View Full Version : B52 over America with 6 Nuclear War heads ** a Mistake **

5th Sep 2007, 14:32
BBC just reported a B52 flew from one side to the other of America with an armed B52 containing 6 Nuclear war heads ... :=

best to come - It was a Mistake they say ! :8

5th Sep 2007, 14:49
Here you go : From The BBC (

US B-52 'in nuclear cargo error'

A B-52 bomber flew across the US last week mistakenly loaded with up to six nuclear-armed missiles, unnamed air force officials are quoted as saying.

The missiles were unaccounted for during a three-hour flight from a North Dakota air base to one in Louisiana.

Air Force spokesman Lt Col Ed Thomas told Army Times the weapons were "always in our custody".

Army Times said the missiles were to be decommissioned but were mistakenly mounted on the bomber's wings.

The W80-1 warhead has a yield of five to 150 kilotons, the paper said.

A military official told AFP news agency that President George W Bush had been informed of the mix-up.

5th Sep 2007, 14:51
There is a 100% certainty that the RAF could not make a similar mistake.

5th Sep 2007, 14:54
Weeell, fair's fair, with all that stuff dangling under a Buff's wing it'd be easy to miss 'em on the walkround...

5th Sep 2007, 14:59
There is a 100% certainty that the RAF could not make a similar mistake

'Cos we don't have any B52s?:ok:


5th Sep 2007, 15:04
Well I must admit I was thinking of the weapons, but on second thoughts, I don't know, and nor should I.

Imagine the surprise when the orderly officer conducts his ammo bunker check!

..."Ok, that's 45 W-80s I count. How many do you make it".

Or the receiving armourers. What the f*** is THAT!!

5th Sep 2007, 15:20
I think you'll find it was the warheads within the missiles which were supposed to have been removed, not the whole missile assemblies.

Wessex Boy
5th Sep 2007, 15:33
If your needing to launch any kind of nuclear strike on the US, do it after September 15th, they are all being stood down pending a review.....:eek:

5th Sep 2007, 15:33
from the BBC:Col Thomas said the loading crew involved had been temporarily "decertified" pending retraining.Ah yes, we have ways and means. 'Retraining'? Sounds nasty. :ouch:

West Coast
5th Sep 2007, 15:51
Some pending transfers to an unaccompnied three year tour of Diego Garcia on the horizon.

5th Sep 2007, 15:54
Who needs 100 ml bottles and nailclippers if you can set out with six nukes under your wings?

5th Sep 2007, 15:57
Nice quote of a comment attached to USA Today story about this:

"Ironically, it's our military that ensures your right to say stupid things...about our military."

5th Sep 2007, 16:07
A military official told AFP news agency that President George W Bush had been informed of the mix-up.

Why would they bother ?

5th Sep 2007, 16:11
Air Force spokesman Lt Col Ed Thomas told Army Times the weapons were "always in our custody".
Well, I would hope so!

5th Sep 2007, 16:12
"Bush Narrowly Escapes Massive Nuclear Attack"

Return to base
5th Sep 2007, 16:33
Don´t you mean "school Narrowly Escapes Massive Nuclear Attack" :}

Newspapers please take note :rolleyes:

Pontius Navigator
5th Sep 2007, 17:17
I wonder if the crew went through any practice launch sequences en route?:}

5th Sep 2007, 17:23
"Iran puzzled by dummy bombs dropped on capital".

5th Sep 2007, 17:49
Presently mopping keyboard after pint spillage laughing at 1 above!

5th Sep 2007, 21:01
Come on
Had they moved them by train or road there would be helll to play
They moved them safely by air, transported by the most reliable carrier, inert and safe, and the breaking news tossers think they've got a story
Nuclear missiles are not armed prior to, or after loading, for transit - they are inert
Once loaded the crew will have no way of releasing them actively but will be able to abandon them (emergency safe release) if they have a problem with the aircraft
The worst that can happen is the TNT trigger may explode on impact with a posible release of radiation - but we are not talking mushroom clouds here
More concerning, how on earth does some base "mistakenly" load up a B52 bomber with nuclear missiles/bombs which are "unaccounted for" without the Pentagon, the President, and even the Base Cdr not knowing about this
British Press - give the yanks a break!

5th Sep 2007, 21:14
Sorry, buoy15 - that won't wash.

At the absolute very least, the world must expect that sane custodians of nukes - of whatever nationality - should know where every one is, and who precisely has responsibility for them, at any given moment.

Not really too much to ask, is it?

5th Sep 2007, 21:16
They couldn't find the WMDs in Iraq.
Now they can't even keep track of their own.

20th Oct 2007, 07:21

The US Air Force has relieved several officers of their commands after a B-52 bomber was mistakenly flown across the US loaded with nuclear-armed missiles......

Announcing the results of his six-week investigation, Gen Newton said there had been an "erosion of adherence to weapons-handing standards".

The Americans have a way of saying we screwed up big time,so well.

20th Oct 2007, 07:24
Maj Gen Richard Newton said ground crews had failed to follow procedures

The crew flying the plane were unaware it was carrying nuclear warheads


Second quote made my morning...

20th Oct 2007, 07:33
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when someone realised they were live nucs........

"Err, Chief".

"Yes Bloggkowski"

"Does this radiation trefoil mean what I think it means".


"Yes Chief"

"It means we ain't gonna be hitting Hooters at 6 like we planned".....

20th Oct 2007, 08:55
Such a shame should have dropped the lot on bush and the rest of the USA and done the world a big favour.

Jetex Jim
20th Oct 2007, 11:01
They do seem to have cocked up twice, once as reported above and again by going public with the news.:hmm:

20th Oct 2007, 11:30
Ah, that'll be the "no man" guarding/access principle then!

But it's Minot, there's no one there.......................

20th Oct 2007, 11:32
Why have they gone public??:suspect::suspect:

Two's in
20th Oct 2007, 11:58
See - over here it's called the Freedom of information Act, meaning you can't hide this stuff, over there it's called a D Notice and the Government buries it. That only means it's harder to be completely stupid while working for the Government here...

PS. If they disciplined 70 people, that means a lot more than that knew about it. That would take some burying.

20th Oct 2007, 12:05
seemed to bury the Iraq war stuff! Bet a lot more than 70 to 100 people new about that!

20th Oct 2007, 12:15
Ask the UK government about the time that they "inadvertently" launched the V force on a one-way mission against Moscow. Allegedly. Thankfully, they never got there before being diverted. :oh:

20th Oct 2007, 15:48
And the purpose of nuclear armed B-52s is............... :hmm:

20th Oct 2007, 15:57
The same purpose as the nuclear capable Russian bombers that are seen more and more regularly over the North Sea.

glad rag
20th Oct 2007, 16:38
Could have been worse, they might have sent them UPS, then they would be in the sh:suspect:!!

BANTER Mr UPS just banter

20th Oct 2007, 16:39
But it's Minot, there's no one there.......................

God, if that's not the truth. Terrible place. :uhoh:

20th Oct 2007, 16:49
glad rag

Could have been worse, they might have sent them UPS, then they would be in the sh!!

But at least they would have got where they were supposed to be going:}

20th Oct 2007, 17:13
I have to ask - exactly why does this matter?

I'm told they're enormously inert even in the event of a crash (it's little more than a hazmat incident)

The security issue is made tiny simply by the fact that nobody could possibly have known they were there - because they weren't supposed to be.

OK, it's a pan-galactic organisational SNAFU, but as a purely practical matter - so what?


20th Oct 2007, 17:22
What worries me is that someone in the bomb dump didn't even count them before going to bed. We had to do that for our thirty 9mm rounds for our Browning pistol!

What a "Carry On" (in the voices of Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Williams):

"Ere, Sarge, I'm sure we had six more nuclear megadeath bombs on the shelf this morning...."

"Oh, stop it, stop it - ooh, you are such a worrier"! :rolleyes:

20th Oct 2007, 17:27

As a USAF officer and former nuke warrior (in the ground vs aircrew however), on a basically practical matter, you are correct.

There are enormous safeguards designed in to prevent any sort of accidental discharge even in the event of a crash.

From a pragmatic standpoint, however, this is important because these ARE nukes. Not having 100% accountability 100% of the time leaves the possibility open to something being 'misplaced' and not being discovered until something bad happens at a time/place we weren't expecting.

Complacency happened since there's no real thought about the 'good ol' days' of the going 'nukler toe to toe with the Russkis (apologies to Slim Whitman in Dr. Strangelove)' and folks got sloppy.

That is just unacceptable dealing with anything that can go 'boom,' not to mention things that REALLY go boom.

In my opinion...........

20th Oct 2007, 20:20
Well, absolutely, I'm sure heads will roll.

The question it begs to me is why there'd ever be any need to load them on an aircraft in the first place. I presume there's dummy versions to train with - unless it's just the easiest, safest way to transport them, or something like that. But even then, why move them around unnecessarily - and why would it be necessary to move them?


Two's in
20th Oct 2007, 20:26
Makes all those White House press releases about "Letting some Middle East madmen loose with nuclear weapons they have no control over" seem somewhat prophetic, when Leroy and Cletus up at Minot AFB seem to have been able to undermine 60 years of Nuclear Safeguard Protocols, in between Gopher hunting and and chewin' tobacco.

West Coast
20th Oct 2007, 20:29
Makes the serious nature of this in to a joke when people post crap like you did.

Green Flash
20th Oct 2007, 20:34
Makes the serious nature of this into a joke when people makes mistakes like they did .....

20th Oct 2007, 23:53
glad rag

don't think ups would have carried them. They won't carry anything they think is DG here and i work for an airline, on the ground.:uhoh:

21st Oct 2007, 01:07
I have a suspicion that this relaxation of special transport rules had occured many times before the gaff was blown.

21st Oct 2007, 02:15
I have a suspicion that this relaxation of special transport rules had occured many times before the gaff was blown.

I don't....................

21st Oct 2007, 06:58
The question it begs to me is why there'd ever be any need to load them on an aircraft in the first place. The missles were part of a batch of 400 ALCMs being moved to Barksdale for disposal. I am presuming that means conversion into AGM-86C/Ds rather than destruction ( Flying them there is the easiest, safest and quickest means of getting them there.

The warheads should have been removed at Minot before the missiles were loaded. But they weren't. Which is why 70 people have been sacked and/or decertified from being allowed access to nuclear weapons handling in future.

21st Oct 2007, 07:28
Which is why 70 people have been sacked and/or decertified from being allowed access to nuclear weapons handling in future.

Didn't a well known and, at the time, recently ex-Laarbruch sqn suffer a similar swathe of 'management turbulence' after a far less dangerous but equally unforgiveable documentation problem in the early 90s? Something related to 2 sets of the same paperwork:=?

glad rag
21st Oct 2007, 08:48
Dunno, you sound like an expert do tell................

21st Oct 2007, 08:55
> The warheads should have been removed at Minot before the missiles were
> loaded. But they weren't.

Right. That, to me, is the kicker. That turns it from a "what are you, blind?" into a slightly more understandable mistake.

Still, oops, though!


glad rag
21st Oct 2007, 10:59
Mike, I think the fact that the Nuclear Weapon carriage system worked as advertised means that NOTHING was going to happen.:E

Remember Rule Two of internet forums applies.:}:}

21st Oct 2007, 12:50
When iiiiiiii was a lad, before i started flying, i worked on strike load teams for about 3 years loading nukes onto Buccs and Tornados. The protocols we had in place were unbelievable, and we had to rehearse and rehearse. At any one time, somebody had legal ownership of the weapons. Either the SNCO from the dump, the police, the SNCO of the load team or the Captain of the aircraft. Ownership of the weapon was a very serious business and the 'handover' was a formal script bound procedure lasting about 5 mins, which had to be word perfect (there must be some Tornado bods on here from the 80's who remember this). The weapon went nowhere without the 'owners' consent (because his b******s were on the line. My understanding of the US system was it was equally as stringent, particularly the guarding. I can understand why the aircraft in question can sit on the pan unguarded (because nobody seemed aware of the payload), but I can't work out how the question of ownership has been bypassed prior to the weapons being loaded. It is a monumental c**k up, and luckily it has happened, as it seems to me this could easily have been reorchestrated, and the US would have ended up with 'Broken Arrow'. I don't think it will happen again somehow!

21st Oct 2007, 13:30
Good thing you took such good care of the Tigs2. Weren't at Bruggen ( were you.... :}

.....Newly declassified documents obtained by New Scientist magazine detail the incidents in which the weapons were dropped or damaged while they were being moved.

The first accident happened on May 2, 1984, at the RAF base at Brüggen, Germany. A nuclear warhead was damaged in transit when its container slid off a wet trailer as it cornered. The warhead, still in its container, rolled on to the tarmac and was dented.

Brüggen base was shut down while the bomb was partially dismantled and scientists were flown from Britain to X-ray the warhead. It was eventually taken back to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermas-ton, Berkshire, to be decommissioned.

An MoD board of inquiry at the time concluded that the accident was caused by the “wrongful act” of failing to attach the bomb container to the trailer. It recommended that six ser-vicemen be disciplined.

The documents, obtained under freedom of information law, show that a regulation requiring bomb containers to be secured when being moved had been routinely ignored since October 1981. Brüggen’s commander at the time, whose name has been removed from the released report, admitted that the breach had become almost a standard operating procedure, despite being an “outrageously high-risk practice”.

21st Oct 2007, 14:14
1961 A B-52 was carrying two 20 megaton nuclear bombs. The plane crashed and five of the six safeties on the bomb failed. The crash occurred near Goldsboro, North Carolina. One bomb was lost.

Suppose all you can say is its a good job it didnt just have 5 safeties!

21st Oct 2007, 19:11

No wasn't at Bruggen:ok: The guys there in the dump had lets say a casual approach to something they did day in day out. As i said in my post, I do not know how they can have bypassed the ownership issue of the weapon.

21st Oct 2007, 19:38
He had me at 'hello,' or at least to this point:

The former officer concludes: “Therefore the only conclusion I can come up with is that this event must have been concocted by someone to appear as an accident. And, because nuclear weapons were said to be involved, orders approving such an event most certainly came from the White House.”

That wacky George B. trying to sneak out some 'nukler' firecrackers for his personal use..................

Great journalism; dust off a guy from the 1970s (!) and get his 'insider's' view of how things are done today. Heck, I'd have gone for an interview with Gen Tibbet's on how things were done on the Enola Gay......

But it does not negate the fact that a lot of folks were complacent and that this was easily avoidable, self-inflicted USAF buffoonery.

And may I ask that more recent knowledge about weapons handling be treated a bit more circumspectly in an open forum?

(Ok, I'll be going now...........)

edited to add: "World Socialist Web?" You do get around, sir......

21st Oct 2007, 20:46

The JEngO was on my EOT2. Made the session on "What you did on your first tour" a little more interesting.

As he was obviously never going to go far in the RAF because of it, he left, joined the RN and did somewhat better.

As regards the ones rolling off the trailer, I heard on my UCO course that a smiley face had been painted on the nose. That didn't go down well either.


glad rag
21st Oct 2007, 21:57
So after reading all that it was no more than a practice bomb (on steroids) that was released..hell we do that all the time!!:ooh::ooh::ooh:

Apart from the administrative failings this was a non event.


Glad Rag. rule 2 still applies BTW.:}:}

JT Eagle
22nd Oct 2007, 00:52
"Apart from the administrative failings this was a non event."

Oh yeah, and if it had crashed somewhere, spilling radiation all over the place, how many fire crews/locals would have been exposed before the paperwork caught up?

I believe that there is also the issue of international treaties about the aerial carriage of nuclear weapons, and while it was inadvertent, it might be that the US just violated one, or more.


22nd Oct 2007, 07:18
DefenseNews article ( detailing the failures which allowed the incident to occur.

22nd Oct 2007, 09:45
The weapons have been called INERT. If they were warshot complete with warhead they were not inert. Safe maybe but not inert.

An inert weapon is one that will not explode and is effectively your typical lump of concrete. A 1000lb bomb with an inert (concrete) filling is an Inert Bomb.

A nuclear weapon with its high explosive trigger and a nuclear core is a LIVE weapon.

Now if the weapon is accidentally released, as in a crash, or jettisoned deliberately it is said to be single point safe. This means that it might go bang but the worst that will happen is an HE detonation (unlucky if you are very close - or maybe not :)) and a scattering of radioactive material (unlucky if you are nearby or downwind. It may also burn which creates further hazards. Inert it is not.

Why load live? Good question.

The Blue Steel was a live missile and fuelled with HTTP but for training a practice warhead could be loaded. Where there was force generation there would have been insufficient training rounds so real warheads would be used. The same could be true in this case.

The fitment of live warheads to the missiles, within the armament storeage area may have been a routine event to prove weapon/missile compatibility. The Charlie Uniform factor was the release of these armed missiles together with their unarmed buddies.

Now the spooky bit.

Bomber crews routinely practice weapons release procedures in flight. The weapons switching is monitored with a response simulator that will behave exactly like the real thing. The crew, inflight, will have no way of knowning that the simulated responses are from a live weapon.

Then they might have gone through an entire launch sequence down to firing the missile. The training round would not however release and fire as it was a training round. Were these armed warshot similarly safed?

I don't know enough about the US systems but once the Charlie Uniform factor starts to operate you never know what might happen.

22nd Oct 2007, 16:08

Any truth to the story that when said JEngO was marched into the AOC's office and had the question "Are you Flt Lt F***nuckle, service number 1234567C" barked at him he had the immense satisfaction of replying "NO SIR!". I can only guess the AOC's response but the upshot was they'd got his service number wrong.

Then again, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

22nd Oct 2007, 19:28

I'll pass on that one, but it sounds good.


22nd Oct 2007, 22:48
"Hey Bubba, where'ja say your ma-in-law lived...??"
"Well, hold the practice launch Rusty, the coords are on my GPS cell-fone.... yep, try these for fun......"
"Hee hee, one of these real babies would sort out her broomstick, OK, lets run that practice launch checklist.......!
"Oh sheeeeeeit!!!!!"

Imagine the same story using a British bomber and crew.

Oh, wait.............................................:}

23rd Oct 2007, 00:04
Try looking on the bright side, if you will, Louisiana now has six nuclear missiles!:E

Al R
23rd Oct 2007, 07:42
Tigs: The guys there in the dump had lets say a casual approach to something they did day in day out.

By contrast, the part of the drills which never failed to interest me, was the moment when an engineer trained to suspend bombs from the underneath of a flat surface would have a face to face book (you know, the one which showed erm, the faces?) and still be able to recognise the aircrew.. dressed in AR5.

Clever stuff. :D

23rd Oct 2007, 10:05
The US Navy also seem to have a lax culture with nuclear equipment.

A Chernobyl / Five Mile Island at sea waiting to happen?

23rd Oct 2007, 10:14

I confess.

In my case it was Aberdeen when I got the Bomb on Pin light ON.

23rd Oct 2007, 14:03
I note from the US report that the 'Instructor BN' was held to blame for not properly confirming the pylon stores.

Two things:

1. Surely 'real' nuclear weapons have an appropriate 'filling band'* in addition to the yellow HE mark. How did he not notice that?

2. More importantly, why did he check it on his own? What happened to the 2-man principle.

When 'accepting' even a dummy 'shape', we always treated it as though it was real. The 'shape' markings would be physically checked to confirm that it did NOT contain any nasty nuclear material. I cannot believe that the US doesn't have similar procedures - but if a culture of paying lip service to them has developed, then heads do indeed need to roll.

* The 'Pig and Tape' at Decci must have been the only classified scruff's pub in the world - for poking out of the wall was a dummy 28lb practice bomb painted with nuclear filling markings.....:eek:

glad rag
23rd Oct 2007, 14:38
In reply it would appear that

1. He had a quick shuftie but picked the "wrong" side.:hmm:

2. Definitely a culture of indifference at this base.:(:(

23rd Oct 2007, 14:46
Definitely a culture of indifference at this base


And it's not germaine to the event, but 'he' was a she. And she was but one who didn't do the job correctly and catch this before it became such a goatrope.

But they are not indifferent right now.................

23rd Oct 2007, 20:00
As BEagle says, surely a real nuke is immediately recognisable as per the image below of what I assume is a real, as apposed to inert, WE177 (as declared by the red (radioactive) / yellow (HE) bands - this is according to info on where I found / linked to this image).

I assume the advantages of a nuke being immediately recognisable still greatly outweigh the downside that clear markings draw attention to the fact its a real nuke (if you follow my drift).

INERT marking here looks quite obvious.....

..though I assume it was one of these on the B52 in question (canister is the W80 being loaded) and it appears to have no markings......

23rd Oct 2007, 20:58
Whilst attending the SWS course at Wittering some years ago I heard tell of a disgruntled liney managing to paint a CND mark on a live WE177 := , possibly 617 ?

24th Oct 2007, 07:24
heard tell of a disgruntled liney managing to paint a CND mark on a live WE177 := , possibly 617 ?

Lovely idea but I doubt it.

A CND symbol or possibly an 'aceed smiley' (popular at the time) appeared over the weekend in one of the HAS's in the 80's. I do not believe anyone would have got close enough to a weapon (live or not) given the rules governing their movement. The number of people checking and double checking, combined with the need to get them in and out of sites at appropriate times would preclude such an event.

24th Oct 2007, 10:36
Lovely idea but I doubt it.

There was a spate of chinagraph graffiti at Waddington in the late 60s with the phantom's work appearing inside most unusual places - inside the rim of an angle poise light, inside the weapons panel of the said weapon, in fact inside just about anything that should not have had anything inside it.

The target for this campaign took it stoically for a while and them protested, very mildly, and eventually the whole thing fizzled out.

I think there had been the odd complaint back from industry but nothing was ever made official.

It was funny at first but soon lost its humour. OTOH the Bas Heath campaign on 201 was something else again.