American nuclear bombs are set to return to Britain after 15 years.

A senior US defence official has visited an RAF base in the Suffolk countryside, paving the way for the controversial arms to come back to the UK. Deputy Defence Secretary Kathleen Hicks went to RAF Lakenheath for a tour of "infrastructure improvements" at the air station, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The Pentagon is planning a £39.5million dormitory for troops with the military site due to be used for "surety” - a US defence term to describe operations related to nuclear weapons, the paper reported. The last American nuclear arms were removed from Britain in 2008, when approximately 110 tactical B61s stored at Lakenheath were stripped out.

The sprawling base is in the Suffolk countryside (
Getty Images)

The weapon - a low to intermediate-yield strategic and tactical nuclear bomb - remains part of the US’ “enduring stockpile” following the end of the Cold War. It could be dropped by US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fighter-bombers. The aircraft are still based at Lakenheath as part of the USAF 48th Fighter Wing - known as The Liberty Wing - its main air defence mission in Europe.

“Historically, the 48th FW has been the foundation of USAFE's combat capability and remains so today,” says its website.

The looming deployment comes after Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine - which plunged relations between Moscow and the West into their worst state since the Cold War. The East Anglia airbase is also home to the USAF’s F-35 Lightning II stealth jets.

RAF Lakenheath is home to the USAF 48th Fighter Wing (

Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told The Telegraph Ms Hicks visited the base as part of a three-day tour to the UK to meet British counterparts. "While at RAF Lakenheath, deputy secretary toured infrastructure improvements designed to improve base resilience and support for the base's F-35 squadron and see demonstrations of US capabilities," he said.

Deployment of American nuclear arms to Britain would generate fresh controversy. Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament general secretary Kate Hudson told the Mirror: “Kathleen Hicks’ visit to RAF Lakenheath is further proof that Washington intends to use Britain as a launch pad for its nuclear arsenal in Europe. The lack of transparency surrounding this deployment is shocking, given how dangerous it is.

“Russia has already retaliated - it has stationed its own nuclear weapons in Belarus in response. A YouGov poll found that almost two thirds of the British public don’t want US nuclear weapons stationed here. That's not surprising - they will make us a nuclear target. CND calls on the UK Government to say that US nuclear weapons are not welcome in Britain.”

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer said: "The world feels like an increasingly dangerous place with conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza and many other places. However, the positioning of US nuclear weapons at Lakenheath will not help ease tensions - it is far more likely to increase them. Over 100 nuclear bombs were stored at the airbase but they were removed in 2008. The UK Government should be working much harder to reduce the threat of nuclear war by actively supporting the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and seeking to reverse the collapse of other international arms control treaties which were designed to protect us."

Previous deployments of American nuclear weapons have triggered outrage. Greenham Common in Berkshire saw years of anti-nuclear demonstrations, and was the UK's biggest women-led movement since the Suffragettes. The protest began in 1981 and lasted 19 years until the airbase was decommissioned.