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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Ben Guerir Air Base, Morocco

French Morocco siting developed out of the Allied presence there at the close of World War II. During the early and middle 1950s, the air base supported the command's emergency war plan as staging areas for bombers pointed at the Soviet Union.

By August 1950 Operational Storage Sites for nuclear weapons storage were under contract in French Morocco at Nouasseur, Sidi Slimane, and Ben Guerir. These storage sites were under construction in May 1951. SAC devised a deployment program to use shorter-range B-47s. Three bases were built in Morocco for this purpose -- at Nouasseur, Sidi Slimane, and Ben Guerir. About one-third of the B-47 force was rotated on a 90-day basis and kept on 15-minute alert for that time period. The overseas bases moved the B-47s into effective range of their targets without aerial refueling.

Ben Guerir was critically important for SAC during its first reflex exercises. Ben Guerir hosted the B-47 and KC-97, with an asphalted-concrete runway of 14,000 feet.

With the destabilization of French government in Morocco, and Moroccan independence in 1956, the government of Mohammed V wanted the US Air Force to pull out of the SAC bases in Morocco, insisting on such action after American intervention in Lebanon in 1958. The United States agreed to leave as of December 1959, and was fully out of Morocco in 1963. SAC felt the Moroccan bases were much less critical with the long range of the B-52, and with the completion of the Spanish bases in 1959.

Planning for each Space Shuttle mission includes provisions for an unscheduled landing at contingency landing sites in the US and overseas. The Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) is one mode of unscheduled landing. The orbiter would have to make an unscheduled landing if one or more of its three main engines failed during ascent into orbit, or if a failure of a major orbiter system, such as the cooling or cabin pressurization systems, precluded satisfactory continuation of the mission. A TAL would be made at one of four designated sites, two in Africa and two in Spain: Ben Guerir Air Base, Morocco; Yundum International Airport, Banjul, The Gambia; Moron Air Base, Spain; and Zaragoza Air Base, Spain. Each TAL site is covered by a separate international agreement, but all four are considered augmented because they have Shuttle-specific landing aids and NASA and Defense Department personnel available during a launch. Space Shuttles are launched eastward over the Atlantic Ocean from KSC for insertion into equatorial orbits. In a TAL abort, the orbiter continues on a ballistic trajectory across the Atlantic to land at a predetermined runway. The four sites NASA has designated for TALs have been chosen in part because they are near the nominal ascent ground track of the orbiter, which would allow the most efficient use of main engine propellant.




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