A Citizens’ Weapons Inspection team from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament gathered outside RAF Lakenheath on Saturday, 23 September, with the aim of searching the base for nuclear weapons. It follows growing evidence that the US Air Force is priming RAF Lakenheath for the deployment of the new B61-12 guided nuclear bomb as part of a mass upgrade of US nuclear infrastructure in Europe. 

Despite CND writing to the US Air Force base commander about a potential inspection on 14 September, we received a last minute refusal of access from British Royal Air Force authorities. In its letter to CND, the RAF: 

  • Refused access to a “busy, sensitive, operational base.”
  • Reiterated “longstanding UK and NATO policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons at a given location.”
  • Claimed that this ambiguity “reduces the risk of deliberate nuclear use by those seeking a first strike advantage.”
  • Refused to comment on US spending decisions.

Despite the refusal of access, the CWI team went ahead with a protest outside the base and condemned the lack of transparency and oversight of nuclear weapons deployments that have no democratic mandate or popular support.

CND Chair Tom Unterrainer said:

“By refusing access to our CWI team, the UK authorities are happily going along with US foreign policy – which flies in the face of the will of the British people. The majority of the public don’t want these US nuclear weapons here, so where is the vote in Parliament? Where is the democratic process?

The argument that secrecy is needed for safety and strategic ambiguity is a laughable excuse for what is actually a denial of transparency and oversight.  We know the base is being readied for the B61-12. We know they are doubling the amount of F-35 jets to be stationed there. So in the event of a nuclear war between Russia and the US, you don’t need to be Carl von Clausewitz to know that Lakenheath is going to be on the target list.”

CND Vice-Chair Sophie Bolt said: 

“Today’s action shines a spotlight on this nuclear base and the efforts to keep what is really going on out of the public eye. Under NATO nuclear doctrine, the F-35 and B61-12 are more likely to be used in a first-strike attack than a retaliatory one. The British public have no say in their siting here, but we’ll be on the receiving end in any nuclear attack. Instead of allowing this to go ahead, the UK government must immediately block this deployment and use its influence to advance the possibility of peace and disarmament.”