Dutch F-35As soon ready for NATO nuclear mission

Johan van Deventer, who heads the Dutch Air Combat Command, said via tweet that the Dutch F-35As of the Koninklijke Luchtmacht, or KLu, had received initial certification to carry out nuclear deterrence and strike missions under the of NATO, a role they should assume from the start of next year.

Since the 60s, the Dutch air forces have participated in the nuclear deterrent mission within the framework of NATO. For this, certain aircraft of the Dutch Air Force, today F-16s, have been transformed, their crews trained, and the infrastructure adapted, to transport a B61-Mod3 or Mod4 gravitational nuclear bomb stored at the Volkel air base.

NATO's shared deterrence

These nuclear bombs are controlled and implemented by the United States, which alone has the power to arm them (contrary to popular belief linked to the term "double key" sometimes used), the countries hosting these bombs having, on the other hand, the right to object to their air bases, and where applicable, their aircraft being used for this mission, under NATO command.

Today, four other European countries are participating in this NATO shared deterrence mission: Germany at Buchel air base with Tornado PA-200s, Belgium at Klein Brogel air base with F-16s. Belgians, Italy at the Aviano and Ghedi air bases, respectively hosting American F-16s and Italian Tornado PA-200s, as well as the Netherlands, from the Volkel air base, with F -16 Dutch.

A fifth NATO member is participating in the mission, in this case Turkey with around twenty B61 nuclear bombs stored at Incirlik air base, but the Turkish F-16s and their crews have not been qualified for transport nuclear weapons, leaving only the American F-15 and F-16 to carry out this mission.

The transformation to the F-35A and B61 Mod12 pair

In the mid-2000s, the US Air Force undertook to develop a new version of its B61 gravitational nuclear weapon, responding to technological developments but also to the needs for this type of weapon.

The B61 Mod12 nuclear bomb is thus more compact, with a mass of 375 kg, less powerful with a nominal power of 50 kt, and more precise, thanks to advanced inertial guidance, than the models 3 or 4 that it replaces. It has been produced since November 2021, and must equip the American F-15E, B-2 and B-21 Raider, as well as the American and allied F-35A.

F/A 18 E Super Hornet
Faced with the American refusal to equip the Eurofighters Typhoon of the B61 Mod12 nuclear bomb, Berlin had initially considered acquiring Boeing F/A 18 E/F Super Hornets to ensure NATO's shared deterrence mission. Washington once again refused to qualify this aircraft for the B61 Mod 12, forcing Berlin to turn to the F-35A.

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