Nuclear Disarmament Italy

NATO Non-nuclear Weapon State
Sharing U.S. Nuclear Weapons

Estimated Arsenal Size [1]

  • 45-55 U.S. non-strategic B-61 gravity bombs in two locations (25 to 35 at the Aviano Air Base, and 20 at the Ghedi Torre Air Base)
  • Work being done at the United States Air Force Base at Aviano suggests that the number of weapons at the base may have been reduced to as few as 25 to 35. [2]

Weapons System

  • Non-strategic warheads: B-61-3, B-61-4 [3]
  • Delivery Aircraft: U.S. F-16C/D and Italian PA-200 Tornados

Modernization

  • The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is currently modernizing the non-strategic warheads deployed in Europe. NNSA is refurbishing and replacing components of the aging B-61-3 and B-61-4 warheads, converting them into the updated B61-12 model. Under NNSA’s B61-12 Life Extension Plan, the updated warheads will enter full production in 2020 and be deployed by 2024. [4]
  • Italy is planning to buy the nuclear-capable F35-A Joint Strike Fighter from the United States, which will begin replacing existing NATO aircraft in 2024. [5]

Destructive Power [6]

  • B-61-3: maximum yield of 170 kilotons
  • B-61-4: 45 kilotons

Nuclear Weapons Policies

  • 1999 NATO Strategic Concept confirms commitment to deploying nuclear weapons in Europe to maintain the "minimum level sufficient to preserve peace and stability." [7] In 2010 NATO reasserted that it would be a nuclear alliance while nuclear weapons continue to exist. [8]
  • While NATO continues to reaffirm the importance of deploying U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, disagreements among member states on this issue have become more pronounced since the German government expressed support for the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany and Europe in October 2009. [9]
  • On September 5, 2014 NATO asserted the centrality of nuclear deterrence to the security of NATO members, with U.S. nuclear capabilities playing a key role in this strategy. While stating that a situation in which a nuclear weapon would be detonated is highly unlikely, NATO declared that current relations with Russia have halted cooperative disarmament efforts. U.S. nuclear weapons are therefore likely to remain in Italy and other NATO nuclear-sharing countries. [10]
  • NATO's 2016 Warsaw summit communique criticized Russia's annexation of Crimea, destabilization of Ukraine, and aggressive rhetoric. NATO went on to reiterate the deterrence role of nuclear weapons. On the issue of disarmament, NATO stated that disarmament efforts must take into account the current security situation, and that it is regrettable that the prospects for disarmament are "not favorable today." [11]
  • Italy supports the Australia-led Humanitarian Initiative. [12] While the alternative Austria-led Initiative maintains that, regardless of circumstance, nuclear weapons should not be detonated, the Australia-led initiative has not made that declaration. Because of this distinction, the Australia-led Humanitarian Initiative provides a more realistic approach to disarmament given the current security atmosphere. [13]

Treaty Commitments

Sources:
[1] Hans M. Kristensen, "Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons, Special Report No 3," Federation of American Scientists, May 2012, www.fas.org.
[2] Hans M. Kristensen, "Upgrades At U.S. Nuclear Bases in Europe Acknowledge Security Risk," Federation of American Scientists, September 10, 2015.
[3] Hans M. Kristensen, "Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons, Special Report No 3," Federation of American Scientists, May 2012, www.fas.org.
[4] United States Government Accountability Office, "NNSA Has a New Approach to Managing the B-61-12 Life Extension, but a Constrained Schedule and Other Risks Remain," GAO-16-218, February 2016, pp. 10-25. www.gao.gov.
[5] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Slowing Nuclear Weapon Reductions and Endless Nuclear Weapons Modernizations: A Challenge to the NPT," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 70, No. 3 (May/June 2014), pp. 96-108.
[6] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2014," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 70, No. 1, pp. 85-93.
[7] "The Alliance's New Strategic Concept," NATO, April 24, 1999, www.nato.int.
[8] "Active Engagement, Modern Defence: Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon," Report at the Summit Meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, November 19, 2010, www.nato.int; "Wales Summit Declaration," Statement by the Heads of State and Government of the North Atlantic Alliance, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, September 5, 2014, www.nato.int.
[9] Oliver Meier, "Steinmeier Calls for U.S. to Withdraw Nukes," Arms Control Today, May 8, 2009, www.armscontrol.org.
[10] "Wales Summit Declaration," Statement by the Heads of State and Government of the North Atlantic Alliance, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, September 5, 2014, www.nato.int.
[11] "Warsaw Summit Communiqué," Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council, July 27, 2016, www.nato.int.
[12] "Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons," Statement by the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, Reaching Critical Will, April 30, 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[13] "Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons," Statement by the Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria, Reaching Critical Will, April 28, 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org; "Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons," Statement by the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, Reaching Critical Will, April 30, 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[14] "Country Profiles: Italy," Reaching Critical Will, accessed July 8, 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org; "Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water," United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, accessed July 8, 2015, www.disarmament.un.org.

February 9, 2017
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The Nuclear Disarmament Resource Collection contains information and analysis of nuclear weapons disarmament proposals and progress worldwide, including detailed coverage of disarmament progress in countries who either possess or host other countries' nuclear weapons on their territories.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.