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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Air Force will neither confirm nor deny a nuclear watchdog group’s suspicion that the military has quietly removed as many as 90 nuclear bombs from Ramstein Air Base.

The Federation of American Scientists reported on its Web site on Monday that it suspects the Air Force has withdrawn the weapons because it left Ramstein off a list of European bases that receive mandatory safety inspections. Spangdahlem Air Base, which had a nuclear command control mission but no bombs, also was left off the new list.

“We can neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons at any specific location,” said Capt. Joel Harper, a spokesman with U.S. Air Forces Europe, which is headquartered at Ramstein.

Hans M. Kristensen, project director for the group’s Nuclear Information Project, wrote in a July 9 entry in his blog that the Air Force published a new nuclear inspection list in a USAFE report dated Jan. 29. The last report from March 29, 2005, included both Ramstein and Spangdahlem.

The possible removal of the atomic bombs from Ramstein would leave 350 American nuclear weapons in Europe and leave Buchel Air Base as the only U.S. installation in Germany to have any, Kristensen wrote.

“A reduction to a single German nuclear base with ‘only’ 20 nuclear bombs is a dramatic change from the late 1980s, when more than 2,570 nuclear weapons were deployed at dozens of locations across the country,” he wrote.

He added that 350 nukes is still a sizeable stockpile, about equal to France’s entire supply. The group reported that there were as many as 7,300 nuclear weapons in Europe in 1971.

Military units that handle and manage nuclear weapons at bases must pass a strict, weeklong inspection every 18 months to remain certified.

If the removal of the weapons from the Air Force’s biggest base in Europe is true, that would mean that more than half of the U.S. supply of nuclear weapons is in countries along the eastern portion of the Mediterranean Sea, according to the report.

Bases listed on the 2007 inspection report include: Buchel, Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Aviano Air Base and Ghedi Torre in Italy, Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands, Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom.


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