50 H-bombs are 'waiting to be used or misused' after Turkey cuts power to US airbase

During the attempted coup that rocked Turkey late on Friday night, commercial power lines were cut to Incirlik air base, where 2,700 Department of Defence employees, and allegedly about 50 B-61 hydrogen bombs are stationed.

Commercial power was reportedly cut to the base at 7:30 Saturday morning following the coup — which ultimately failed — and the air space above Incirlik was temporarily closed.

Turkish Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, Incirlik’s commander, and 11 other officers from the base were arrested for their alleged role in the coup.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Monday that chain of command had been reestablished at Incirlik, presumably with an acting commander in place.

A spokesperson for the Pentagon confirmed to Business Insider that commercial power to the air base was still out, but that they were “working with Turkish allies to address the situation.”

The Pentagon spokesperson added that CENTCOM had only needed to made “minimal adjustments” to continue operations as normal following the attempted coup.

Aside from the temporary closure of airspace above Incirlik, the Pentagon maintains that the attempted coup had “no impact” on their mission against ISIS, because even when commercial power was cut the airbase was powered by backup generators.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that the power issues were inconsequential for the forseable future.

“The concern would be if it were a protracted period of time, then we would potentially have to make adjustments,” Cook said.

An F-15E Strike Eagle sits on the flightline at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Nov. 12, 2015.Flickr/US Air ForceAn Airman stands outside the cockpit of a jet stationed at Turkey’s Incirlik air base.

Incirlik, located just 80 miles from Turkey’s southern border with Syria, represents one of the most touted and effective staging grounds for US-led coalition air attacks against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Turkey approved the US’ use of the airbase last July, amid pressure to contribute more to the global anti-ISIS campaign.

Despite counter-ISIS operations continuing virtually unaffected, Incirlik apparently houses US nuclear weapons, which is concerning given the recent coup attempt and the two wars Turkey is fighting against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State.

The weapons are reportedly protected by a permissive action link, or a coded switch designed to deter unauthorised use of the weapons, but these systems were divised decades ago, and can be circumvented.

From The New Yorker:

“Although Incirlik probably has more nuclear weapons than any other NATO base, it does not have any American or Turkish aircraft equipped to deliver them. The bombs simply sit at the base, underground, waiting to be used or misused.”

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