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US Air Force unit operating nuclear missiles fails safety and security inspection

Published time: August 13, 2013 17:17
Edited time: August 13, 2013 18:13
U.S. nuclear missile sites around Malmstrom Air Force Base (Reuters)

U.S. nuclear missile sites around Malmstrom Air Force Base (Reuters)

US Air Force officials have said a nuclear missile unit has failed a safety and security inspection. Last Spring another missile unit in North Dakota almost failed a safety test resulting in 17 officers being suspended from operating missiles.

Lt. General James M Kowalski of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, in Montana, reported to the Associated Press that a unit at the base had failed a safety and security inspection.

The US Air Force is responsible for 450 land based missiles and is on 24 hour alert for any potential targets around the globe.

The 341st Missile Wing headquartered in Montana is one of three US bases that maintains and operates the Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles. Two of the three bases have received poor results and safety and security inspections; the third base is in Warren in Wyoming.

The 341st Missile Wing is made up of approximately 4,00o people, 700 of whom are civilians.

Tuesday’s safety inspection failure comes after another unit in Minot, North Dakota received weak grades on a safety inspection last spring, although it didn’t fail outright.

It resulted in 17 Air Force officers temporarily losing the authority to work and operate nuclear missiles.

The incident last spring was not the first time there have been serious safety and security incidents at the Minot base in North Dakota. 

On August 30 2007 a B52 took off from Minot carrying six cruise missiles equipped with nuclear warheads for Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana. None of the aircrew or base personnel knew the weapons were on board and the incident caused a national outcry.

While on July 12 2008, three Air Force officers fell asleep while in control of an electronic component that contained old launch codes for nuclear missiles. Although the codes had been deactivated before the incident, it was still a breach of protocol, and an investigation was launched.


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