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Thread: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

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    Flashaholic* Wits' End's Avatar
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    Default Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    I did a forum search and didn't see anything on this.

    Chicago Tribune
    .....The Stratofortress bomber, based at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., was flying a dozen advanced cruise missiles to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30. But crews inadvertently loaded half of them with nuclear warheads attached........

    WASHINGTON - An Air Force B-52 bomber carrying six cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads flew across the central United States last week after the nuclear weapons were mistakenly attached to the plane's wing, defense officials said Wednesday.

    The Stratofortress bomber, based at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., was flying a dozen advanced cruise missiles to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30. But crews inadvertently loaded half of them with nuclear warheads attached.

    The Air Force quickly launched an investigation that is expected to take several weeks. The munitions squadron commander was relieved of his duties, and crews involved with the mistaken load have been temporarily decertified for handling munitions, one official said.
    While acknowledging the seriousness of the error, Air Force officials called it an "isolated incident." They emphasized that the warheads were not activated for use and at no time posed a threat to the public during the 3 1/2-hour trip covering more than 1,100 miles.

    Even so, the mistake raised serious questions at a time when the United States is pressuring countries such as Russia to tighten their control over nuclear bombs and the materials that can be used to make such weapons.

    Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the mishandling of the weapons "deeply disturbing" and said the committee would press the military for details. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee, said it was "absolutely inexcusable."

    "Nothing like this has ever been reported before, and we have been assured for decades that it was impossible," Markey said.

    The missiles, part of an Air Force fleet of more than 450 of their kind, are in the process of being retired and normally would not carry nuclear warheads while in transit. Defense officials said the B-52's mission on Aug. 30 did not include training runs, so the missiles would not have been launched.

    Two defense officials said it is unclear how safeguards for the handling of nuclear weapons were somehow skirted, allowing the missiles with the warheads to be loaded onto a pylon that was then attached to the underside of the B-52's wing.

    The aircraft's pilots and crew were unaware that they were carrying nuclear warheads, officials said. Airmen in Louisiana discovered the error after the bomber arrived.

    "Essentially, this is an issue of a departure from our very exacting standards," said Lt. Col. Edward Thomas, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon. "The Air Force maintains the highest standards of safety and precision, so any deviation from these well-established munitions procedures is very serious and we are responding swiftly."

    According to Air Force officials, the weapons are designed with multiple safety features that ensure the warheads don't accidentally detonate.

    Arming the weapons requires a number of stringent protocols and authentication codes that must be followed for detonation. And they are designed to withstand a significant impact, including an aircraft crash, without detonating.

    Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates was informed of the incident early Friday and has been receiving daily progress reports. Morrell said President Bush also was notified.

    The Air Combat Command has ordered a commandwide stand down on Sept. 14 to review procedures, officials said.

    The nuclear warheads carried across the central United States ranged from 5 to 150 kilotons in destructive force, according to the Military Times newspapers, which first reported the incident.

    "You can wipe out a good-sized city with a 5-kiloton blast," said Jim Riccio, a nuclear policy analyst for Greenpeace. "A 150-kiloton warhead is 10 times the size of what they dropped on Hiroshima."

    - - -
    Last edited by Wits' End; 09-06-2007 at 07:51 AM. Reason: [/quote]
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    Flashaholic* half-watt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wits' End View Post
    I did a forum search and didn't see anything on this.

    Chicago Tribune

    interesting article.

    only one comment...

    the final statement, from a GP spokesperson, in the quote is unfortunate. more so, in its placement than in its content. it should NOT be disconnected from previous info in the quote which accurately states that a nuclear detonation would not have been possible had the flight inadvertently crashed.

    in order for fissionable material to generate a nuclear "explosion"/detonation, a condition known as PROMPT [neutron] CRITICALITY must be reached (not to be confused with "super critical" which has an entirely different meaning and is not necessarily an undesirable state for nuclear fission depending upon a number of factors). this "prompt critical" state of nuclear fission simply cannot happen in a nuclear warhead without a very precise number (for lack of a better word occurring to me at the moment) of conventional explosive detonations occurring first which would produce a situation giving very rapid rise to "prompt criticality".

    hope this one aspect sets any concerned readers at ease.

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    *Flashaholic* Marduke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    I read a news report with a totally different version. They knew they were carrying them, but at a stopover, someone forgot to take them off. The big ruckus was that they were "missing" during the 3.5 hour flight from the stopover to final destination, when they discovered they were still attached.

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    Thread Killer Illum's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    nukes are safe as long as no one touches the arming button
    theres not much reports of munitions falling off accidentally from planes in much of the history of attack aircrafts

    I don't understand why is it a big deal

    heres the links I've found
    Six of Our Nukes Went Missing -- But Don't Worry [washington post]
    U.S. bomber mistakenly loaded with nukes [united press international]
    Air Force Admits Bomber Mistakenly Flew Nukes Across U.S [Hispanic Business]
    B-52 flew over U.S. with nukes by mistake [Chicago Sun-times]
    Error sent six nukes cruising over U.S.; commander fired [York dispatch]

    there are numerous other articles but some with varying bits of info

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    While it is probably hazardous to the careers of all involved, there was probably little, but not zero, danger to the public at large.

    The last published reports I found with quick search:

    Officially, the governments of the nuclear powers are not very forthcoming with information regarding nuclear accidents. The United States last published such a list in 1980, which revealed 32 nuclear accidents or incidents, while Russia has divulged few if any details on such incidents.
    From what else I have read, six weapons were never recovered (lost at sea?).

    Knew a guy years ago that talked about how paranoid everyone was about handling nuclear weapons. People would be shot by guards (with dogs) if there were any suspicions at all that anyone was not doing their job.

    He even did a training exercise where they used a bus and, effectively orange crates, to simulate the nuclear loading and launch with B52. As I remember, one flight crew thought it was a "joke" and refused to sign for the "orange crates" and was severally disciplined for not following procedures (IIRC).

    -Bill

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    Flashaholic* Fallingwater's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Man, I seriously wouldn't want to be in the shoes of the guy responsible for this... it's one "whoops" he won't easily forget...

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    Flashaholic* MarNav1's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    I have not been in the Air Force but I find it VERY difficult to believe that
    nuclear warheads on cruise missles were "mishandled" or "mislabeled" or "mistakenly" loaded. Sounds like a bit of "misinformation" to me.

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    Thread Killer Illum's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    trailing off topic
    EDITED

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    *Flashaholic* James S's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    However, I can imagine that the paperwork could get mishandled so that they didn't know they were supposed to remove them and the plane took off again with them still on board.

    I know some of the guys who used to do some of this loading and unloading and this is no joke. Talk about a serious job. But if they didn't have orders to remove them from the plane, then they certainly wouldn't do so. As so often plagues the military and government in general, I'm betting on paperwork malfunction, but it will be interesting to see how it all falls out.
    -James

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    Flashaholic RebelRAM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Here's another story of an issue while transporting a nuke that happened several years ago.

    http://www.thexhunters.com/xpedition..._accident.html

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    *Flashaholic* greenLED's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    ..."military intelligence" comes to mind...

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    Thread Killer Illum's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Quote Originally Posted by RebelRAM View Post
    Here's another story of an issue while transporting a nuke that happened several years ago.

    http://www.thexhunters.com/xpedition..._accident.html
    the part that the bomb dropped into the desert brought back the beginning scene of "the Sum of all fears" to mind

    its a good thing theres only HE on board AND it was a desert region

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    *Flashaholic* PlayboyJoeShmoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Anybody that plane flew over was in less danger than of being in a traffic accident.

    No biggie for the public. BIG BIGGIE for someone in ACC!!!!
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    here is a link http://www.lutins.org/nukes.html to many accidents. look under bombs and bombers. watched a documentary about an h-bomb that fell in a swamp close to savanna, georgia. it is still there buried deep in the mud for many years.

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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Gee, why should we pay more to bring more sharp thinkers into the military and to better train and retain the people we have now? I mean, things could be worse, right?

    The title of the series this came from is "Lost My Job Today."

    Go to www (dot) micom (dot) net/oops/lostmyjobtoday1 (dot) jpg

    BTW, it's not a nuke and wouldn't have gone off anyway.

    Finally, a buddy of mine suggests how we can avoid things like this. He says we must repeat this mantra many, many times during each and every day:

    I hate paperwork.
    I hate paperwork.
    I hate paperwork.

    *** OOPS! Sorry for the hotlink. My bad.
    Last edited by chmsam; 09-08-2007 at 08:21 PM.
    "Show them a light, and they'll follow it anywhere..."

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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Please remove the hotlink, and find another way to show us the image.
    Last edited by Empath; 09-10-2007 at 11:39 AM.

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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    perhaps a charade to scare off a 9-11 attack. then again I hear La. (specifically Barksdale? I don't know) is where they would stockpile nukes before flying them off to destroy something, somewhere..

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    Flashaholic* PhantomPhoton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    The whole thing smells of diversion, and mis-direction. Those nukes were not being transported by accident. What I want to know is where are they headed. Someone spun up the whole transported across the US to whip up some fear in those less educated to divert attention from the fact that "they" are moving some big nukes to some place.
    Perhaps, just maybe like, oh, I dunno, close to Iran.

    The board is being set. Are you paying attention to everything or are you just watching the queen?
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Update on military probe:

    The Air Force has decided to relieve at least five of its officers of command and is considering filing criminal charges in connection with the Aug. 29 "Bent Spear" incident in which nuclear-armed cruise missiles were mistakenly flown from North Dakota to Louisiana, two senior Air Force officials said yesterday.

    Although senior Defense Department officials have not been fully briefed on the results of an Air Force probe of the incident, the sources said that at least one colonel is expected to lose his position and that several enlisted personnel will also be punished as part disciplinary actions that could be among the toughest meted out by the Air Force in years.
    ...
    A senior Air Force official familiar with the investigation said officers will be relieved at both installations involved in the incident: Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and Barksdale Air Force Base, La. A colonel commanding one of the Air Force wings is likely to be the highest-ranking officer to be relieved, the official said.

    In addition, the official said, letters of reprimand will be issued to several enlisted service members. The personnel actions may be followed by criminal charges against one or more people, but that course of action is still being discussed at the highest levels of the Air Force, he added. The most likely such charge, he said, would be either dereliction of duty or willful disobedience of an order.
    ...
    Although some details are not yet publicly known, officials familiar with the investigation say the problem originated at Minot when a pylon carrying six nuclear-armed cruise missiles was mistaken for one carrying unarmed missiles. Minot had been in the midst of shipping unarmed cruise missiles to Barksdale for decommissioning.

    That initial mistake was followed by many other failures, ultimately allowing six nuclear warheads to slip outside the Air Force's normal safeguards for more than 36 hours. The warheads were airborne for more than three hours and sat for long periods on runways at both air bases without a special guard....
    -Bill

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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Get 'em while they're "hot!" A Cold War era Geiger counter with modern mods!

    I talked to the crazy old coot that makes these things on the phone yesterday. Interesting guy...

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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Final Report (?):

    During the analysis of the incident by the Defense Science Board (DSB), released this month, the ugly truth came out: America’s nukes are so neglected that they are stored alongside conventional missiles, with nothing but an 8.5 x 11-in. sheet of paper to differentiate the two. The last day in August, Air Force personnel loaded the nuclear warheads on a routine repositioning of weapons stocks, believing them to be cruise missiles.
    ...
    The task force noted that members “could find no written directive that specifically described the required identifying means [to tell an inert missile from one with a live warhead].” Also, there is only one checklist for verifying the various kinds of missiles that can be loaded onto a B-52—live, inert, training and test devices. Nukes are treated the same as disarmed missiles when it comes to verifying armament.
    -Bill

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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Quote Originally Posted by BB View Post
    Does that mean our military is incompetent?

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    *Flashaholic* LuxLuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    This is one of the main reasons that the START Treaty was proposed between former Soviet Union and USA. There will always be human, mechanical, electrical, "Acts of God," or some other unforseen occurrence that is directly proportional to the number of warheads.

    You think this error is bad, imagine what goes on in the other nuclear nations where there is no freedom of the press.
    Last edited by LuxLuthor; 02-27-2008 at 02:04 AM.

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    * The Arctic Moderator * Sigman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    I understand there were some mistakes made that allowed this particular incident to happen...HOWEVER -

    I TOTALLY DISAGREE with the implication/content of the "FINAL REPORT"!! ALL I will say is BEEN THERE and there is certainly some FICTION in that report!!

    (Hmmm, consider a controlled release of some misinformation combined with facts - for one reason or another not to be understood or comprehended by those without the proper security clearances? )
    -"Must control self"-
    ....

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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigman View Post
    I TOTALLY DISAGREE with the implication/content of the "FINAL REPORT"!! ALL I will say is BEEN THERE and there is certainly some FICTION in that report!!
    Yeah... Popular Mechanics? Take anything you read in a mainstream magazine with a grain of salt. "Stored alongside" could mean conventional missiles aboveground, nukes in an underground vault.

    I used to work for Petersen Publishing (now Primedia), which published over 200 magazine titles. Their editorial staff were, and still are, a bunch of boneheads.

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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    I too tend to believe that 1/2 of what you read/watch in any "news" media is wrong (by accident or on purpose). The difficulty is figuring out which 50% to believe.

    But I do also believe that layers of bureaucracy do nothing but obscure and avoid responsibility (something that government agencies seem to be very good at).

    Look at the two space shuttle failures (program managers basically voting that things where safe in spite of overwhelming evidence that design parameters where being exceeded and obvious evidence of failures in the past that put the mission at risk--i.e., previous booster seal failures/freezing temperatures/below spec., change to non-CFC foam on external tank and a dramatic increase in shedding of foam).

    In the end, we still have the obvious issue that the nukes "went missing" and nobody seem to notice. Something did not go right.

    Will government/bureaucracies change for the better... Probably not.

    -Bill

  27. #27

    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Quote Originally Posted by LuxLuthor View Post
    You think this error is bad, imagine what goes on in the other nuclear nations where there is no freedom of the press.
    Do you believe the Press is, or should be responsible for reducing the mistakes made by our military?
    Last edited by Nitro; 02-27-2008 at 11:24 AM.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    I think the comment about the press is along the lines of "sunlight is the best disinfectant" quote from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856–1941).

    If there was no public shaming/exposure, then most people in power have little reason to change...

    For example:
    MEPs vote to keep their expenses scams secret

    Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat who broke ranks to reveal that an internal auditor had found a number of scams being operated by MEPs, was attacked for misusing private information and for rarely turning up to committee meetings. MEPs on the Budget Control Committee voted by 21 to 14 not to publish the report, with the support of the two main groups in Parliament, the European People’s Party, which includes the Conservatives, and the Socialists, including Labour.
    ...
    The committee was supposed to cover the €¤107 billion (£80 billion) EU accounts, failed by the Court of Auditors for the thirteenth year in a row, but instead spent much of its time venting its spleen at Mr Davies and the auditor who wrote the report.

    MEPs have been allowed a wide discretion over their annual assistance allowance of €185,952. Mr Davies disclosed that an internal auditor had detailed various scams used by some MEPs, sometimes without technically breaking the rules, to line their own pockets. One MEP paid a Christmas bonus to an assistant worth 19 times his salary, several others set up arms-length companies to pay expenses to bogus staff and others seemed to funnel money to their political parties while claiming to be paying assistants.

    In the secret report, available for MEPs on the committee to read only in a sealed room after taking an oath of secrecy, the auditor also set out a series of recommendations for changes to ensure probity and transparency.
    ...
    These guys are more secretive than those shepherding our nuclear weapons...

    -Bill

  29. #29

    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    Quote Originally Posted by BB View Post
    I think the comment about the press is along the lines of "sunlight is the best disinfectant" quote from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856–1941).

    If there was no public shaming/exposure, then most people in power have little reason to change...

    For example:
    MEPs vote to keep their expenses scams secret

    These guys are more secretive than those shepherding our nuclear weapons...

    -Bill
    My question was in reference to our military, not politicians.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Military probes how nukes flew over U.S.

    In the sense that our military reports to our politicians and military polices and procedures have always been politically driven--I still think that freedom of speech is still relevant.

    -Bill

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