Since 1955, (West) Germany hosts US nuclear weapons. Today, nuclear bombs are stored at Büchel Air Base in Rheinland-Pfalz. Besides Germany, the NATO allies Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey also host US nuclear weapons. The weapons deployed in Europe and Turkey form the “technical component” of NATO’s nuclear sharing. Through the “political component” of nuclear sharing, countries have a say in the formulation of the Alliance’s nuclear strategy. This does not require the stationing of US nuclear weapons on a particular country’s soil. Most NATO members do not host nuclear weapons, yet are involved in NATO’s nuclear discussions.
German authorities confirm neither the deployment of the nuclear weapons nor their number or location. However, leading experts agree in their estimate of the number of weapons at about 15. There are also other indications – nuclear weapons were mentioned in a dispatch published by Wikileaks, and briefly appeared in a report by NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly. Recent reports refer to 100 bombs stationed in NATO territory.
At Büchel Air Base, the nuclear bombs are under the control of US soldiers of the 702nd Munitions Support Squadron. They are stored in underground vaults (Weapons Storage and Security System, W3S) inside the aircraft hangars. Eleven such vaults are assumed to exist in Büchel, each of which can hold four nuclear weapons. Other vaults are installed at two former deployment locations, the German Nörvenich Air Base (11) and the American Ramstein Air Base (44).
Extensive construction measures will be carried out at Büchel Air Base from 2022 to 2026. During this time, the aircraft will be relocated to Nörvenich. No official information is known about the potential relocation of the stationed nuclear weapons or the deployment itself.