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Natsios Young Architects

14 June 2002
Source of maps and photos:

Nellis Air Force Base:

From the report Taking Stock: Worldwide Nuclear Deployments 1998, by William M. Arkin, Robert S. Norris and Joshua Handler, published in March 1998 by the Natural Resources Defence Council.

Rank: No. 4
Nuclear Warheads: 1350


NEVADA ranks 4th in number of nuclear warheads deployed, a significant rise from 14th in 1992 and 17th in 1985. Nellis AFB, north of Las Vegas, serves as one of two main Air Force nuclear weapons general depots in the United States (the other is at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico). Nuclear weapons are stored at the Nellis Area 2 (formerly Lake Mead Base) at a remote section of the Nellis complex. They are overseen by the 896th Munitions Squadron (formerly the 3096th Aviation Depot Squadron), a unit of the Air Force Materiel Command, though the nuclear facility is operated jointly for the AFMC and the Air Combat Command. It is estimated that 775 gravity bombs are in storage at Nellis, including 175 B61-7 and 600 B61-3/4/10 types. Most of these bombs have been withdrawn from retired B-52 bomber bases or from Europe. In addition, a portion of the surplus air-launched cruise missile warhead stock is estimated to be stationed at Nellis, made up of 575 W80 ALCMs.

The nuclear weapons storage area (WSA) at Nellis was initially constructed by the AEC between 1953 and 1955 as one of 13 original facilities built for storage, maintenance, and operational readiness of the nuclear stockpile. This storage area was originally separate from Nellis AFB and known as Lake Mead Base. Jointly operated by the AEC, the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, and the U.S. Navy, the first weapons arrived at Lake Mead in 1955. The original complex included up to 10 storage buildings with vaults (“A” structures), a maintenance building (“C” structure), two other assembly/maintenance buildings, storage igloos, and a dry low-level radioactive waste disposal area. An emergency holding tank was connected the “C” structure. Area 2 became part of the main base in September 1969. Today, the 896th operates the largest U.S. above-ground munitions storage facility in the world.

The 896th Squadron received the USAF Nuclear Surety Plaque for 1993 for “distinguished performance.” The Squadron and the sister 554th Security Police Squadron again received Nuclear Surety Plaques in 1995 for “outstanding achievements” and “contributions” to nuclear weapons safety.

They had an NSI from February 9-22, 1997. The 896th is scheduled to receive its next NSI on July 27, 1998. Air Combat Command conducted Nuclear Staff Assistance Visits (NSAVs) at Nellis in May 1994, March 1995, and June 1996, focusing on nuclear bomb delivery training at the Air Warfare Center and certification of the 57th Wing’s F-15 and F-16 aircraft.


Facility at upper center is an auto raceway.

Nellis WSA Coordinates:

36N 15' 06", 114W 57' 24"

4,013,800.0, 683,600.0

Most of this facility is enclosed with the double-fenced security system seen at other
nuclear weapons storage facilties; the rest has a single fence system. It is possible the
single fence system is later and has more advanced features than the double fence.A feature of
both systems is that the fence segments are straight lines, perhaps indicating the fencing is in
tension as a vibration sensor of tampering. The straight runs may also indicate presence of laser
or other direct beam sensors. Visual or other biometric surveillance may be eased by the straight
runs as well. Other sensors are likely placed below and on the surface of the cleared fence land.