Nuclear tipped cruise missiles were moved flown by B-52 from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale AFB, Lousiana, last Friday August 30.
I have reviewed at least two dozen news reports trying to make sense of the source material and I would like to share my cut and paste summary with you.
The Military Times is the original source for the story. (Here's a link to the same story copied in the Navy Times because the source for the original aritcle is already gone: http://www.navytimes.com/news/2007/09/marine_nuclear_B52_070904w/) The journalist, Michael Hoffman, bases the story on "three officers who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the incident."
Nuclear armed B-52 flights are not common:
According to the Global Security Newswire:
The risk of flying accidents, however, led the United States to abandon all nuclear-armed bomber flights in 1968, according to Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert with the Federation of American Scientists.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush reduced the bomber alert status further by ordering nuclear weapons to be removed from the aircraft and kept in nearby storage facilities.
In a follow up article from Michael Hoffman of the Military Times:
As a gesture to Russia and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the first Bush administration took it one step farther in 1991 by ordering all bombers to halt nuclear ground alerts, which allowed bomber crews to practice loading a nuclear warhead, but never taking off with one.
The Defense Department does transport nuclear warheads by air, but instead of bombers it uses C-17 or C-130 cargo aircraft.
The Chain of Custody, paperwork, and Command Control are exhaustive for verifiably secure handling of nuclear weapons.
Many credible comments on various news blogs state that the paperwork required to move nuclear munitions is redundant, exhaustive, taken very seriously, and so stringent that it is "idiot proof."
Comment from Democratic Underground.com:
I worked on nuclear submarines for the Navy at Mare Island Naval shipyard for 20 years. As a Nuc worker I handled nuclear material and weapons for 15 of those years. The controls on weapons and nuclear fuel is insanely tight.. This story just CAN’T happen. The amount of people involved in logistics..Code 105 radcon, Engineers, Nuclear riggers, Code 1390 Engineers..Gawd the paperwork involved for anyone of the groups to sign off on.
This story is impossible.. Something else is afoot..
Who signed off and who told them too?
AND WHY do we need to be moving nuclear weapons unless a logistics operation is underway?
IT JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN…They don’t just move weapons from Minot for the hell of it..
hey..we are a little low on thermonuclear tipped weapons this week..
OK, we’ll send you a few..
Make it 6
Comment from the Military Times:
Retired B-52 Crew Chief
Re: B-52 mistakenly flies with nukes aboard