By: Mike Dougherty for VTDigger, Mar. 12, 2019
A new citizens group is raising alarms about the nuclear capacity of the F-35 fighter jet.
Representatives from Citizens Against Nuclear Bombers in Vermont want officials to reverse the decision to base F-35s at the Burlington Air Guard base, saying the fleet’s nuclear capacity poses safety risks for Vermonters.
The group’s leaders include Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen, 2018 gubernatorial primary candidate James Ehlers and retired Air Force Col. Rosanne Greco, all of whom were involved in previous campaigns to reverse the project based on public health concerns and the potential use of nuclear weapons.
They say a 2018 Department of Defense document proves that the U.S. military intends to use F-35s to deploy nuclear bombs if the need arises, making Burlington a potential target for the country’s enemies.
According to the NPR, the military plans to use the F-35 in conjunction with the nuclear B61-12 gravity bomb. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which guides federal strategy for the use of nuclear weapons, says the F-35 fighter aircraft will maintain the nation’s ability to “deploy nuclear weapons, should the security situation demand it.”
The location of nuclear weapons is classified, and they are unlikely to be housed in Vermont. A nuclear arms expert told VTDigger last year that the Burlington air base is not equipped to store nuclear weapons.
The F-35 could be deployed to pick up nuclear weapons from another location before carrying out a mission.
At a press conference Tuesday, Greco, who worked on nuclear policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the F-35 basing at the Burlington airport makes that location a target either way.