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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Nukes Across America (Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Carelessly Lose Nuclear Warheads)

A B-52 bomber mistakenly loaded with five nuclear warheads flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D, to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30, resulting in an Air Force-wide investigation, according to three officers who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the incident, and were hastily changing their underwear.

The B-52 was loaded with Advanced Cruise Missiles, as part of a Defense Department effort to decommission 400 of the ACMs. Although the nuclear warheads should have been removed before transport, the loaded missiles were mounted onto the pylons of the bomber’s wings.0905 02 1

The ACMs carry a W80-1 warhead with a yield of 5 to 150 kilotons and are specifically designed for delivery by B-52 strategic bombers.

Despite assurances from Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Ed Thomas that the transfer was safely conducted, the warheads were left unaccounted for during the approximately 3 1/2 hour flight between the two bases.

An investigation headed by Maj. Gen. Douglas Raaberg, director of Air and Space Operations at Air Combat Command Headquarters, was launched immediately to find the cause of the mistake and figure out how it could have been prevented, Thomas said.

Air Force officials, while officially refusing to specify whether nuclear weapons were involved, claimed that there no risk for a nuclear detonation, even if the B-52 crashed on its way to Barksdale, stating that a crash could ignite the high explosives associated with the warhead, and possibly cause a leak of the plutonium, but the warheads’ elaborate safeguards would prevent a nuclear detonation from occurring.

Sleep well tonight, boys and girls, knowing that America's nuclear arsenal is in such safe and competent hands. . .

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