US soldiers accidentally reveal the locations of secret nuclear bases in online learning apps

Some weapons vaults are listed as 'hot' - containing a live nuke - and others 'cold', meaning they don't. Photo credit: Getty Images

US soldiers using apps to memorise the locations of secret US nuclear weapons bases have accidentally revealed them to the world. 

The soldiers used 'flashcard' learning apps, investigative news site Bellingcat reports, which included terms like 'protective aircraft shelters (PAS)' and 'Weapons Storage and Security Systems (WS3) - codewords known to be linked to the presence of nuclear warheads across Europe. 

A simple Google search for the terms and the locations of known US bases across the continent brought up several flashcard apps and online quizzes, which revealed which bases have live nuclear weapons.

Some weapons vaults are listed as 'hot' - containing a live nuke - and others 'cold', meaning they don't. 

Most of the 50-odd flashcards contain basic information most soldiers would need to learn, but "in many cases, servicemen or women have added their own need-to-knows and highly specific security details", Bellingcat reports.

The flashcards went offline when Bellingcat approached NATO and the US military for comment. The US Air Force said it was aware of personnel using apps to learn, but it wasn't recommended. 

Dr Jeffrey Lewis,an expert in nuclear weapons and arms proliferation, told Bellingcat it was a "flagrant breach" of security practices.

"Secrecy about US nuclear weapons deployments in Europe does not exist to protect the weapons from terrorists, but only to protect politicians and military leaders from having to answer tough questions about whether NATO’s nuclear-sharing arrangements still make sense today. This is yet one more warning that these weapons are not secure."

The Federation of American Scientists, which was formed by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs in World War II, said there was "no military or safety purpose to try to keep it secret".

"Safety is accomplished by effective security, not secrecy," said Hans Kristensen.

"Granted, there may be specific operational and security details that need to be kept secret, but the presence of nuclear weapons does not. The real purpose of secrecy is to avoid a contentious public debate in countries where nuclear weapons are not popular."