The return of nuclear weapons to the uk

“It is possible that a part of Eastern England would have become a desert”

In early 2022, mysterious upgrades began at Lakenheath Air Base in Suffolk, United Kingdom. Military analysts, after pouring over satellite photography of the construction work being done, came to one conclusion. Lakenheath, ever so silently, was preparing to welcome nuclear weapons once again.

US nuclear weapons have not been hosted in the UK since 2006. Before then, however, these weapons were hosted in the UK continuously since 1954. Much like how there hasn’t been a day since a man hasn’t been into space since 2000, there wasn’t a day for over 50 years before 2006 when a US nuclear weapon wasn’t on UK soil.

This was dangerous. Unreasonably so. It made the UK a constant target for Soviet, and then Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons. Due to the UK’s small area and dense population, any destruction of nuclear facilities with nuclear weapons would also destroy many UK towns and cities in the process. Reports from the Pentagon from the early 1950s described the risk of the UK being ‘Pearl Harboured’, whilst US Senator Stuart Symington described England in 1959 as literally a sitting duck”. When, in 1960, the UK unveiled its shiny new Thor Missiles, which Time proudly stated could strike Moscow in 17 minutes, no mention was made of the fact that these were only first-strike weapons. The UK would only get four minutes of warning in the event of a nuclear attack. There was no way they could launch these missiles in time.

The Thor missile – It leaking could of wiped out Lincolnshire in 1960

Even in peacetime, nuclear weapons were extremely dangerous just being on the ground in the UK. Accidents and near misses were commonplace. For example, in a training mission over Lakenheath Airbase in 1956, a bomber slid off the runway and crashed into an igloo, which had several nuclear weapons in it at the time. One bomb disposal officer said that the fact one of them hadn’t gone off was a ‘miracle’. Another US military officer put it in other words: “It is possible that a part of Eastern England would have become a desert.” As usual, cowering behind the excuse of protecting the national interest, the notice that there had even been an accident there did not reach the British public until 1981. The notice simply stated “The bombs did not burn or detonate. There were no contamination or clean-up problems, no capsules of nuclear materials were in the weapons or present in the building”.

Fidel Castro accepted Soviet Nuclear weapons in 1962 with a full understanding that, if needs be, Cuba could be sacrificed in a nuclear exchange to ensure communism survived. In fact, he actively encouraged Khrushchev to do that in the Cuban Missile Crisis itself. There is a self- sacrifice which is involved as a small nation hosting nuclear weapons of another country. As a citizen of the UK, I don’t feel this sentiment within our country in the present day, especially for protecting vague notions of American democracy. The UK should think long and hard before taking this step at Lakenheath Airbase, especially with the current situation in Ukraine. Who knows how long it could be before they leave, and how much irreparable damage the UK could suffer if just one incident took place.