Rank: No. 12
Nuclear Warheads: 160
NAVAL AIR STATION
CALIFORNIA ranks 12th (tie) in number of nuclear warheads deployed, a decline
from 6th place in 1992 and 4th place in 1985. A single storage site now
existsNaval Air Station North Island located in San Diego, with a notable
support base at Travis AFB and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
This is a significant change from three sites in the state in 1992 and five
Closed nuclear storage sites include former SAC bomber bases Castle AFB in
Atwater and Mather AFB in Sacramento; one of two main Army central nuclear
weapons storage sites at Sierra Army Depot in Herlong, near the Nevada border;
and the Naval Weapons Station Concord in the San Francisco Bay area. Naval
Air Station North Island in San Diego is believed to be the only remaining
nuclear storage depot supporting the Pacific Fleet (with closure of nuclear
sites in Alaska, Concord, and Hawaii).
Half of the Navys stock of 320 nuclear Tomahawk missiles and W80 warheads
are presumed to be stationed at North Island. The Special Weapons Office
(Code 505) of the Weapons Department is located in Building 743. The Office
formerly stored B57 and B61 gravity bombs for aircraft carriers and Marine
Corps aircraft and B57 nuclear depth bombs for Navy anti-submarine warfare.
The bunkers are at the northwest tip of North Island, visible from Point
North Island claims to be the birthplace of naval aviation. The Navys
first aviator Lt. T.G. Ellyson was trained at North Island by Glenn Curtiss
in 1911 and the first sea plane flight took place at North Island. Charles
Lindberg started his famous journey to Paris from North Island in 1927. The
air station grew rapidly during World war II as a major training, staging
and deployment center for ships and squadrons.
From the early days of the nuclear age, North Island was central to the
Navys capability. A Nuclear Weapons Training Group, Pacific was established
at the Air Station, an outgrowth of the early Special Weapons Unit Pacific
(SWUPAC), which was established by the Chief of Naval Operations under Commander,
Naval Air Force, Pacific, in June 1953. Personnel were drawn from Naval Special
Weapons Units, then located at Sandia Base in Albuquerque. These small units
provided technically trained teams temporarily to aircraft carriers which
had nuclear weapons capability. By 1958 sufficient commands in the Pacific
Fleet had developed nuclear weapons capabilities to necessitate assignment
of teams as a permanent part of the ships company. In June 1958 the
Command was reorganized as the Nuclear Weapons Training Center, Pacific,
with a mission to conduct training for Pacific Fleet units. The Center became
the Nuclear Weapons Training Group, Pacific in September 1970.
During the 1980s the Command provided nuclear weapons orientation, employment
planning, and technical training to over 8,500 personnel in 40 courses varying
from one to 61 days. In addition to training, the Group conducted Navy Technical
Proficiency Inspections and Nuclear Weapons Acceptance Inspections in support
of the Pacific Fleet. Since the removal of nuclear weapons from ships and
submarines, the mission has ceased, and the new Naval Weapons Inspection
Center has taken over the nuclear role.
The Defense Departments Primary Nuclear Airlift Force (PNAF) mission
is also flown out of California by the 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis AFB,
located at Fairfield, 40 miles northeast of San Francisco. Previously located
at McGuire AFB in New Jersey and McChord AFB in Washington, the so-called
Bully Beef Express PNAF units were transferred to California
in 1994. The 60th Wing received excellent and outstanding ratings in its
1994 NSI and was awarded the USAF nuclear surety plaque for distinguished
performance. It also received 1995 and 1996 USAF Nuclear Surety Plaques
for outstanding achievements and contributions to
Given the nuclear certification of the 60th Wing, it is probable that Travis
maintains the ability to store nuclear weapons for contingency purposes.
The former nuclear weapons storage area (WSA) at Travis was initially constructed
by the AEC between 1950 and 1953 as one of 13 original facilities built for
storage, maintenance, and operational readiness of the nuclear stockpile.
This storage area was originally separate from Travis AFB and known as Fairfield
Air Force Station (AFS). The original nuclear storage complex included one
storage buildings with vaults (A structure), a maintenance building
(C structure), two other assembly/maintenance buildings, two
types of warhead storage igloos, and a dry low-level radioactive waste disposal
The first weapons arrived in the summer of 1953 for B-36 bombers of the 5th
Bombardment Wing, and after 1959, B-52s, supported by the 3096th Aviation
Depot Squadron (ADS). In July 1968 the 5th BW went to Minot AFB, and in February
1970 the 3096th ADS went to Nellis AFB. For the last 15 plus years, Travis
has only hosted aerial refueling and transport aircraft.
Of note, it is probable that nuclear weapons, devices, components and materials
are present on occasion at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one
of two DOE nuclear weapon design laboratories.