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Ken Young

This chapter takes forward the emerging co-operation between Britain and the United States in the field of weapon supply. British authorities were both gratified and suspicious of the new arrangements whereby nuclear weapons would be transferred to the RAF, with first the tactical Canberras and then the strategic V-bombers being modified under American supervision for this purpose. This work, and the need to adopt common safety and security procedures, drew the two air forces into much closer co-operation in a strategic partnership.

in The American bomb in Britain
Ken Young

This chapter reviews the ways in which the initial decisions to allow nuclear weapons to be based in Britain were followed by pressure to gain influence over the conditions under which they would be used. It became clear at an early date that Britain had virtually no leverage over US war plans and could expect to receive nothing more than the most superficial consultation if it were judged necessary to launch a nuclear strike from British soil.

in The American bomb in Britain
Ken Young

This chapter shows the extreme vulnerability of Britain under this unequal partnership to be compensated for by the bringing together of American and British nuclear forces. This was not easily achieved, and USAF officers led the process of drawing the RAF and its strike force into a collaborative arrangement. National sensitivities had to be dealt with in devising arrangements for co-ordinated targeting and strike planning. By the end of the period under review, the two forces were effectively integrated for planning and operational purposes. These arrangements came close to being tested in the Cuba missile crisis. Thereafter, USAF strategic forces now began to withdraw from Britain as the forward bases no longer served a purpose in the age of long range bombing and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

in The American bomb in Britain
Ken Young

This final chapter reviews what the forgoing has shown to be an asymmetrical alliance. The asymmetry, however, was not just the obvious one between a major and a medium power. There were throughout the period crucial differences of perception and appreciation that limited British support to this aspect of the western alliance. The chapter argues first that British decision makers lacked foresight in consenting to the acquisition of US bases in 1946, and that the subsequent political and military tensions about the use of those bases in war could have been foreseen. Second, it argues that throughout the first decade of the Cold war, many British officials failed to grasp the geo-strategic realities of the British Isles, the nature of an atomic air campaign, and Britain’s role in it. Third, it is argued that due to this failure of perception, coupled with a determination to limit defence expenditure, the British failed to make a proper contribution to the defence of the nuclear alliance into which they entered in 1946

in The American bomb in Britain