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Look what's happening here...

by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / September 23, 2007 5:11 AM PDT
'Disturbing' security breach provokes hard questions;' Six neglected nuclear warheads cause concern over strained military.
(Chronicle login: semods4@yahoo.com; pw = speakeasy)

>>Just after 9 a.m. on Aug. 29, a group of U.S. airmen entered a sod-covered bunker on North Dakota's Minot Air Force Base with orders to collect a set of unarmed cruise missiles bound for a weapons graveyard. They quickly pulled out a dozen cylinders, all of which appeared identical, and hauled them to a waiting B-52 bomber.

The airmen attached the gray missiles to the plane's wings, six on each side. After eyeballing the missiles on the right side, a flight officer signed a manifest that listed a dozen unarmed AGM-129 missiles. The officer did not notice that the six on the left contained nuclear warheads, each with the destructive power of up to 10 Hiroshima bombs.

That detail would escape notice for an astounding 36 hours, during which the missiles were flown across the country to a Louisiana air base that had no idea nuclear warheads were coming. It was the first known flight by a nuclear-armed bomber over U.S. airspace, without special high-level authorization, in nearly 40 years. <<

Stress and strain can lead to fatal mistakes -- just ask the surviving residents of Chenobyl.

-- Dave K, Speakeasy Moderator
click here to email semods4@yahoo.com

The opinions expressed above are my own,
and do not necessarily reflect those of CNET!
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(NT) It coulda happaned to anyone!
by Dan McC / September 25, 2007 3:58 AM PDT
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Rather humorous that you bring up OLD NEWS ...
by Edward ODaniel / September 25, 2007 10:13 AM PDT

in a thinly veiled attempt to make some political "point".

The inspection where Minot's 5th Bomb Wing failed was back in 2003 and that is the ONLY reference to any "Wartime stresses" and that inspection was with regard to nuclear operations. This movement of cruise missiles was NOT a nuclear operation, it was a movement of discontinued and unarmed missiles to a graveyard.

Any subsequent failures of nuclear operations inspections are CONSPICUOUS for their absence (there is a mandatory reinspection normally within 6 months but extendable to 12 months).

This was a regretable error and it does indicate some problems but those problems appear to be located with the flight officer who failed to check every missile which is required and indicated as accomplished by his signature.

The bit about a "rare 'Bent Spear' nuclear incident report" is little more than attempted sensationalism by someone totally unfamiliar with regulations regarding serious incident reporting which requires such reports to be initiated for specific quantities. For instance an M60 machine gun that comes up missing is indeed a "serious incident" but it isn't unless more than 6 are missing that a serious incident report must be initiated and all such reports flash to higher headquarters. Only someone totally unfamiliar with such reporting would attach any extraordinary significance to such. Doing so simply diminishes their credibility except to others similarly ignorant.

Other little tidbits further point to the author's main interest being not accuracy but sensationalism. Things like "The warheads were attached to the plane in Minot without special guard for more than 15 hours, and they remained on the plane in Louisiana for nearly nine hours more before being discovered." Sounds really bad until you take a moment to discern the fact that due to a flight officer's failure to adequately perform his duty by certifying the entire load as "unarmed" based upon apparently a glance at one wings hard points rather than each specific missile EVERYONE could assume that the unarmed missiles required no special guard although they were indeed still secured by the same system of guards as the rest of the bases.

JOBY WARRICK and WALTER PINCUS of the Washington Post are not very good JOURNALISTS and their writings should be constrained to the editorial pages since this "article" is strong on opinion and rather short on facts and real information.

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by JP Bill / September 25, 2007 3:05 PM PDT
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Comes with the territory.
by drpruner / September 25, 2007 12:13 PM PDT

Remember that some may have looked up as the plane passed overhead saying, "That's the sound of freedom." (A USAF slogan, I believe.)

I have to add that the most likely 'fallout' from an accident would have been spilled radioactives from broken bombs. I think they are very hard to detonate accidentally. A cleanup of locally distributed plutonium, a coverup from the Pentagon, and back to normal.

Anyway, such comes with the territory.

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by James Denison / September 25, 2007 1:30 PM PDT

Accidental detonation from an accidental loss of one from the wing might depend on the height from which it fell and whether it struck a bog or a bare rock mountain top. I don't know if maximum velocity from gravity on the mass with resulting hit on hard rock would set it off or not, but I'm thinking it might be sufficient force to do so.

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Not to worry...
by J. Vega / September 25, 2007 2:52 PM PDT
In reply to: detonation

There was zero chance for a detonation. It's a machine so complex that it makes makes a $1000 Swiss watch look like a $20 Timex, and like the Swiss watch every part must work "just so" or it freezes.
The "problem area" is encased in so rugged a housing that even at maximum terminal velocity possible it would still reach a tiny fraction of designed protection.
Also, to talk around something by giving an example of something else, they don't ship blasting caps in the same box when transporting dynamite.

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little girl
by James Denison / September 25, 2007 8:30 PM PDT

"Remember that some may have looked up as the plane passed overhead saying, "That's the sound of freedom." (A USAF slogan, I believe.)"

Like the little girl picking petals off a flower?

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