Showing posts with label ICBM. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ICBM. Show all posts

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Accidents Happen, then The Government Denies it


"I cannot confirm or deny that there has been an accident" is the standard explanation heard from the US military and politicians.  As shown in the recent documentary about the nuclear missile station accident in Damascus, Arkansas during 1980 we witness how our government and the local people handle nuclear weapons that are in our back yards.  

The incompetence from the Strategic Air Command station in dealing with nuclear bomb accidents and the shifting of blame to men in the field was the acme of the reasons for what occurred in Damascus, AR.  What most enlightening is the number thrown around of how many accidents have happened? Thousands...

The government has admitted to 32 broken arrows, or nuclear weapon accidents including the Damascus accident.
  1. 1980, another serious accident during the same week in 1980, Schlosser said, when a bomber loaded with 12 hydrogen bombs caught on fire at an air base in North Dakota
  2. May 16, 2014, two years ago at a Minuteman 3 missile site in Colorado, Schlosser said, that has received little attention. What we know about the Colorado accident “is very similar to what happens in the film,” Schlosser said. “There were some maintenance guys working on a Minuteman missile in the silo. They were doing some diagnostic tests and something went wrong. They brought in another team the next day and something really went wrong.”   "The summary said the full report was classified on Nov. 9, 2015, by Gen. Robin Rand, who took over as commander of Air Force Global Strike Command in July 2015." from silo Juliet-07 (1 of 10 silos that straddles Co-Ne border). Under command by the 320th Missile Squadron and administered by the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, causing $1.8 million in damages
Source Salon Mag 9-14-2014 and Denver Post, 1-22-2016, 9 miles west of Peetz, Colorado, Air Force Base, Mishap at Colorado Silo damaged Nuclear Missile
Read more about them at

The American Experience Film, Command And Control

You Tube Video on PBS Show of Command and Control

Salon magazine article, The Night We Almost Lost Arkansas"
Sept 14, 2016 by Andrew O'Hehir, about the nonfiction book by Author Eric Schlosser and filmmaker Robert Kenner
You might assume that a massively powerful nuclear warhead, which Schlosser said was “three times more powerful than all the bombs used by all the armies in the Second World War,” including the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, would have multiple and redundant safety features to protect it from such a fluke event. You would be wrong.
Schlosser pointed out, “We don’t know if the warhead was armed, and we don’t know how serious an accident it was. The Air Force by law is supposed to release an accident investigation report, and they’ve refused to do that in this case.”

Florida Today NEWS article (part of USA Today), Jan. 6, 2017, by James Dean
Titusville man, Jeff Devlin, recalls Damascus nuclear missile accident
Greg Devlin and his Propellant Transfer System teammates were told their participation was voluntary, but the young Air Force airmen felt it was their duty to help.
“We’re sitting there with this massive, monster missile leaking this extremely hazardous fuel,” recalled Devlin of Titusville, then a 21-year-old senior airman. “You realized the danger, but you’re thinking, let’s go make something happen, let’s go fix this thing or let’s get out of here.”
On top of the Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile at Launch Complex 374-7 in Damascus, Arkansas, on Sept. 18, 1980, was a nine-megaton thermonuclear warhead more powerful than all the bombs dropped in World War II combined.
If the missile collapsed and blew up, “what would happen to the warhead was anybody’s guess,” the commander at the time of the 308th Strategic Missile Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base says in “Command and Control,” a documentary airing Tuesday on PBS that recounts the scary accident.
Devlin is featured in the American Experience film, based on the 2013 book of the same title by Eric Schlosser, that warns of the risk of an accidental detonation at home by nuclear weapons that the public no longer worries much about.
He's one of at least four Brevard County residents who played roles in the Damascus accident that killed one airman and injured 21 more — Devlin among them — but fortunately did not result in the worst-case scenario.
Titusville residents Patrick "Buddy" Boylan and Rick Willinghurst also were on the teams that handled hazardous propellants, and North Brevard resident Matt Arnold helped recover the W-53 warhead, the most powerful weapon the nation has ever developed.
“If you survived that night, you were lucky to be alive afterward,” said Devlin, now a 57-year-old grandfather.
A dropped tool set the crisis in motion.
Two Propellant Transfer System technicians on an earlier shift, wearing space suit-like protective gear, were attempting to connect a nitrogen line to the Titan II to pressurize its upper-stage oxidizer tank, which was showing low pressure that would have prevented it from launching.
It was expected to be a simple, in-and-out job. But more than 11 hours into their shift, senior airman Dave Powell, then 21, had forgotten to bring a torque wrench into the underground silo.
He instead tried to disconnect a cap with an available socket wrench, which had been standard practice in prior years, but the wrench wasn’t working properly.
The nine-pound socket fell off the wrench, through a seal between the work platform and missile and dropped — seemingly in slow motion — about 70 feet. The socket hit the stand that held the Titan II upright and ricocheted into the base of the missile, puncturing a hole that immediately began to spurt a cloud of highly toxic fuel.
“As it was falling I was thinking, ‘Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no,” Jeffrey Plumb, then a 19-year-old airman in training, says in the film.
Launch Complex 374-7, one of 54 Titan II missile sites spread across three states, was evacuated as senior officials in Little Rock and at Strategic Air Command’s Omaha headquarters tried to figure out what to do.
Devlin remembers waiting and waiting for instructions.
Unbeknownst to him, missile manufacturer Martin Marietta had recommended staying away from the complex. But early on Sept. 19, Devlin and teammate Rex Hukle were asked to enter the complex to get readings confirming the concentration of fuel inside the silo.
He started the job with bolt cutters and a crowbar needed to get through a perimeter wire fence and a portal door.
“There’s only two guys in history to break into a nuclear missile complex,” he jokes now. “But that’s what we had to do, because there was no one in the silo, no commanders to electronically open the gate to let you in.”
Devlin and Hukle made it to a 6,000-pound blast door several stories underground, where they would normally gain entry by providing top secret codes that they immediately burned. But they were unable to open the door with a hydraulic pump that they had never used and did not install properly.
Their air packs permitted only about a half-hour of work, so they returned above ground to the perimeter about 100 feet from the silo and were replaced by teammates Dave Livingston and Jeff Kennedy, who successfully opened a series of blast doors.
In a room so thick with fuel vapor that it threatened to melt his suit, Kennedy confirmed detectors showing the concentration of fuel in the silo were maxed out and eight red warning lights were illuminated.
The missile exploded shortly after Kennedy and Livingston emerged from the silo, around 3 a.m.
The blast wave hit Devlin, still wearing protective gear on his legs, like a Mack truck. He was doubled over and launched backward, sliding 60 feet down an access road.
“I could see glowing steel and concrete that looked like lava blowing past me at a high rate of speed,” he said. “The only thing that went through my brain was, it’s over. I know I’m going to die here. I hope it’s not painful. 
Devlin heard a scream close to his ear: “Run! Run!” He saw no one, and attributes the urgent warning to a guardian angel.
After he had run five steps, a chunk of concrete larger than a school bus landed where he had been lying. As he ran, a rod of inch-thick steel rebar shattered his left ankle, dropping him to the ground.
The W-53 warhead landed in a ditch across the road, perhaps 50 feet from Devlin. Separated from any power source, the warhead posed no risk, officials determined after finding it later in the day.
Buddy Boylan helped transport Devlin to a hospital on the bed of a truck, fearing he wouldn't make it. In addition to the ankle injury, Devlin required painful skin grafts to treat burns to his face, neck and back. The film shows photos of the injuries from his personal album.
Most people anywhere near the scene, including media gathered miles down the road, fled, fearing a nuclear blast. Windows shattered in homes miles away.
Livingston and Kennedy, presumed dead, were at first left behind before being rescued. Livingston reached a hospital but died within 12 hours. Kennedy died in 2011.
The Damascus accident was widely reported but quickly forgotten. The Air Force blamed the Propellant Transfer System technicians for having used the wrong tool, and some of those who heroically risked their lives to try to help prevent a disaster. Kennedy, who at one point broke protocol to collect fuel readings on his own instead of with a partner, was reprimanded.
Relegated to a cafeteria position, Devlin suddenly felt unwelcome in the Air Force, where he had planned to make a career. He was part of a group awarded the Airman's Medal for Heroism, but left the service soon after. He and three others later won small sums in a lawsuit against Martin Marietta.
The Air Force initially would not confirm that the Titan II was armed with a warhead. Official and some press accounts insisted the design of nuclear weapons made a detonation that could have wiped out Arkansas and blown a cloud of radiation eastward was impossible.
“Command and Control” suggests otherwise, arguing that the potential for an accident is systemic.
A combination of careful design, hard work and luck prevented a nightmare outcome in Damascus, and in hundreds of other accidents that went unreported, even to the top officials at the Sandia Laboratory in New Mexico.
“Nuclear weapons will always have a chance of an accidental detonation,” Bob Peurifoy, then head of weapon development at Sandia Laboratory, says in the documentary. “It will happen. It may be tomorrow, or it may be a million years from now, but it will happen.”
After the Air Force, Devlin found work on life support teams at Kennedy Space Center, helping crews who performed hazardous fueling operations and were among the first to meet a space shuttle after landing.
He left for more than a decade following the Challenger disaster but returned to the space space center, ultimately leaving in 2010 as a 100 percent disabled veteran. He suffers from a bad back that he traces to his injuries from the missile explosion.
Devlin said he learned a lot from Schlosser’s reporting on the Damascus accident and others he hadn't known about, and is glad the story was told.
He expects that most readers and viewers, whatever their opinions on nuclear arms, will be surprised to learn that “we have nuclear weapons around us all over the place, and that there’s a minute, a slight possibility of one exploding.
“So the best thing is, if we have lots of people talking about it, hopefully we’ll figure this situation out,” he said. “Because while the risk of an explosion is slim, the slim still exists.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Once Close to Home, Nuclear Weapons, ICBM?

Rehearsal for Armageddon, ICBM, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. While our country had been testing nuclear weapons in the USA since 1945, they had also been storing them in our back yards since the 1950s.  

Do not go into any of the old silos without permission from the owners and with proper protection since they dangerous, hazardous, and privately owned.

The weapon locations have either been demolished, abandoned filled with rust, dust, lead paint, black mold, trash, and asbestos, or sold to private owners.
  1. Atlas (D sites (30 locations from 1959-1964, California), E sites (28 sites, California, Washington, Wyoming, Kansas), F sites (72 locations: Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nebraska, New York))
  2. Titan I, 6 bases, 18 operational sites in 5 states, 3 missiles each, began in 1959 and was completed in 1962.  By 1965 every single Titan I site and all the Atlas sites, were shut down and later scrapped and abandoned.  None was operational for 4 years.
  3. Titan II, 108 produced in 1963
  4. Minuteman II, 1966, Whiteman AFB Missouri
  5. Minuteman III, from 1971, 450 still operational
Titan II,18 at Little Rock AFB, 2 Strategic Missile Squadrons (SMSs) of 9 missiles each
  • Pulaski County, Jacksonville
  • Van Buren County, accident
  • Cleburne County
  • Faulkner County
  • White County

Titan II, 18 at Davis-Montham AFB2 Strategic Missile Squadrons (SMSs) of 9 missiles each
Titan Missile Museum, 20 miles south of Tucson


Atlas D, 6 at Vandenburg AFB
Atlas E, 1 at Vandenburg AFB
Titan I, 9, from 1961, Chico at Beale AFB, Cost of $40 million, accident in 1962, rebuilt for $20 million

Titan I, 18 sites near Deer Trail, Aurora, south of Elizabeth, Lowry AFB, 724th and 725th SMS
Minuteman III near Peetz, 10 silos on border with Nebraska

Titan I, 9, from 1961-1965, Mountain Home AFB

Atlas E, 9, (Rock Creek, Worden, Waverly, Burlingame, Bushong, Dover, Wamego, Delia, Holton), Forbes AFB, 548th SMS
Atlas F, 12 in Salina, Schilling AFB
Titan II, 18 in Osage City at McConnell AFB, 2 SMSs of 9 missiles each

Minuteman, 150 at Whiteman AFB

Minuteman IA, 200 at Malmstrom AFB
Minuteman III, 150 at Malmstrom AFB

Atlas D, 9 at Offutt AFB
Atlas F,12 at Lincoln AFB, 551st SMS

New Mexico
Atlas F, 12 in Roswell, Walker AFB, 579st SMS, 12 locations

North Dakota
Minuteman III, 150, Minot AFB
Minuteman, 150, Grand Forks AFB

New York
Atlas F, 12 in Lewis, Plattsburgh AFB, 556th SMS

Atlas F, 12 at Altus AFB, 577th SMS

South Dakota
Titan I, 9, from 1960-1965, Box Elder, Ellsworth AFB 
Minuteman, 150, Ellsworth AFB

Atlas F, 12 sites in Abilene, Dyess AFB, 578th SMS (Corinth, Anson, Nolan, Shep, Winters, Bradshaw, Lawn, Oplin, Denton, Clyde, Albany, Phantom Lake)

Titan I, 9, from 1961-1965, Moses Lake, Larson AFB, Deer Park
Atlas E, 9 sites at Fairchild AFB

Atlas D, 15 sites at  F.E. Warren AFB
Atlas E, 9 sites at F.E. Warren AFB
Minuteman, 200, F.E, Warren AFB
Minuteman III, 150, F.E. Warren AFB

Titan ISM-68HGM-25A
Titan IISM-68BLGM-25C
Minuteman ISM-80LGM-30A/BHSM-80
Minuteman IILGM-30F
Minuteman IIILGM-30G


The Pentagon is embarking on an ambitious new plan to develop and build a next generation nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile. But experts question if the U.S. military really needs to spend billions of dollars on a new missile when the service’s current Minuteman III could easily be refurbished and used for decades to come.

Moreover, there are serious questions about whether the U.S. even needs a land-based ICBM—especially when the Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the American taxpayer is on the hook for at least $348 billion over the ten years to pay for its range of air-, sea-, and land-based nuclear weapons.

A number of experts—including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel—have written that land-based ICBMs are only really useful against single foe: Russia. But there are other nuclear adversaries on the horizon, including China, North Korea, and even Iran. Against them, Hagel and others have written, such weapons would be largely ineffective because they would have to overfly Russian airspace.

“The Government is preparing to acquire a replacement for the MM III [Minuteman III] intercontinental ballistic missile system that replaces the entire flight system,” reads an Air Force document of posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website on Jan. 23. “The new weapon system will use the existing Mk12A and Mk21 Reentry Vehicles (RV) in the single and multiple RV configurations. The remainder of the missile stack will be replaced.”

But arms control advocates say that the Pentagon is looking for something it doesn’t need. “There is no need to build a new ICBM,” Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, told The Daily Beast. “RAND did a report last year showing that the United States can maintain the ICBM leg of the [nuclear] triad [of bombers, ballistic missile submarines and land-based missiles] for decades to come by simply pursuing refurbishment,” Reif said. “That would be much cheaper.”

The counter argument is that though the Minuteman III has been refurbished many times, the older the weapon gets, the harder and more difficult it is to maintain. That means that the Pentagon would have to spend ever increasing sums of money to keep the 40-year-old Minuteman III viable. The Air Force wants to field the new ICBM “in the 2027 time frame” due to Minuteman’s rocket and guidance ageing-out and not having enough spare missiles lying around.

Yet the missiles are not quite the creaky old machines they appear to be. In recent years, the missiles’ engines, guidance systems, and other parts have been replaced.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, it costs about $2.6 billion per year to maintain the ICBM force. That sounds like alot—it is a lot—but it’s a relative pittance, compared to the cash needed to maintain the other legs of the nuclear triad. And building replacements from scratch could cost much more. Further, the Pentagon could save a lot of money by reducing the number of existing ballistic missiles. “The ICBM force is the least important leg of the triad,” Reif said.

The Air Force’s ICBM force is largely designed to be a sponge to absorb part of a massive hypothetical Cold War-style Soviet nuclear attack. “An adversary would have to fire hundreds, if not thousands, of missiles to eliminate that leg of the triad,” Reif said. The only potential adversary capable of doing so is Russia—China only has about 100 missiles that are able to hit U.S. territory.

A 2012 report co-authored by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, among others, made a similar argument, that land-based ICBMs are only useful against Russia. That is because to hit other potential targets like China, Iran and North Korea, the missiles would have to overfly Russia.

“ICBMs can only support nuclear wartime operations against Russia because current-generation ICBMs fired from the existing three bases on their minimum energy trajectories have to overfly Russia and China to reach targets in potentially adversarial third countries (e.g., Iran, North Korea), and fly dangerously close to Russia to reach Syria,” reads the 2012 Global Zero U.S. Nuclear Policy Commission Report. “U.S. ICBMs would also have to overfly Russia to reach targets in China.”

Therefore, Reif noted, ICBMs are inherently inflexible weapons that are of limited utility. But getting rid of them is extremely controversial, even if they are more or less costly white elephants.

Mark Gunzinger, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and former Air Force B-52 pilot, disagreed. He told The Daily Beast that maintain a nuclear triad of bombers, missile submarines and ICBMs is necessary. “Without a land-based ICBM, we would be in a situation where an enemy would only need to strike a very small number of targets to greatly diminish our strategic deterrence posture,” he said. “We have three bases for nuclear-capable bombers and two bases for SSBNs [ballistic missile submarines]. SSBNs at sea during an unannounced, ‘bolt from the blue’ nuclear strike would be secure, but the entire boomer fleet is not at sea during peacetime.”

But even if an enemy nuclear first strike eliminated the bomber and submarine bases, there are a number of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines at sea at all times. Those submarines can carry up to 24 Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) each carrying multiple warheads. Those submarines would be able to launch a devastating counter-attack on any enemy or combination of enemies. “That would ruin anyone’s day,” Rief said.

It costs about $2.6 billion per year to maintain the ICBM force. That sounds like alot – it is a lot – but building replacements from scratch could cost much more.

The U.S. Navy is already planning on shelling out over $100 billion to develop and build a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines. While the Navy is refurbishing its fleet of Trident IIs nuclear missiles, it it, for now, deferring the construction of new ones; part of the reasoning for that is the exorbitant cost of the weapons, Reif said. The Navy is already fretting over how the bill for those submarines will impact the rest of its fleet.

Meanwhile the Air Force has embarked on a project to build a new extremely stealthy Long-Range Strike Bomber and associated Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. The Air Force hopes to buy between 80 and 100 of the new nuclear-capable stealth bombers for roughly $550 million each—plus the cost of development for both the aircraft and the LRSO missile. Meanwhile, the Pentagon and Department of Energy will shell out $6.8 billion to develop a new nuclear warhead for the new LRSO cruise missile.

Now, on top of the expense of building a ballistic missile submarine for $4.9 billion each—if we’re lucky—a new bomber and a new cruise missile, the Pentagon wants to buy a new ICBM, Reif said.

It’s a decision that comes as a surprise to some arms control experts. “I was very interested to see that because up to this point I was operating under the assumption that the Air Force had yet to decide how exactly they would pursue a follow-on to the Minuteman III,” Reif said.

Even the CBO—which issued a report earlier this month on the cost of maintaining America’s nuclear forces through 2024—seems to have been caught by surprise. “The department plans to operate the current Minuteman III ICBM through 2030. Although it is considering several options for fulfilling the ICBM’s mission after 2030—such as refurbishing existing missiles, developing a new missile, or both—its plans are not final,” reads the CBO report.

The CBO had anticipated that Air Force would defer developing a new missile until it had completed refurbishing its existing weapons—which would have saved some money over the long-term.

But as the Air Force document indicates, the Pentagon is already getting the ball rolling to replace its Minuteman III arsenal. But why now?

“There is a lot that must be done before the Air Force finalizes key performance parameters for a new ICBM and issues an RFP [request for proposals] to industry,” Gunzinger said. “A replacement missile will then have to be developed, tested, launched, and go through a certification process to ensure it will be safe and reliable.  This takes time.  Developing a non-nuclear major weapon system typically takes ten or more years.  This is something that we want to take the time to do right—it is about sustaining our nations strategic deterrence posture.”

Another part major reason is that defense companies need the Pentagon’s business to keep missile engineers busy. While arm-manufacturers like Lockheed Martin—which builds the Navy’s Trident D5 nuclear missile—still have the engineers to develop a new missile, they might not in a few years.

The Russians—whose industry imploded in the years since the collapse of the Soviet Union—have had all sorts of troubles building new nuclear missiles to replace their old Cold War-era hardware. Without a new project to work on, engineers and factory workers find other jobs—since people have families to feed. “It would be interesting to ask industry if the answer would still be ‘yes’ [we have the engineering talent] if a new ICBM program were delayed another ten years,” Gunzinger said.

Gunzinger admits that a new ICBM will be expensive, but said it is a necessary price to pay. “It will be expensive, but maintaining our nation’s strategic deterrence posture is worth the investment,” he said. “I would never try to evaluate the cost effectiveness of our nuclear triad from the ‘will it be used in combat’ perspective.  Rather, we should ask what is needed to ensure that it is never used and our enemies understand that a nuclear act of aggression against the United States risks a devastating response.”