US Air Force Disciplines 17 Nuclear Missile Officers – Report
The US Air Force has stripped 17 officers responsible for nuclear missile readiness of their duties after a test at a base in Minot, North Dakota revealed procedural violations, bad discipline and other failings that a commander described as “rot,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Another officer is facing possible disciplinary action after investigators found he had “purposefully broken a missile safety rule in an unspecified act that could have compromised the secret codes that enable the launching of missiles,” according to the AP report, reproduced by many US media outlets.
The suspensions, unprecedented in number, were ordered after an inspection at the Minot base of the 91st Missile Wing unit’s mastery of Minuteman III missile launch operations resulted in a near-failing grade, although the Air Force at the time called the test a “success,” the report said.
The origins of the Minot base go back to the Cold War nuclear standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The AP said its report was based on an internal email that it had obtained and whose authenticity was confirmed by the Air Force. The email was written by Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group responsible for manning 15 Minuteman III launch control centers.
“It takes real leaders to lead through a crisis and we are, in fact, in a crisis right now,” the report quoted Folds as writing in the email to his subordinates.
“You must continue to turn over the rocks and find the rot,” he wrote.
The Minuteman is a land-based intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads quickly to separate targets. It is the only land-based component of the US nuclear “triad” that also includes nuclear missiles launched from vessels at sea or carried by airborne bombers.
The report said there was no compromise of missile safety or security despite the apparent lapses by the servicemen responsible for their supervision.
It also recalled an “earlier series of stunning mistakes” by other elements of US nuclear deterrent forces, including an incident in 2007 when an Air Force B-52 bomber flew from Minot to a base in Louisiana without the crew being aware their plane was armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.
Source: WASHINGTON, RIA Novosti News – 8 May 2013
Photo: The USA Minuteman III test launch, 1994 (Photo by © Wikipedia)