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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Air Force releases B-52 munitions transfer investigation results

by Staff Sgt. Monique Randolph
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

10/19/2007 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- A senior Air Force official released results of the command-directed investigation stemming from a weapons transfer incident that occurred Aug. 30 when cruise missiles were loaded onto a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and transported to Barksdale AFB, La.

The Barksdale-assigned B-52 was prepared to transport 12 cruise missiles to Louisiana as part of a tactical ferry mission; however, six of the 12 missiles were not properly prepared for transport, said Maj. Gen. Richard Newton III, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements at the Pentagon.

General Newton attributed the loading and transport of the weapons to "a series of procedural breakdowns and human errors," stating that the six cruise missiles on that particular pylon "were not supposed to be moved."

"The extensive, six-week investigation found that this was an isolated event and the weapons never left the custody of Airmen and were never unsecured," General Newton said. "However, this incident is unacceptable to the people of the United States and to the United States Air Force."

Following the incident, Gen. Ronald Keys, Air Combat Command commander,  ordered an immediate investigation to be conducted by Maj. Gen. Douglas Raaberg, ACC director of Air and Space Operations. The investigation lasted six weeks.

Immediately following the incident, one ACC commander was relieved of command, and the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot was decertified from specific missions and suspended from performing tactical ferry operations. 

Since the investigation, several other officers have received administrative action and were relieved of command. Additionally, the Air Force conducted a service-wide stockpile inventory to verify there were no additional discrepancies, and enhanced management directives regarding the storage, tracking and labeling of all weapons.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne also directed nuclear security inspections for nuclear-capable units with oversight from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

As a result of the investigation, Air Combat Command officials will recertify the tactical ferry program prior to reinitiating B-52 ferry operations, General Newton said.

"We are aggressively examining and implementing corrective measures to our weapons handling and transfer process," he said. "Corrective action will ensure our munitions are handled precisely and safely 100 percent of the time.

"This was a serious error caused by a breakdown of procedural discipline by our Airmen," General Newton added. "We're accountable and we reassure the American people that the Air Force standards they expect are being met."

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