WASHINGTON (CNN) — Six nuclear warheads on air-launched cruise missiles were mistakenly carried on a flight from North Dakota to Louisiana last week, prompting a major investigation, the military officials have confirmed.
The plane took the cruise missiles from Minot Air Force Base to Barksdale Air Force Base for decommissioning Thursday, the Air Force said.
The warheads should have been removed from the missiles before they were attached to the B-52 bomber, according to military officials.
The crew was unaware that the plane was carrying nuclear weapons, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the extraordinary sensitivity and security surrounding the case.
The mistake was discovered after the plane’s six-hour flight to Louisiana.
Minot Air Force Base is in north central North Dakota and Barksdale Air Force Base is in northwest Louisiana near the Texas border.
Lt. Col. Ed Thomas said that while the military does not publicly discuss nuclear weapons procedures, in this case the Air Force decided to acknowledge the incident in order to reassure the public.
“The public was never in any danger,” Thomas said.
But officials also said the incident was a major breach of security rules surrounding nuclear weapons. One Air Force official said that he could not recall anything similar happening.
Because the incident involved nuclear weapons, it was serious enough that President Bush was notified, according to military officials.
Maj. Gen. Douglas Raaberg, director of Air and Space Operations at the Air Combat Command in Langley, Virginia, has been ordered to investigate how the nuclear-tipped missiles were flown across the country without anyone
knowing, officials said.
One officer already has been relieved of duty, and several others “decertified” from handling nuclear weapons, officials said.
A military official told CNN there was no nuclear risk to public safety because the weapons were not armed. Officials believe that if the plane had crashed or the missiles somehow had fallen off the wings, the warheads would have remained inert and there would have been no nuclear detonation, though conventional explosive material in the warhead could have detonated.
Military officials also say the missiles could not have been launched because of multiple security procedures required to be enacted before any launch would have been authorized.
The story was first reported by the Army Times, a privately published newspaper.
Piehole Comment: They stumble over their lies like they were wearing too big of shoes!!! Why is this country such war mongers? My whole life has been spent under the specter of nuclear warheads and quite frankly I’m about sick to death of the whole thing. I wish I could sue our government for causing me to live in fear my whole fucking life. My country in my view has taken away the American dream of Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness before I ever got a chance to pursue anything.
Duck and Cover Baby! GRRRRRRRRR!