, as some people claim, the Syrians were capable of developing nuclear weapons, shouldn’t the Turkish be able to do it. On the otherhand, the Israelis produce an awful lot of BS.
    As for Erdogan’s major announcement, a three month state of emergency. How boring.

  65. Tyler says:


  66. Imagine says:

    Ergodan family was middleman to ISIS oil sales to Israel. MSM reports on who sells oil but never on who buys.

  67. Imagine says:

    A classic well-researched article documents decades of Iranian leader statements that they are morally, strategically, and tactically against Iranian possession and use of nuclear weapons.
    “Ignoring Decades of Iranian Statements on Nuclear Weapons for the Sake of Propaganda”
    the simplest explanation is that they are sincere, and have been set up for the 1984 Two Minutes of Hate since ’79. Also note Iran has co-sponsored MENWFZ proposal. So people who propose Iran actually “should” get nukes, to balance the region, still have not heard what is actually being said and are missing the boat. They are thinking, from an Anglo viewpoint, “What would WE do if we were Iranians?”
    Can you confirm any of this?

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