U.S. Bomber Wing Completes Nuclear Inspection

(Nov. 19) -Crews demonstrate nuclear safety procedures on a cruise missile during an inspection last week at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. (Alexandra Sandoval/U.S. Air Force).
(Nov. 19) -Crews demonstrate nuclear safety procedures on a cruise missile during an inspection last week at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. (Alexandra Sandoval/U.S. Air Force).

U.S. Air Force examiners have completed a no-notice inspection of the nuclear bomber unit at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., the installation announced yesterday (see GSN, Oct. 27).

Air Force bases with nuclear weapons have been under additional scrutiny for more than a year, since air crews mistakenly loaded nuclear-armed cruise missiles onto a B-52 bomber at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., last August. The weapons were flown to Barksdale and their location could not be determined for about 36 hours.

Minot subsequently failed a "nuclear surety inspection" designed to test its proper implementation of security measures over nuclear warheads, but the base took corrective steps and passed a later review (see GSN, Aug. 18). More recently, an Air Force missile unit in Montana failed a nuclear surety inspection (see GSN, Nov. 13).

Barksdale officials refused to say whether the base had passed last week's inspection, asserting that such a judgment should come from the Air Combat Command, which conducted the review.

“The wing performed exceptionally well on this inspection,” said ACC spokeswoman Maj. Michelle Coghill. She said the command does not reveal specific ratings.

A Barksdale press release also indicated that base personnel had done well.

"This inspection highlighted our ability to be trusted stewards of incredible combat power -- it's a capability that's second to none," said Col. Robert Wheeler, commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing, in the release. "Today's drill could be tomorrow's call to war. Deterrence is our business and making our enemies think twice has kept our nation safe for many decades."

"Nuclear surety inspections are the most demanding inspections we conduct, and conducting them on a no-notice basis ensures [Air Combat Command] airmen are maintaining the highest professional standards of accountability and responsibility in the control of nuclear weapons and nuclear-related material," added Brig. Gen. Joseph Reynes, ACC inspector general.

The 45-member inspection team specifically noted the strong performance of 56 Barksdale individuals and 25 teams, according to the release (Webb/Grossman, Global Security Newswire, Nov. 19).

November 19, 2008
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U.S. Air Force examiners have completed a no-notice inspection of the nuclear bomber unit at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., the installation announced yesterday (see GSN, Oct. 27).