Skip to content

Reported U.S. Nukes in Turkey

Turkey’s incursion into Syria has raised concerns about U.S. nuclear weapons reportedly stored in a Turkish air base near the Syrian border.   

As Turkish forces continue to push into Syrian territory while U.S. forces pull back, there are increasing concerns over the reported presence of U.S. nuclear weapons now stored at Incirlik Air Base in Adana, Turkey, which is relatively close to the Syrian border.  

On Monday, The New York Times reported that officials from the U.S. Departments of State and Energy recently reviewed plans for evacuating the nuclear weapons there. According to various media reports, the cache of weapons at Incirlik is believed to consist of about 50 Cold War-era B61 nuclear gravity bombs.

The nuclear weapons at Incirlik have for years been an open secret. The U.S. government does not publicly confirm or deny their existence. However, last April a Belgium newspaper published a secret Nato report that said U.S. nuclear arms were being stored at six U.S. and European bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Turkey.

In an interview earlier this year with The Air Force Times, former U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James would not confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons at Incirlik. But as a hypothetical, she said that if nuclear weapons did have to be removed from that base, it would be a complicated operation. It would require negotiations with the nation that would become the weapons’ new host, and a great deal of logistical and security work, she said.

If the Air Force found a new nation willing to host the nukes, James added, it would have to take great care in their removal and transport. If the receiving base did not have the necessary facilities with  security, a significant construction effort would be required.

“Any time nuclear weapons are moved from point A to point B, it is a major logistical challenge,” James told the newspaper. “The security is enormous that goes with this.”

For more information on analyzing security scenarios regarding sensitive transport operations, see the article “How to Use Scenario Analysis to Manage in Uncertain Times” in the October issue of Security Management.