During the attempted coup that rocked Turkey late Friday night, commercial power lines were cut to Incirlik Air Base, where 2,700 Department of Defense employees – and allegedly about 50 B-61 hydrogen bombs – are stationed.
Commercial power was reportedly cut to the base at 7:30 Saturday morning after the coup, which failed, and the airspace above Incirlik was temporarily closed.
Turkish Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, Incirlik’s commander, and 11 other officers from the base were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the coup.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Monday that the chain of command had been reestablished at Incirlik, presumably with an acting commander in place.
A Pentagon representative confirmed to Business Insider that commercial power to the air base was still out but that the US was “working with Turkish allies to address the situation.”
The Pentagon representative added that Central Command had needed to make only “minimal adjustments” to continue operations as normal after the attempted coup.
Aside from the temporary closing of airspace above Incirlik, the Pentagon maintains that the attempted coup had “no impact” on its mission against the Islamic State because the air base contained backup generators.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the power issues were inconsequential for the foreseeable future.
“The concern would be if it were a protracted period of time, then we would potentially have to make adjustments,” Cook said.
- Flickr/US Air Force
Incirlik, located 80 miles from Turkey’s border with Syria, represents one of the most touted and effective staging grounds for US-led coalition air attacks in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh.
Turkey approved the US’s use of the air base last July amid pressure to contribute more to the global anti-ISIS campaign.
Despite counter-ISIS operations continuing virtually unaffected, Incirlik apparently houses US nuclear weapons, which is concerning given the recent coup attempt and the two wars Turkey is fighting against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and ISIS.
The weapons are reportedly protected by a permissive action link, or a coded switch designed to deter unauthorized use of the weapons, but these systems were devised decades ago and could be circumvented.
From The New Yorker:
“Although Incirlik probably has more nuclear weapons than any other NATO base, it does not have any American or Turkish aircraft equipped to deliver them. The bombs simply sit at the base, underground, waiting to be used or misused.”