Thursday, September 13, 2007

Air Force Standing Down Tomorrow

After a mysterious episode last month in which six nuclear warheads were "mistakenly" transported from North Dakota to Louisiana under the wings of a B-52H bomber, Air Combat Command General Ronald Keys has called a command-wide "safety day" for Friday, September 14th.

Air Force Times reports:
The entire command — about 100,000 active-duty airmen — is standing down training flights and many other operations...
Newport News, Virginia's Daily Press provides some background on the B-52 incident:
On Aug. 30, a B-52 with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., a military official told The Associated Press.

The missiles, which are being decommissioned, were mounted onto pylons on the bomber's wings.

It is unclear why the nuclear warheads had not been removed beforehand.

The plane's crew, according to news reports, did not know they were carrying nuclear weapons.
The Daily Press story includes some official military double-talk:
Citing Defense Department policy forbidding the release of any information about nuclear weapons, Pentagon officials have not confirmed that nuclear weapons were involved in the incident.

However, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Bush were immediately notified of the incident, a Pentagon spokesman said.
As the Air Force Times notes,
... the safety stand-down is the first commandwide safety day in recent memory. In the past, the command has singled out specific types of aircraft for safety days ...
It is not clear what purpose is served by announcing that the Air Force will be stood down tomorrow.

What does seem clear is that anyone who might be planning mischief in the skies would benefit from such knowledge.