Nuclear Disarmament Belgium

NATO Non-nuclear Weapon State
Sharing US Nuclear Weapons

Estimated Arsenal Size

  • 10-20 U.S. non-strategic gravity B-61 warheads at the Kleine Brogel Air Base [1]


B-61 Gravity Bomb, Source: US DOD

Weapons System

  • Non-strategic warheads:
    B-61-3, B-61-4
  • Delivery Aircraft:
    Belgian F-16A/B [2]

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. [3]
  • Belgium began replacing its F-16A/B fleet in 2016. In 2018, Belgium decided to replace its F-16 fleet with 34 U.S.-made F-35. [4]

Estimated Destructive Forces

  • B-61-3: maximum yield of 170 kilotons
  • B-61-4: 45 kilotons [5]

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." [6] In 2010 NATO reasserted that it would continue to be a nuclear alliance while nuclear weapons continue to exist. [7]
  • In 2018, NATO reaffirmed that the fundamental purpose of NATO nuclear forces is deterrence, and that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. [8]
  • Belgium and the other NATO non-nuclear weapon states sharing U.S. nuclear weapons support the Australia-led Humanitarian Initiative. [9] The Austria-led Initiative maintains that, regardless of circumstance, nuclear weapons should not be detonated. The Australia-led initiative has not made that declaration. [10]
  • Belgium, as a NATO country, does not support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). NATO has criticized the TPNW, saying it is “at odds with the existing non-proliferation and disarmament architecture, risks undermining the NPT, and is inconsistent with the Alliance’s nuclear deterrence policy.” [11]

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, "Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons, Special Report No. 3," Federation of American Scientists, May 2012, www.fas.org.
[3] U.S. Department of Energy, “FY 2019 Congressional Budget Request Budget in Brief,” DOE/CF-0144, March 2018, pp. 1-68, www.energy.gov.
[4] Valerie Insinna, “F-35 officially wins Belgian fighter contest,” Defense News, 25 October 2018, www.defensenews.com.
[5] Hans M. Kristensen, "U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe," Natural Resources Defense Council, February 2005, p. 9, www.nrdc.org.
[6] "The Alliance's New Strategic Concept," NATO, 24 April 1999, www.nato.int.
[7] “Conference on Disarmament Discusses Possible Ways Forward,” The United Nations Office at Geneva, 31 January 2017, www.unog.ch.
[8] “NATO Summit Guide, Brussels 2018,” NATO, 11 July 2018, www.nato.int.
[9] "Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons," Statement by the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, Reaching Critical Will, 30 April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[10] "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, 28 April 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, 30 April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[11] “NATO Summit Guide, Brussels 2018,” NATO, 11 July 2018, www.nato.int.
[12] “Country Profiles: Belgium,” Reaching Critical Will, accessed 1 November 2018, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.

January 2, 2019
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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 2019.