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USA UK and Malta News
19/10/2007 - 10:34

Editoweb USA News: Violation of Nuclear Safety

Air Force Officers to Be Fired for Violating Nuclear Safety

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 — The Air Force is planning to fire at least five officers for violations of nuclear security rules that allowed armed missiles to be mistakenly loaded on a B-52 bomber and flown over the central part of the United States, officials said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, are to be briefed Friday on the disciplinary plan and other results of an Air Force investigation of the flight, which took place on Aug. 30.

The B-52 flew from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles mounted under one wing. A total of 36 hours passed before the missiles were properly secured, officials have said.

Mr. Gates said Thursday that officials wanted to reduce the chances of another such episode “to the lowest level humanly possible.” But it “would be silly” to promise it will not happen again, he said at a news conference with Admiral Mullen.

Neither Mr. Gates nor Admiral Mullen commented on the pending disciplinary action.

Two Defense Department officials, who were not authorized to discuss the report on the record, said earlier Thursday that the Air Force investigation found that long-established procedures for handling the munitions had not been followed. One official said the report recommended that five or more officers be relieved of their duties.

The officials declined to say what procedures had not been followed. But the events in August would have required a series of lapses by a number of people.

The Air Force said last month that one munitions squadron commander was fired shortly after the flight and that ground crews and others involved had been temporarily decertified for handling weapons.

Hv/ On line news

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