US Upgrades Security at Nuclear Bases Near Syria
by Elisabeth Braw
The United States has upgraded the security at its two largest overseas nuclear weapons bases, Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and Aviano Air Base in Italy. Incirlik is undergoing a particularly extensive upgrade, a move connected to its vulnerable location close to the Syrian border.
Recent satellite images from Incirlik and Aviano show double-fence security perimeters—a sealed-off area where intruders can be shot—being built around the nuclear weapons storage areas. At Incirlik the garage holding the trucks that service the warheads is also being improved, along with the trucks themselves. Incirlik’s newly upgraded area contains 21 vaults, each holding two to three warheads, and will be equipped with lighting, cameras, and intrusion-detection devices. In addition to soldiers already guarding the enclosure, manned vehicles will also patrol space between the two fences around the clock.
Combined, the Incirlik measures amount to a major security upgrade. “They didn’t use to have the special double-fence security perimeter with sensors and the patrol road around the nuclear weapons vaults,” explained Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert at the Federation of American Scientists, who first reported the Incirlik and Aviano activity on his blog. “When the vaults were constructed in the nineties, they were considered so secure that the special security perimeter that had previously been used for nuclear weapons storage areas was no longer considered necessary.” He added that it’s unclear whether the upgrade is a direct result of volatility in the region or related to changed Pentagon security requirements.