- Some History
- Barksdale Missile Number Six deserves far more
public attention than it's received to date. Missile Number Six is
potentially the major story of at least this year.
- Until 1968 under the Airborne Alert Program,
informally called Operation Chrome Dome, the Air Force routinely kept
about a dozen strategic bombers with nuclear weapons flying at all
- One predictable result was crashes and incidents. In
1968 the Department of Defense published a list of 13 serious nuclear
weapons accidents that occurred between 1950 and 1968. In 1980 the
list was revised to include 32 incidents through that year.
- Notably, the Pentagon has not acknowledged any
accidents since 1980. This alone highlights the importance the
Pentagon is placing on the recent transportation of nuclear weapons
from North Dakota to Louisiana.
- Through 1968, several reported incidents involved
plane crashes or malfunctions, beginning with the crash of a B-29 near
Fairfield, California in August 1950. The resulting blast was felt 30
- In July 1950 a B-50 crashed near Lebanon, Ohio. The
high-explosive trigger for the nuclear weapon detonated on impact. The
blast was felt over 25 miles away.
- In May 1957 a nuclear weapon fell from the bomb bay
of a B-36 near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Parachutes malfunctioned and
the weapon was destroyed on impact.
- In October 1957 near Homestead, Florida a B-47
crashed. The nuclear weapon was burned.
- In March 1958 a B-47 accidentally dropped a nuclear
weapon near Florence, South Carolina. The high-explosive trigger
detonated on impact.
- In November 1958 a B-47 crashed near Abilene, Texas.
The trigger of the nuclear weapon exploded upon impact.
- In July 1959 a C-124 crashed near Bossier City,
Louisiana. Both plane and nuclear weapon were destroyed.
- In October 1959 a B-52 with two nuclear weapons was
involved in a mid-air collision near Hardinsburg, Kentucky. One weapon
- In January 1961 a B-52 broke apart in mid-air near
Goldsboro, North Carolina. Two nuclear weapons were released. The
parachute on one weapon malfunctioned, and contamination was spread
over a wide area. The uranium core was never recovered. Daniel
Ellsberg reported that detonation was a very real risk because five of
six safety devices failed.
- In that month near Monticello, Idaho a B-52 carrying
nuclear weapons exploded in mid-air. No information was made available
as to the weapons.
- In March 1961 a B-52 with two nuclear weapons
crashed near Yuba City, California.
- In January 1964 a B-52 carrying two nuclear weapons
crashed near Cumberland, Maryland.
- In January 1966 a B-52 carrying four hydrogen bombs
crashed after a mid-air collision near Palomares, Spain. Two weapons
exploded on impact, with resulting plutonium contamination. A
months-long program was undertaken to locate and extract the other two
weapons from the ocean. Major policy changes were taken under
- In January 1968 a B-52 carrying four hydrogen
weapons crashed and burned near Thule AFB in Greenland. Explosives in
one bomb detonated, spreading plutonium contamination. Apparently, the
other three weapons have never been accounted for.
- Following large public protests Denmark, which owns
Greenland and prohibits nuclear weapons on or over its territory,
filed a strong protest. A few days later the Secretary of Defense
ordered the removal of nuclear weapons from planes. After that order
was issued, all aircraft armed with nuclear weapons were grounded but
kept in a constant state of alert.
- In 1991 by Presidential order, nuclear weapons were
removed from all aircraft. Bomber nuclear ground alerts, during which
nuclear weapons are loaded onto bombers during test and training
exercises, were halted. After that time, all nuclear weapons to be
delivered by plane were permanently maintained in secure storage
- August 30, 2007
- All of which makes the transport of nuclear weapons
in combat position on a combat plane so newsworthy.
- On August 30, for the first time since 1968, nuclear
warheads in combat position were carried by an American bomber.
Numerous international treaty provisions were violated in the
- That Thursday, a B-52H Stratofortress flew from
Minot AFB in North Dakota to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana while carrying
twelve cruise missiles. Either five or six of those missiles were
armed with nuclear warheads.
- Cruise Missiles
- The missiles on the B-52 were AGM-129 Advanced
Cruise Missile units, specifically designed to be launched from wing
pods of B-52H planes.
- A total of 460 units were manufactured by Raytheon.
A total of 394 units are currently maintained by the Air Force.
Apparently, 38 are to be modernized and upgraded in Fiscal Year 2008
and the other 356 are to be decommissioned pursuant to the 2002 Moscow
- Raytheon has publicly announced the AGM-129 missiles
are to be modified to accomplish a "classified cruise missile
mission". This has widely been interpreted to mean conversion to
bunker-busters, most likely for use in Iran. This widely accepted
explanation is being used to explain why armed cruise missiles are
being flown in American airspace.
- Nuclear Warheads
- The AGM-129 was specifically designed to deliver a
W-80 nuclear warhead. The W-80 weapon has a variable yield capability,
of 5 to 150 kilotons. For comparison purposes, the bomb used on
Hiroshima was 13 to 15 kilotons, or equivalent to 13,000 to 15,000
tons of TNT explosive.
- News Stories and Flawed Explanations
- The story of the B-52 flight was first reported by
Army Times, owned by Gannett, on Wednesday September 5. Gannett relied
on information provided by "anonymous officers". The story was picked
up by Yahoo Wednesday morning, published by USA Today and The
Washington Pos, and then quickly spread.
- In response, the Pentagon quickly spread an official
- The Air Force admitted to an inadvertent error: The
intent was to transport ACMs without weapons. According to military
officers, the nuclear warheads should have been removed before the
missiles were mounted on the pylons under the wings of the
- In the words of the Pentagon:
- "There was an error which occurred during a
regularly scheduled transfer of weapons between two bases. The weapons
were safe and remained in Air Force control and custody at all
- For almost the first time in the history of the
nation, the military has publicly and promptly admitted it "made a
mistake". This in itself is truly astounding.
- To reinforce the military's claim that a mistake was
made, a system-wide stand-down was ordered for September 14.
- That official explanation was quickly explained
away. The mistake was made intentionally, so a "deliberate leak" of a
secret operation could occur.
- The CIA and the Office of Counter-Terrorism in the
State Department explained that Barksdale AFB is a "jumping off point"
for re-supply of the Middle East.
- The "deliberate leak" was intended to serve as a
veiled warning to Iran. This deliberately misleading explanation is
evidently intended to lead the public or Iran or both to logically
conclude the missiles are bound for Iran.
- Bluntly, State and the CIA converted a whistleblower
leak by true American patriots into a deliberate leak by official
Washington, to scare Iran.
- By this means Washington has led the public to
forget or overlook the real issue.
- To begin, the multiple official explanations reek to
high heaven. They collectively read suspiciously like flimsy cover
stories concocted in hasty desperation. And no amount of pretty
lipstick will be able to make the official explanations pretty.
- Transportation Violations
- More conflicting explanations followed. These
missiles are part of a group scheduled to be decommissioned. This
would explain why they were shipped out of North Dakota.
- But the missiles were not transported on their way
to decommissioning. Missiles are normally decommissioned at
Davis-Monthan AFB at Tucson. Nuclear weapons are decommissioned at the
Department of Energy's Pantex facility near Amarillo, Texas, accessed
through Kirkland AFB in New Mexico.
- And military policy requires minimization of the
number of flights made with nuclear weapons aboard. So the weapons
should not have been mounted on the missiles, flown to Louisiana,
un-mounted and flown to New Mexico.
- The mode of transportation is also a major issue not
defused by official explanations. Per standard operating procedures,
or SOPs, both missiles and nuclear warheads are transported primarily
by air, in specially modified C-130s or C-17s. Under no peacetime
circumstances do military SOPs allow transport of nuclear weapons
mounted in cruise missiles mounted in combat positions on combat
- Department of Defense Directive Number 4540.5,
issued on February 4, 1998, regulates logistic transportation of
- By delegation of Commanders of Combatant Commands,
movement of nuclear weapons must be approved by commanders of major
- Commanders of Combat Commands or service component
commanders must evaluate, authorize and approve transport modes and
movement routes for nuclear weapons in their custody.
- The Air Force is required to maintain a Prime
Nuclear Airlift Force capability to conduct the logistic transport of
- Under SOPs, combat planes with combat-ready nuclear
weapons can only be flown on the authority of the Commander in Chief,
the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the National Military Command
- All of these transportation regulations were
flagrantly violated on August 30.
- Handling Violations
- Violations of regulations concerning handling of the
nuclear weapons in North Dakota are worse.
- A sophisticated computerized tracking system is used
for nuclear weapons. Multiple sign-offs are required to remove the
weapons from their storage bunkers.
- The AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile was designed to
carry nuclear weapons. No non-nuclear warhead is available for this
missile. So the only possible error could have been loading nuclear
warheads on the missiles instead of practice dummies.
- The practice warheads have standard blue and yellow
signs declaring "Inert, non-nuclear". The nuclear warheads have at
least three distinctive red warning signs. This error is therefore
highly improbable, absent tampering with signage.
- Nuclear weapons are transported from the storage
bunker to the aircraft in a caravan that routinely includes vehicles
with machine guns front and rear and guards with M-16s. All steps in
the process are done under the watchful eyes of armed military
- Rules require that at least two people jointly
control every step of the process. If one person loses sight of the
other, both are forced to the ground face-down and temporarily "placed
under arrest" by observant security forces. All progress stops until
inspections are made to assure the weapons weren't tampered
- All nuclear weapons are connected to sophisticated
alarm systems to prevent removal or tampering. They could only be
removed from the storage bunker by turning the alarm off. And the
squad commander clearly would not have authority to turn off the
- The Impossible Mistake
- Bluntly, the mistake of loading nuclear weapons on a
combat aircraft in combat-ready position is simply not possible to
make. Safeguards are far too stringent and far too many people would
be involved. Particularly given that the mounting was in violation of
policy that's been in place without exception for almost 40
- No discipline is expected to be meted out. The New
York Times tried to imply the commanding general had been fired.
Actually, the squad commander in charge of munitions crews at Minot
was "relieved of duty pending an investigation". He has not been
removed from his position or disciplined. The crews involved have been
"temporarily decertified pending corrective actions or additional
training" but have not been disciplined. No mention has been made of
the wing commander.
- Note carefully: These actions amount to nothing at
all. The wing and squad commanders are still in place and the crews
can easily be re-certified.
- Successful Confusion
- Washington's efforts to confuse the public have been
successful. Attention has shifted from the crucial issue.
- This news has already become non-news. The August 14
stand-down will momentarily become news, followed by announcements of
more stringent restrictions, improved safeguards and additional
training. The public always has been and always will be safe.
- One of the major issues will be avoided:
- Someone in an irregular chain of Air Force command
authorized loading and transport of nuclear weapons.
- And that would never have been done without a
reason. Given the magnitude of regulatory violations involved, the
reason must be extremely important.
- The paramount issue will be avoided, if necessary
with repetition of the reassurance that the Air Force was in control
at all times. The weapons were only missing during the 3.5-hour
- At Barksdale, the missiles were considered to be
unarmed items headed for modernization or the scrap heap, and of no
particular importance. They were left unguarded for almost ten
- According to one report, almost ten hours were
required for airmen at Minot AFB to convince superiors that the
nuclear weapons had disappeared. According to information provided to
Congress, this time lapsed before airmen at Barksdale "noticed" the
weapons were present. News reports will continue to overlook this fact
- Even here the focus is on time. The number of
missiles and warheads issue was overlooked.
- Early news reports spoke of five nuclear warheads
loaded onto the bomber. Apparently, this information was provided from
- That number was later updated to six weapons missing
from Minot, apparently based on anonymous tips provided to Military
Times by people at Minot. This information has also been
- Six nuclear weapons disappeared from Minot AFB in
- Five nuclear weapons were discovered at Barksdale
AFB in Louisiana.
- Which leads to my chilling conclusion:
- Someone, operating under a special chain of command
within the United States Air Force, just stole a nuclear
- What next?
- The answer has been provided several times, most
recently by CIA Director and General Michael Hayden. On September 7,
dressed in full military uniform, Hayden told assembled members of the
Council of Foreign Relations:
- "Our analysts assess with high confidence that
al-Qaida's central leadership is planning high-impact plots against
the U. S. homeland."
- "We assess with high confidence that al-Qaida is
focusing on targets that would produce mass casualties, dramatic
destruction and significant aftershocks."
- An eye for an eye. Use of nukes will justify use of
nukes. A perfect excuse to wage nuclear war against Iran.
- I suspect Hayden is absolutely correct, except for
his mistaken identification of the "central leadership" that is
planning detonation of a nuclear weapon on American soil.