Five nukes mistakenly flown across U.S.

Air Force official rapped after nuclear flyover
Official relieved of command after 5 warheads are flown across the U.S.
MSNBC, Sept. 5, 2007

BISMARCK, N.D. - An Air Force squadron commander has been relieved of his command after five nuclear weapons were mistakenly loaded aboard a B-52 bomber and flown cross-country last week.

Five 150-kiloton warheads were attached to cruise missiles that were flown Aug. 30 from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to be dismantled, but the warheads should have been removed.

Military officials insist the warheads remained “under control” at all times and did not pose a danger.

The squadron commander however was immediately relieved of duty and is expected to lose his nuclear certification because “the Air Force has lost all confidence in his ability to handle nuclear weapons.”

The story was first reported in the Military Times.

The bomber carried advanced cruise missiles as part of a Defense Department program to retire 400 of the missiles, the Military Times said, quoting three officers who spoke on condition they remain anonymous because they were not authorized to discuss the incident.

A Minot Air Force Base spokeswoman, Sgt. Marelise Wood, referred questions by The Associated Press to the Air Force secretary’s office in Washington . A spokesman there was out of the office Wednesday morning and not immediately available for comment.

An Air Force spokesman, Lt. Col. Ed Thomas, told the Military Times that the weapons were in Air Force control at all times and the missiles were safely transferred.

Air Force policy does not permit officials to say whether nuclear warheads were involved, Thomas said.

However, he said all nuclear weapons at Minot were accounted for.

“Air Force standards are very exacting when it comes to munitions handling,” Thomas said. “The weapons were always in our custody and there was never a danger to the American public.”

He said an investigation was launched and the crews involved in loading the missiles were decertified pending corrective action or training.

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