OCTOBER 23, 2007
After a lengthy investigation the U.S. Air Force has relieved four colonels of duty and disciplined dozens of others for a serious incident perhaps indicative of a systematic failure to control the nationâ??s potent nuclear arsenal.
The alarming event that led to the six-week probe took place in late August when six nuclear-armed cruise missiles basically disappeared for 36 hours without any military personnel even noticing.
Extensive and embarrassing international media coverage detailed how a B-52 Bomber flew through the United States with six nuclear-armed cruise missiles and no one noticed the missiles were under the planeâ??s wing.
It turns out that the missiles were inadvertently loaded onto a B-52 bomber and mistakenly flown from North Dakota to Louisiana. The planeâ??s crew members were never aware that they were carrying nuclear warheads and Air Force brass eventually admitted that normal procedures for the handling and transport of nuclear arms were not followed.
In revealing the findings of the thorough Air Force investigation, a general said that â??a series of procedural breakdowns and human errorsâ? had led to the unacceptable incident, adding that the missiles â??were not supposed to be moved.â?
Evidently the loading crew used an outdated paper schedule rather than an electronic identification system to load the missiles without bothering to inspect them. Had the airmen inspected the missiles, they would have seen that their nuclear warheads were not removed and therefore they could not be shipped out.
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