Turkish jets to deliver nuclear warheads, report says
'Gazelle' squadron, assigned with the task of delivering nuclear warheads, consists of F-16 warplanes. Hürriyet photoThe United States currently has 70 type B61-12 tactical nuclear bombs at its airbase in İncirlik in the southern province of Adana, according to daily Vatan.
Vatan acquired the information from a report by Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen that was published on the "Atomic Scientists Bulletin" website, revealing an inventory of the nuclear weapons the U.S. military keeps in Turkey.
Number of warheads decreased from 90 in 2001.
Between 10 and 20 of the 70 nuclear warheads at İncirlik were designed to be delivered to their targets by Turkish warplanes, according to the report.
The 142nd fighter/bomber squadron of the Turkish Air Forces, nicknamed the "Gazelles," was assigned the task of delivering the nuclear ordnances. The squadron consists of F-16A/B warplanes.
The U.S. military needed a certain warplane type that is different than those stationed at the İncirlik airbase in order to deliver the remaining 50 warheads, the report by Norris and Kristensen said.
The Turkish state, however, has declined to allow the U.S. military to deploy the said aircraft at İncirlik.
U.S. warplanes would need to land at İncirlik from another location, equip the nuclear warheads and then fly to their targets, according to the report.
Turkey's refusal to station nuclear-capable U.S. warplanes on its soil prevented İncirlik from acquiring a "full NATO position" status. This was a unique case among NATO bases, the report said.
New warheads arrive 2017
The report indicated that the B61-12 nuclear warheads currently deployed at İncirlik would be changed with the new B61-3/4 warheads.
Former Turkish Air Force Commander Gen. Ergin Cilasun was quoted as saying that "Turkey's nuclear strike duty within NATO has ended" in 2001.