Former Warsaw Pact States Value US Nuclear Arms as Deterrent to Russia

Source: Global Security Newswire, 15 April 2014

Some NATO member states find increasing value in US nuclear arms deployed in Europe, amid continued worries about Russian actions in Ukraine.
Current and former officials from Poland and the Czech Republic spoke of the importance of maintaining the role that nuclear weapons play in NATO in a Tuesday Newsweek article.
"Nuclear deterrence is a very important factor that NATO has at its disposal, and it's becoming increasingly important," Polish National Security Bureau chief Stanislaw Koziej said in an interview.
Jiri Schneider, who served as the Czech Republic's first deputy foreign minister until two months ago, said it was important for NATO to "show some muscle" in the face of Russia's ongoing destabilizing actions in Ukraine and elsewhere.
Sources close to Schneider said that means continuing to deploy US B-61 nuclear warheads in Europe and maintaining the air capability to deliver the gravity bombs in an attack. Less than 200 of the weapons are broadly understood to be fielded in five NATO countries -- Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
Before the recent tensions with Russia, there was a strong movement among some Western NATO members to send the tactical weapons back to the United States, based primarily on the argument that their deployment did not provide much military value to the alliance. Proponents of that view now acknowledge there is little chance of a tactical nuclear withdrawal happening in the near future.
A March paper by the Center for European Policy Analysis recommended that NATO weigh ending its voluntary prohibition against the deployment of US nonstrategic weapons in Central and Eastern Europe.
"Nuclear deterrence in Europe should have some kind of European participation, simply for reasons of burden sharing," Schneider said.
Currently, the five NATO states that host US gravity bombs each maintain nuclear-capable aircraft that can deliver the weapons in an attack. But many of those planes are scheduled to be retired in the next decade and not all five of the countries are planning to buy dual-role planes to replace them.
Schneider suggested the Czech Republic could be willing to participate in a potential new NATO basing arrangement for the US weapons.
Nuclear Bomb Variant Completes Wind-Tunnel Test
Source: Global Security Newswire, 15 April 2014

A project to revamp the US B-61 nuclear bomb achieved a key milestone when one of its new variants passed a first full-scale, wind-tunnel test.
The US National Nuclear Security Administration announced the completed assessment in a Monday press release, noting that the accomplishment by its Sandia National Laboratories brings the so-called "B-61-12" Life-Extension Program one step closer to planned "drop tests" next year.
The eight-day assessment took place in a transonic wind tunnel -- which allows for the testing of aerospace products at extremely fast speeds -- at the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee. The trial consisted of a number of different simulated flight environments that examined how well the B-61's forthcoming "Mod 12" variant handles "counter-torque," a phenomenon in which the plumes from rocket motors work against the performance of the tail fins, according to Sandia.
"This wind tunnel test helps to understand the B-61-12 flight characteristics in preparation for our first three full-scale development drop tests," agency Deputy Administrator for Defence Programs Don Cook said in provided comments.
Because the Mod 12 variant is equipped with a tail section that is notably different than earlier versions of the B-61, a wind tunnel test was necessary to determine that the new component can perform in the required spin environment during flight, said Vicki Ragsdale, a B-61-12 technical basis test engineer at Sandia, in a separate Monday release from the laboratory.
The project to modernize the B-61 involves the restoration of atomic and conventional parts and is aimed at extending the service life of the gravity bomb, which is currently deployed in support of NATO nuclear deterrence in Europe. The Mod 12 variant is intended to supplant the current B-61-3, -4, -7, and -10 variants, in addition to supporting the planned mothballing of the large B-83 nuclear warhead.
Further reading: B61-12 Nuclear Bomb Design Features, Hans Kristensen, FAS Strategic Security Blog, 16 April 2014