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RAF Lakenheath could house first US nuclear weapons on British soil since 2008 as new report fuels speculation

A report has fuelled further speculation that a Suffolk base could host the first US nuclear weapons in 15 years.

According to the US Air Force’s budgetary justification report, plans have been lodged to build a new 144-bedroom ‘surety dormitary’ at RAF Lakenheath, which forms part of a $50m (£39m) project.

This will be designed to ‘house the increase in enlisted personnel as the result of the potential Surety Mission’.

RAF Lakenheath could house US nuclear weapons for the first time in 15 years. Picture: Mark Westley
RAF Lakenheath could house US nuclear weapons for the first time in 15 years. Picture: Mark Westley

The report said: “With the influx of airmen due to the arrival of the potential Surety mission and the bed down of the two F-35 squadrons there is a significant deficiency in the amount of unaccompanied housing available for E4s and below at RAF Lakenheath.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2024 and end in February 2026.

Last year, SuffolkNews reported that the UK was added to the list of European locations where ‘special weapons’ storage facilities were being upgraded.

Other locations are in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) first reported on the budget request.

Matt Korda, from the FAS, said: “’Surety’ is a term commonly used within the Department of Defense and Department of Energy to refer to the capability to keep nuclear weapons safe, secure, and under positive control.”

If permitted, this will be the first time B61 bombs will be stored in the UK since 2008, according to the FAS. They had been present at the air base since at least 1954.

Mr Korda added: “The past two years of budgetary evidence strongly suggests that the United States is taking steps to re-establish its nuclear mission on UK soil.

“The United States has not stored nuclear weapons in the United Kingdom for the past 15 years.”

The body estimates about 100 B61 bombs are deployed in five European countries. The new version, the B61-12, is due to arrive later this year.

According to The Guardian, a new fleet of F-35A Lightning II fighters will be equipped to deploy them – and RAF Lakenheath will be the first base to receive the planes.

The UK’s nuclear fleet is entirely made up of the submarine-based Trident missiles.