Royal Marines tasked with guarding the UK submarine nuclear deterrent completed Exercise Tartan Eagle in conjunction with US Marines at a training site in Chesapeake Virgina, it was announced 6 September.

The release from the Royal Navy follows a statement by Russia that it would treat any future deployment of the US nuclear weapons on British soil as an escalation, as reported by Bloomberg

The Guardian published an article 29 August that suggested $50m in new US Air Force funding for a facility at RAF Lakenheath bears the hallmarks of preparations for the handling of nuclear weapons. Lakenheath had previously hosted 110 US atomic bombs until 2008, when they were relocated after popular protest, according to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. 

The latest $50m funding would be for a 144 bed dormitory to house personnel for a ‘potential surety mission’, using language the Pentagon associates with handling nuclear weapons. In April 2022, The Guardian also reported that the US 2023 defence budget request added the UK to the list of countries for investment in “special weapons” storage sites, alongside a five other countries that all host US B61 nuclear bombs. 

Exercise Tartan Eagle put Royal Marines from HM Naval Base Clyde in Faslane Scotland, home to  the UK’s nuclear deterrent and the core of the Submarine Service, into intense close-quarters training with US marines, using live ammunition in shoot house dedicated to refining combat skills in a tight environment. The marines faced scenarios agains a group attempting to sabotage ‘vital national infrastructure’, according to the Royal Navy release.

The Marines of 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group have an all-year, round-the-clock mission to guard the Vanguard-class submarines that carry the UK’s Trident nuclear missile system. In Virginia, the commandos trained in complex military doctrine for operating in the tight environments to hone the skills necessary for this mission. 

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The UK Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarines carry Trident II D5 missiles, each carrying 16 missile tubes. The Trident II D5 missile is a strategic weapon with more range and accuracy than its predecessor, the Trident I C4. The Trident II D5 Missile will be hosted upon the Dreadnought-class submarine in the future, when it replaces the Vanguard-class.