ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Officially, the Kirtland Underground Munitions and Maintenance Storage Complex (KUMMSC) is “not an interview topic.”
That’s the response you get if you ask Kirtland Air Force Base officials about it.
Unofficially, it’s the largest storage center for nuclear weapons in the world, providing storage, shipping and maintenance for the Air Force and the Navy. Some of the weapons there are scheduled for dismantling.
The storage complex’s existence is not in question. It is operated by the 898th Munitions Squadron, which reports to Air Force Global Strike Command.
Activated in the early 1990s, KUMMSC replaced the Manzano Base Weapons Storage Area, a site in the Manzano Mountain foothills that had been used to store nuclear weapons since 1949, according to various unofficial sources.
During a February visit with Journal editors and reporters, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. Undersecretary of State for arms control and international security, said she visited KUMMSC early in the Obama administration, five or six years ago.
“I visited the storage center and was very impressed with the caliber of the technology in place for physical protection at the storage site,” Gottemoeller said. “I was very impressed with the professionalism of the Air Force personnel there.”
Gottemoeller would not say how many nuclear weapons are stored in the complex. That, of course, is classified.
However, Hans M. Kristensen, who has a good track record for keeping tabs on the numbers and whereabouts of nuclear weapons, estimates there are some 2,000 stored at KUMMSC.
Kristensen is director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, an organization dedicated to reducing nuclear and other catastrophic threats. He specializes in using the Freedom of Information Act in his research.
Weapons stored at KUMMSC, Kristensen believes, include nuclear warheads such at the W76, used on submarine-launched Trident missiles; W78s and W87s, used on Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles; and W80-1s, designed for use on guided missiles.
Kristensen believes nuclear bombs stored at KUMMSC include the B83, the most powerful nuclear free-fall weapon in the U.S. arsenal, and several versions of the B61 – B61-3, B61-4, B61-7, B61-10 and B61-11.
But, of course, that’s unofficial.