Someone Screwed Up...
Heads are going to roll. That's the opinion of one military
analyst, after learning a B-52 crew inadvertantly transported six
nuclear warheads from North Dakota to Louisiana last week,
breaching several US Air Force and international regulations on the
transport of such weapons.
Citing an original report by the Army Times, CNN reports the
bomber took the missiles from Minot AFB to Barksdale AFB for
decomissioning Thursday. The plane flew over several US states,
with the cruise missiles carried on underwing pylons.
While the Air Force doesn't usually comment on its procedures
for transporting such weapons, USAF officials told CNN the incident
was a significant breach of security... while also taking
pains to reassure citizens the situation sounds a lot scarier than
it actually was.
"The public was never in any danger," Lt. Col. Ed Thomas
That may be true, acknowledged retired USAF major general Don
Shepperd... but the incident is still alarming.
"This is a major gaffe, and it's going to cause some heads to
roll down the line," said Shepperd, who now works as a military
analyst for CNN. Sheppard went on to say the incident would appear
to violate a Cold War-era treaty banning the aerial transport of
The plane's crew was apparently unaware the missiles were
nuclear-ready. The warheads were not armed, and officials say had
the aircraft crashed or the missiles become detached from the
wings, they would have remained inert.
Sheppard says it's true the weapons likely would not have
triggered a nuclear blast in those scenarios... but that's still
small comfort. "Any time you have nuclear material on board, if the
airplane crashes, nuclear material can be spread in the immediate
area of the crash, so you get radioactivity in the immediate area
of the crash," he said.
"This is serious business but it was not dangerous
As the incident involved nuclear warheads, President Bush was
also notified of the error.