MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The US military is still missing 6 nuclear weapons that were lost decades ago

Posted by M. C. on September 2, 2022

“Compared to the Soviet Union, the U.S. record is pretty impressive, given how many nuclear weapons it has operated and transported everywhere over the years,” Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, told Task & Purpose.

Makes one wonder about Israel, Afghanistan, India, China, France, UK…what else don’t we know?

BY DAVID ROZA

From car keys to glasses to rifles, everyone misplaces something important from time to time. But when you’re the U.S. government, sometimes that important thing is a superweapon that is designed to destroy cities and kill millions of people.

Over the decades, the U.S. military has had 32 nuclear accidents, also called “Broken Arrow” incidents. These incidents include accidental launches, radioactive contamination, loss of a nuclear weapon or other unexpected events involving nuclear weapons. Luckily, of those 32 accidents, there were only six U.S. nuclear weapons that could not be located or recovered, and of those six weapons, only one was capable of a nuclear detonation when it was lost.

While even one missing nuclear weapon sounds scary, it’s worth noting that the Soviet Union lost far more during the Cold War, often due to submarines sinking with a dozen or more nuclear missiles on board.

“Compared to the Soviet Union, the U.S. record is pretty impressive, given how many nuclear weapons it has operated and transported everywhere over the years,” Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, told Task & Purpose.

palomares
Barrels of contaminated soil collected at Palomares, Spain for removal to the United States, 1966. (U.S. Air Force)

In fact, U.S. government agencies often go to great lengths to secure lost weapons. One such incident occurred on Jan. 17, 1966, when a B-52 and a KC-135 refueling tanker collided over southern Spain and scattered four B-28 thermonuclear bombs around the fishing village of Palomares. The conventional explosives for two of the bombs exploded, but the nuclear components did not detonate because they were not armed. The U.S. military sent troops to pick up the undetonated one that fell on land, clean up the radioactive pieces scattered by the two which detonated, and find the fourth which landed in the sea. The U.S. government even dispatched a submarine to find the one in the Mediterranean Sea. Called ‘Alvin,’ the small deep-ocean sub was high-tech for its time, but the crew nearly died when the sub was almost entangled in the parachute that was still attached to the bomb on the ocean floor. Meanwhile, the service members who helped find the landward bombs and clean up the wreckage also developed cancers which they say are linked to that mission 56 years ago.

Considering the extent to which the U.S. looks for lost nukes like it did in Palomares, the stories behind the five instances where recovery crews could not locate or recover weapons are extraordinary.

See the rest here

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