Tough Punishment Expected for Warhead Errors

Discussion in 'OFF-Topic / Misc.' started by Hunter368, Oct 18, 2007.

  1. Hunter368

    Hunter368 Active Member

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    Officers May Lose Commands After Nuclear Missiles Were Flown on Bomber

    By Thomas E. Ricks and Joby Warrick
    Washington Post Staff Writers and Washington Post Staff Writers
    Thursday, October 18, 2007; A09

    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.

    The measures are expected to be formally announced tomorrow along with the detailed findings of an internal, six-week investigation into how a B-52 bomber crew mistakenly flew from one military air base to another with six nuclear warheads strapped to its wings. Air Force veterans have described the Aug. 29 incident as the one of the worst breaches in U.S. nuclear weapons security in decades.

    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.

    The anticipated personnel and disciplinary actions would be the most severe ever brought in the Air Force in connection with the handling of nuclear weapons, one of the officials said. The intention is to send the message that "the Air Force is getting back to the roots of accountability," the other official said. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation remains active.

    The August event triggered a rare "Bent Spear" nuclear incident alert that was sent to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and President Bush. 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. Air Force officials say there was little risk that the warheads could have been detonated, but the lapses could theoretically have led to warheads being stolen or damaged in a way that could have disseminated toxic nuclear materials.

    One official noted yesterday that the service is determined to handle the case better than it did a 1994 incident in which two Air Force F-15C pilots shot down two Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters that were in northern Iraq's "no-fly" zone, killing 26. Few disciplinary actions resulted then, an outcome that some generals said should not be repeated.

    Gen. John D.W. Corley, who on Oct. 2 became chief of the Air Combat Command, traveled to Washington this week to discuss his planned actions with senior Air Force officials. Gates is scheduled to be briefed on the Air Force moves tomorrow.

    Officials cautioned, however, that an announcement could be delayed because of continuing discussions among top officials over whether the disciplinary action should go even higher up the command chain, perhaps to include some generals.

    Both the 5th Bomb Wing, which is based at Minot, and the 2nd Bomb Wing, based at Barksdale, are part of the 8th Air Force, which is also based at Barksdale. The 5th Wing has been commanded since June of this year by Col. Bruce Emig, according to an Air Force Web site. The 2nd Wing is led by Col. Robert Wheeler, who took command in July. They are the Air Force's only two B-52 units.

    The 8th Air Force, historically the service's main bomber force, is overseen by Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder Jr., a veteran B-52 pilot.
     
  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I just read that too.

    It sounds like its justified. Too bad we cant do the same thing to some of the idiots who are in congress.
     
  3. Hunter368

    Hunter368 Active Member

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    100% agree :lol:
     
  4. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Lets face it. Losing Nukes is not a good thing and it has to be pretty damn hard to do. They deserve to be punished.
     
  5. DBII

    DBII Active Member

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    I have seen people go crazy due to missing .45 cal rounds. I cannot believe this happened.

    A tank driver wanted to play around in the gunner's postion. The tank was on alert and uploaded with it's basic load. There was a SABOT round in the tube. The driver shot the Motor Pool Connex. No one was hurt. The shooting happend before my assignment. I had the misforture of getting the driver assigned to my Platoon a year later.

    DBII
     
  6. Hunter368

    Hunter368 Active Member

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    Damn! oops. :oops:
     
  7. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    It happened buddy! It was even in the Army Times.
     
  8. DBII

    DBII Active Member

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    This was back in '84. I suspect that it has happend several times since then. There is nothing like the oopps factor. Don't you just love rounds out of impact and super elevation of the 50 cal.

    DBII
     
  9. Hunter368

    Hunter368 Active Member

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    Military explains nuclear weapon mistake



    By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer 5 minutes ago

    WASHINGTON - In its first explicit confirmation that six nuclear-armed missiles were erroneously flown from an air base in North Dakota to a base in Louisiana in late August, the Air Force on Friday called the episode an "unacceptable mistake" — of a sort that had never happened before.

    "We are making all appropriate changes to ensure this has a minimal chance of ever happening again," Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne told reporters.

    He spoke at a Pentagon news conference after Defense Secretary Robert Gates was briefed on the results of the Air Force's investigation into the Aug. 29-30 incident — one of the worst known breaches of nuclear weapons handling procedures in decades.

    Appearing with Wynne was Maj. Gen. Richard Newton, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations, who attributed the episode to an "unprecedented string of procedural errors" beginning with a failure by airmen to conduct a required inspection of the missiles before they were loaded aboard the B-52 bomber that flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

    "This was a failure to follow procedures — procedures that have proven to be sound," Newton said.

    A six-week Air Force investigation found fault with several officers, who have been relieved of duty, Newton said. He said the 5th Bomb Group commander at Minot was relieved of command, among others. Newton did not name them.

    Newton said the 5th Bomb Wing, which operates the B-52 has been "decertified from its wartime mission."

    He added that the August incident was isolated but a result of a problem at those two air bases.

    "There has been an erosion of adherence to weapons handling standards at Minot Air Force Base and Barksdale Air Force Base," Newton said.

    After arriving at Barksdale, the B-52 sat on a runway for hours with the missiles before the breach was known — meaning a total of 36 hours passed before the missiles were properly secured, officials have said.

    The Air Combat Command ordered a command-wide stand-down — instituted base by base and completed Sept. 14 — to set aside time for personnel to review procedures, officials said.

    The incident was so serious that it required President Bush and Gates to be quickly informed.

    Wynne prefaced his remarks about the B-52 incident by saying that in publicly confirming that nuclear weapons were involved he had authorized a one-time exception to U.S. policy, which states that the location of nuclear weapons will never be confirmed publicly. He said he made this exception because of the seriousness of the episode and its importance to the nation.

    The weapons involved were the Advanced Cruise Missile, a "stealth" weapon developed in the 1980s with the ability to evade detection by Soviet radars. The Air Force said in March that it had decided to retire the Advanced Cruise Missile fleet soon, and officials said after the breach that the missiles were being flown to Barksdale for decommissioning but were supposed to be disarmed.

    Military explains nuclear weapon mistake - Yahoo! News
     
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