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B-52 mistakenly flies with nukes aboard


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The US Air Force has launched an investigation after a B-52 bomber flew across the US last week mistakenly loaded with Six cruise missiles containing nuclear warheads.

The plane took the cruise missiles from Minot Air Force Base to Barksdale Air Force Base for decommissioning on Aug 30.

The warheads should have been removed from the missiles before they were mounted onto the pylons of the bomber’s wings.

However, the mistake was not discovered until the B-52 landed at Barskdale, which left the warheads unaccounted for during the approximately 3 1/2 hour flight between the two bases

The crews involved with the mistaken load at the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot have been temporarily decertified from performing their duties involving munitions pending corrective actions or additional training,

>_< Ouch!, a major failure of processes

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Sort of puts todays FUBAR situ's at work in to perspective.

Also a timely reminder that the "powers" that be are far from as organised or perfect as we would generally like to believe.

Reads like the start of an episode of 24 too.

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Let the finger pointing and axe swinging commence. :nono: Looks like they have just canned one of the commanders involved according to MSNBC. Of course they said there was little to no danger involved. :unsure: Don't think I would of liked to find out first hand about that had there been a mishap. :lightning:

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The careers of those involved won't recover from having a black mark like this on their records.

Absolutely no danger of an accidental detonation, even in a crash (or falling off the pylon). Fortunately the safety features of western nukes preclude them detonating in any situation other than intentional arming (and these warheads weren't armed). The very worse case scenario for a crash would be a leak and local contamination if a core were breached.

the physical weapons themselves are almost secondary, compared to the enormity of the total failure of all the checks and balances inherent in the Nuclear Weapons system that allowed these weapons to be mistakenly Issued, Delivered to the line, uploaded onto the aircraft and then flown

it is mind boggling that this situation could have occurred even given the most extreme laxity of personnel and unlikely/bizarre set of circumstances.

Even if the weapons had never left the storage facility and only the paperwork was issued before being caught or they had made it as far as the line before being returned, it would have been a serious enough matter.

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I heard this on NPR today. What a joke. Six nukes accidentally loaded onto an aircaft? Early days, but I'm sure we'll get the full story soon and people will be fired blah, blah blah.

And the media want us to be worried about suitcase nukes and rusting old Soviet ######. <_<

DS

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i understand that letting a plane fly across the US with nukes is a big mistake but it is sad that the career of some peopole who have served their country for many years come to an end because of this mishap, if the nukes are as safe as the other poster said then what is the big deal.

I think it's a pretty big deal given the checks that must be involved - I'd say a fair few people have had to have dropped the ball for it to get to a point where a plane has taken off loaded with nukes. And someone will have to take overall responsibility for it. The fact that the plane actually flew with nukes doesn't worry me, it the fact that all the checks that should be done to ensure they only fly when they are supposed to have failed.

"It seems so fantastic that so many points, checks can dysfunction," said Hans Kristensen, an expert on US nuclear forces (quoted from this article)

Can't wait for the telemovie :rofl:

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Indeed the big puzzle is how it could happen given the massive safety system. US security around nukes has always been extreme.

I recall a story by an RAF Phantom armourer: In some cases, training included loading (US) nukes onto Phantoms. Wherever the nukes were, USAF personnel established a "security zone" around it. Anyone entering this zone needed their security clearance checked, every time.

Once, the armourer had forgotten some paperwork and noted it just as he stepped out of the "zone". Without thinking, he turned around and wanted to run back for it, but stopped cold in his tracks when he heard the USAF guards chamber their M16's. Even though they'd seen him working with the nuke inside the zone only a minute earlier, he was sure they would have gunned him down on the spot, as per SOP, for breaching security. :blink:

Respectfully

krise madsen

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At least we found them!

It is kind of like working at a grocery store I guess inventory and stuff.

Manager to grocery lead. Make sure you order for aisles 5-9

Grocery lead: I can't stay past my work times have to pick up kids.

Manager: OK, me and ast. manager will do it.

Next day truck day....

Manager: where is our truck?!

Lead: Did you order it?

Silence and then %(&%@

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Indeed the big puzzle is how it could happen given the massive safety system. US security around nukes has always been extreme.

I recall a story by an RAF Phantom armourer: In some cases, training included loading (US) nukes onto Phantoms. Wherever the nukes were, USAF personnel established a "security zone" around it. Anyone entering this zone needed their security clearance checked, every time.

Once, the armourer had forgotten some paperwork and noted it just as he stepped out of the "zone". Without thinking, he turned around and wanted to run back for it, but stopped cold in his tracks when he heard the USAF guards chamber their M16's. Even though they'd seen him working with the nuke inside the zone only a minute earlier, he was sure they would have gunned him down on the spot, as per SOP, for breaching security. :blink:

Respectfully

krise madsen

My best friend guarded nukes in the Air Force. He's told me of a few incidents similar. One including a full-bird colonel, lol.

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And, now the conspiracy threads are out there! The first one is excellent; he reckons that the US Government is going to nuke its own. If you are sick of Ben Stiller comedies have a read of these:

Loose Nukes Looming Near :rofl:

B-52 Bomber Incident & Insider Trading – Was Someone Trying to Profit from a Nuclear Attack Against Iran Before Sept 21? :rofl:

There are more, I'm sure, but these are my faves so far :lol:

And I didn't even have to take a homemade newsletter from some nut in the street: I did a search in Google News for B52 & Nuke, trying to find more info about how the processes could have failed to allow this (the loading of live nukes, not the bombing of Iran) to happen... It's amazing what passes for news these days.

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  • 1 month later...

Investigation results announced:

logo_armytimes.gif

Wing decertified, COs sacked for nuke mistake

By Michael Hoffman - Staff writer

Posted : Friday Oct 19, 2007 21:58:48 EDT

The widespread disregard for nuclear weapons safety standards by airmen at Minot and Barksdale Air Force bases led to the unprecedented “Bent Spear” incident in which six nuclear warheads were mistakenly loaded onto a B-52 and flown from North Dakota to Louisiana on Aug. 29-30, Air Force officials said Friday after an intensive six-week investigation.

The Air Force relieved the 5th Munitions Squadron commander at Minot immediately after the incident. On Friday, it announced that three more commanders have been sacked. They are:

• Col. Bruce Emig, wing commander, 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base;

• Col. Cynthia M. Lundell, commander, 5th Maintenance Group, Minot Air Force Base; and

• Col. Todd C. Westhauser, commander, 2nd Operations Group, Barksdale Air Force Base.

Emig is also the installation commander at Minot.

An “erosion of adherence to weapons-handling standards” at the two bases led to five major procedural errors at Minot, which resulted in a weapons loading crew accidentally loading a pylon of nuclear armed air-launched cruise missiles on the wing of a B-52 bomber. The mistake wasn’t discovered for 36 hours, long after the plane had touched down at Barksdale, said Maj. Gen. Richard “Dick” Newton, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, and a former 5th Bomb Wing commander, who was tasked to brief the findings.

Since Aug. 30, some 65 airmen of varying ranks — lieutenant colonel and below — have lost their certification in the personnel reliability program, which the Air Force uses to oversee the character of airmen who handle nuclear weapons, said Lt. Col. Ed Thomas, an Air Force spokesman. The large-scale nature of the disciplinary actions points to the widespread nature of the problem.

Lt. Gen Norman Seip, commander of 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern Command, has been tasked by the head of Air Combat Command to review the investigation and look into whether any airmen involved in the incident should be charged with a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or if other disciplinary actions are warranted.

In addition, the 5th Bomb Wing has been decertified from handling Advanced Cruise Missiles or nuclear warheads and suspended from any tactical ferry operations, Newton said.

“This was a failure to follow procedures, procedures which have proven to be sound,” Newton said.

Five steps to failure

Using the same briefing presented to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates earlier Friday, Newton summarized the five mistakes made by airmen that led to the incident and offered a timeline of events.

The first mistake occurred at the beginning of an operation to transport 12 Advanced Cruise Missiles on a B-52 Stratofortress bomber from Minot to Barksdale, part of a Defense Department program to decommission 400 of these missiles in the U.S. stockpile.

On the morning of Aug. 29, airmen assigned to the Minot weapons storage area were supposed to pick up and transport two pylons to a B-52 assigned to Barksdale. Each pylon is a self-contained package of six cruise missiles that can be quickly mounted to the wing of a Stratofortress. But the pylon had not been properly prepared, and the airmen failed to examine all the warheads on the missiles mounted to the pylons.

Newton confirmed after the briefing that cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads are not stored with cruise missiles armed with conventional warheads. Simply, certain pylons of cruise missiles have nuclear warheads, while others have dummy warheads that are essentially dead weight.

The second error occurred when “crews operating the trailer that was tasked with moving the pylons to the B-52 began hooking up while the required pylon inspection was still underway,” Newton said.

This played a part in mistake No. 3, when the airmen failed to verify the payload of the missiles mounted on the pylon that they hooked up to be transported to the B-52, Newton said.

Then, before the cruise missiles should have been transported to the aircraft, the munitions control center “failed to assess a database, as required, that would have alerted them that one of the pylons was not properly prepared for transfer,” Newton said.

Due to the first four mistakes, the nuclear warheads were unknowingly towed out to the flight line at 9:44 a.m. on Aug. 29 without any of the increased security initiatives used when nuclear warheads leave a storage facility.

The warheads were loaded onto the B-52 and sat on the flight line, which officials said was secure.

Airmen did have one last chance to catch their mistake before the B-52 took off, but “the Barksdale-assigned B-52 instructor radar navigator neglected to check all missiles loaded for transport as required,” Newton said. “The instructor radar navigator performed only a spot check and only on the right pylon, the one that had been properly prepared for transport.” This marked the fifth and final error, according to the Air Force investigation.

At 8:40 a.m. on Aug. 30, the B-52 took off on its 1,100-mile flight to Louisiana, landing there at 11:23 a.m. It sat on the flight line with the nuclear warheads still on its left wing for more than eight hours before munitions personnel, who followed correct procedures, unloaded the weapons and discovered the enormous mistake.

Despite the severity of the problems discovered, Air Force officials continue to reassure the public that the nuclear weapons were never out of airmen’s hands, but they acknowledged that the standard security procedures for handling nuclear weapons did not occur.

The investigation found this to be an isolated incident, and corrective measures are being taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“This was an unacceptable mistake and a clear deviation from our exacting standards,” said Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne, who led off the press briefing. “We hold ourselves accountable to the American people and want to ensure proper corrective action is taken.”

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