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Nuke transportation story has explosive implications

Douglas Caddy

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Posted on Sun, Oct. 07, 2007

Nuke transportation story has explosive implications



Last month, six W80-1 nuclear-armed AGM-129 advanced cruise missiles were flown from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana and sat on the tarmac for 10 hours undetected.

Press reports initially cited the Air Force mistake of flying nuclear weapons over the United States in violation of Air Force standing orders and international treaties, while completely missing the more important major issues, such as how six nuclear cruise missiles got loose to begin with.

Opinion columns and editorials appeared in America's newspapers, some blasting the Air Force for flying nukes over the U.S. and some defending the Air Force procedure. None of the news reports focused on the real questions of our nuclear security.

Let me be very clear here: We are not talking about paintball cartridges or pellet gun ammo. We are talking nuclear weapons.

There is a strict chain of custody for all such weapons. Nuclear weapons handling is spelled out in great detail in Air Force regulations, to the credit of that service. Every person who orders the movement of these weapons, handles them, breaks seals or moves any nuclear weapon must sign off for tracking purposes.

Two armed munitions specialists are required to work as a team with all nuclear weapons. All individuals working with nuclear weapons must meet very strict security standards and be tested for loyalty -- this is known as a "Personnel Reliability Program." They work in restricted areas within eyeshot of one another and are reviewed constantly.

All security forces assigned are authorized to use deadly force to protect the weapons from any threat. Nor does anyone quickly move a 1-ton cruise missile -- or forget about six of them, as reported by some news outlets, especially cruise missiles loaded with high explosives.

The United States also does not transport nuclear weapons meant for elimination attached to their launch vehicles under the wings of a combat aircraft. The procedure is to separate the warhead from the missile, encase the warhead and transport it by military cargo aircraft to a repository -- not an operational bomber base that just happens to be the staging area for Middle Eastern operations.

Yes, we still do fly nuclear warheads over the United States today. We also drive them over land as well. That's not the point.

This is about how six nuclear advanced cruise missiles got out of their bunkers and onto a combat aircraft without notice of the wing commander, squadron commander, munitions maintenance squadron (MMS), the B-52H's crew chief and command pilot and onto another Air Force base tarmac without notice of that air base's chain of command -- for 10 hours.

It is time that we got to the bottom of it through a comprehensive investigation.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has asked Larry Welch, a former Air Force chief of staff, to lead an independent inquiry into the implications of the incident. That is in addition to the existing Air Force investigation headed by Maj. Gen. Douglas Raaberg, director of air and space operations at Air Combat Command, which is responsible for all Air Force bombers and fighters.

The questions that must be answered:

1 Why, and for what ostensible purpose, were these nuclear weapons taken to Barksdale?

2 How long was it before the error was discovered?

3 How many mistakes and errors were made, and how many needed to be made, for this to happen?

4 How many and which security protocols were overlooked?

5 How many and which safety procedures were bypassed or ignored?

6 How many other nuclear command and control non-observations of procedure have there been?

7 What is Congress going to do to better oversee U.S. nuclear command and control?

8 How does this incident relate to concern for reliability of control over nuclear weapons and nuclear materials in Russia, Pakistan and elsewhere?

9 Does the Bush administration, as some news reports suggest, have plans to attack Iran with nuclear weapons?

10 If this was an accident, have we degraded our military to a point where we are now making critical mistakes with our nuclear arsenal? If so, how do we correct this?

Yes, heads must roll and careers will end. But let's make sure that this includes the ranks from general officers to noncommissioned ones.

Or is this to be the Air Force version of the Abu Ghraib investigation?

Robert Stormer of Chicago is a retired lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve, serving with the Navy's Supervisor of Salvage, and was a specialist in weapons retrieval. He is a marine engineer and marine salvage specialist.

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I'm very interested in how this could have happened. If the events told so far are correct, then the least we can say is the security control system is seriously flawed - so flawed that it should be immediately replaced with a system of tighter restrictions and positive control.

I understand the problems that restrictive controls place on operational flexibility, but a massive flaw in the current system has been exposed and has already been pointed out... these are nuclear weapons. Nearly enough is not good enough; it must be impenetrable.

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The default "it was a mistake" position in this case is as ludicrous as the "we all believed intel that turned out to be faulty" post-Iraq invasion lie told by Bush and his fellow gangsters.

Not to mention the "19 cave dwellers got lucky when they chose to do their evil deed on the same day that top secret air defense exercises helped usher them to their targets" B.S.

In order for the nuke transport in question to be explained away as a "mistake," one must accept that multiple layers of security -- not to mention simple piloting skills -- coincidentally broke down at the same time.

I have read no credible evidence whatsoever to suggest that the attacks of 9-11, the justifications for the Iraq invasion, and the events that comprise the subject of this thread reasonably can be attributed to honest mistakes and/or failures -- of judgment or anything else.

Does the term "perfect failures" ring a bell?


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  • 2 weeks later...
From the Washington Post.

At least 1 Colonel will be relieved - possibly a General.

The most frightening thing is not that the nukes were allowed to fly - but sat on the runways at both bases for hours UNGUARDED!

There's more security at the local WalMart.

That's understandable to a degree. They were thought to be conventional, so no special precautions were taken. I'd be interested in learning what is SOP for armed aircraft, though. Even with conventional weapons, an armed aircraft is a target and a threat to everything around it.

If they thought it was armed with practice / dummy stores, then it is very understandable... although all our dummy stores (inert) are painted blue so you can visually tell.

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They may not have specifically had armed guards around the plane but I doubt that it was completely unguarded. The parking ramps of air force bases are controlled areas. You are not allowed on without a controlled area badge. The entire area is guarded just not each individual plane. Certain planes requiring higher security may have individual guards but still the entire area would be guarded.

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Some of your fellow Americans don't buy such a quick explanation from the USG, without the evidence of a transparent investigation. The Native Americans learned the hard way that the USG lied EVERY time...some of you Waishu take a bit longer to learn......though the evidence has always been in front of your nose...

Then by all means - enlighten us to what the "TRUTH" really is in the world according to Lemkin.

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That's understandable to a degree. They were thought to be conventional, so no special precautions were taken.

If they thought it was armed with practice / dummy stores, then it is very understandable... although all our dummy stores (inert) are painted blue so you can visually tell.

Sorry, but no one truly responsible for this provocation can be accused of error.

It's another perfect failure, I'm afraid.

Multi-layered safeguards (including the relatively primitive color code you yourself reference) preclude the possibility that the nuclear missiles could have been "mistaken" for anything else.

Either that, or the most sophisticated redundant security systems imaginable just happened to break down all at once.

(Hmmm ... Why am I put in mind of another extraordinary "coincidence" -- when Bin Laden just happened to choose a date for his attacks that coincided with the stagings of the multiple air defense security exercises that amounted to the sine qua non for the "terrorists's" successes?)

Again, the questions must be asked: Have we learned nothing but names and dates from our deep political studies? Have we learned nothing but how to adjust our gaits from our repeated buggerings by authority?

At what point in one's neverending eagerness to be lied to does one become the xxxx? At what point does one's failure to discern the truth become a perfect failure?

Charles Drago


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At what point does one's paranoia become a perfect failure?

Aside from demonstrating its author's utter inability to grasp the concept under consideration and his reliance upon sarcasm to camouflage ignorance ...

tres droll!



I'm being perfectly serious - have you ever considered that paranoia might be your blind spot.

Why does this incident HAVE to be part of a PERFECT FAILURE. I'm truly curious - in your opinion, why can't this be simply as reported?

Tell me the truth -

Is it impossible that air force personnel can screw up?

If it is then why?

Why are they any better than anyone else on the planet?

Are you saying that only the best and brightest go into the military?

Or are you saying that only the dumb ones willing to do anything that they are told, no matter how criminal, no matter the consequence, are the ones that join?

Until someone can provide more proof than name calling and empty rhetortic, this will remain a screwup of major proportions.

According to today's news, over 70 people will be disciplined, including the 5th Bomb Wing commander at Minot - Col. Bruce Emig. IMO, at the very least, the General in charge of the Group should have been cashiered as well.

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We know that:

• Barksdale Air Force Base is being used as a jumping off point for Middle East operations.

• Multiple officers are routinely involved in the transportation and loading of nuclear weapons to prevent the kind of “error” that allegedly resulted in this “accident.”

We do not know:

• Who was in charge of the operation to release and transport the nukes.

• How experienced pilots could fly from North Dakota to Louisiana allegedly without knowing they were carrying live nuclear weapons – despite onboard systems designed to alert the flight crew to the presence of same, and altered flight characteristics caused by the unique nuclear loads.

• Why the individual(s) in charge permitted the multi-stage incident to occur in violation of storage, handling, and weapons release protocols and procedures.

• What reason was given for the release of live nuclear weapons that, because of redundant, sophisticated security systems, could not be mistaken for what they were – and what they certainly were not, including inert nukes or conventional or CBR devices.

The release of the missiles was intentional, as was the loading of the weapons onto the B-52 and their transport to Minot.

I have interviewed an active duty military officer of flag rank who routinely is engaged in matters directly related to nuclear weapon storage, handling, and deployment. This person reports that, in essence, to believe the recent event was accidental in nature is to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy.

Or that Bin Laden lucked out on 9-11 vis a vis the “coincidental” security stripping exercises.

You ask if paranoia is my blind spot.

If, in Orwellian fashion, hard-won, refined perspective impairs vision.

I give you John 9:1-41

"All that I know is that I was blind, and now I can see."

Edited by Charles Drago
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