BBC is reporting that Ruud Lubbers, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1982 to 1994, has confirmed that twenty-two B-61 nuclear gravity bombs are/were stored at Volkel air base in underground strong rooms. Lubbers, apparently, is the most senior government official ever to confirm the presence of US nuclear weapons on Dutch soil. Note that this revelation in the BBC has generated absolutely no serious controversy whatsoever.
The presence of these weapons is not really new information but it is another piece of the Cold War nuclear puzzle and provides those of us studying nuclear affairs in the Cold War with more evidence that the United States was not alone, that allies sought out this capability, and planned for its use in the event deterrence failed. The Royal Netherlands Air Force possessed several nuclear-capable systems including the F-104 Starfighter strike aircraft, Nike anti-aircraft missiles, Honest John and Lance Free Flight Rockets, and the S2F Tracker and P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft. As usual, there were American custodial units present to handle the weapons maintenance and load up: In the case of Volkel it was the USAF’s 703rd Munitions Support Squadron and its predecessor organizations, facts confirmed long, long ago.
Google Maps has pixelated Volkel Air Base at the request of the Dutch government. However….If you look to the northeast of the base about 1 km away you can see a rectangle of new growth in the De Berg forest. That rectangle looks like it conforms to a 1960s era pattern NATO-standard Special Ammunition Storage site which was probably remediated once the WS3 nuclear vaults were installed in the Hardened Aircraft Shelters on the base itself in 1991 or so. Note that the distance from that spot to the former Quick Reaction Alert Area is around 1 km and it is surrounded by forest. If you look closely it appears as if there were three structures there with an access road.
Comparing that empty space in the forest to a similar one at the Belgian Kleine Brogal air base that is also 1 km northeast of the main base QRF Area suggests that there were three ‘igloos’ at Volkel similar to the ones at Kleine Brogal and the ones I photographed in Lahr (see “The Bunkers of Lahr” page on this site).
The standard load for such a NATO Special Ammunition Storage Site would be between 40 and 50 Mk-28 and/or Mk-43 nuclear weapons for the F-104 Starfighter strike aircraft. That would be enough for 311 and 312 Squadrons (if their UE was around 18 aicraft each), plus 306 Squadron once it did its post-strike recce and needed to bomb up for follow on strikes, assuming Volkel survived an attack from the Soviet medium and intermediate range ballistic missile force in Belorussia. Given Volkel’s geographic location, targets for the Cold War-era Dutch nuclear strike force would have been in East Germany and possibly western Poland and designed to retard the Warsaw Pact’s second operational echelon, destroy missile sites and destroy air bases.
Thanks to Fine Art America for the RNALF F-104 painting pic
Thanks to FAS for the overhead of Kleine Brogel.