70 punished in nuke mistake
AIR FORCE: Probe of flight of armed weapons finds “erosion of adherence to ? standards.” By Pauline Jelinek THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON – The Air Force said Friday it has punished 70 airmen involved in the accidental, cross-country flight of a nuclear-armed B-52 bomber following an investigation that found widespread disregard for the rules on handling such munitions. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.“There has been an erosion of adherence to weapons-handling standards at Minot Air Force Base and Barksdale Air Force Base,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Newton, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations. Newton was announcing the results of a six-week probe into the Aug. 29 and 30 incident in which the B-52 was inadvertently armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and flown from Minot in North Dakota to Barksdale in Louisiana without anyone noticing the mistake for more than a day. The missiles were supposed to be taken to Louisiana, but the warheads were supposed to have been removed beforehand. A main reason for the error was that crews had decided not to follow a complex schedule under which the status of the missiles is tracked while they are disarmed, loaded, moved and so on, one official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record. The airmen replaced the schedule with their own “informal” system, he said, though he didn’t say why they did that nor how long they had been doing it their own way. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said she believed the Air Force had done a thorough investigation, but the findings were “a warning sign that there has been degradation” of attitudes toward the handling of the weapons. “These are not just rules that people dreamed up … just so they could check off the boxes,” she said. “This is fundamentally important to the security of the country and the world.” Highest ranked among those punished were four officers who were relieved this week of their commands, including the 5th Bomb Wing commander at Minot, Col. Bruce Emig, who also has been the base commander since June. In addition, the wing has been “decertified from its wartime mission,” Newton said. Some 65 airmen have been decertified from handling nuclear weapons. The certification process looks at a person’s psychological profile, any medications they are taking and other factors. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!