Don’t drop a wrench, man: airmen perform maintenance on a Minuteman III missile. (credit: US Air Force)

You’ll be relieved to know that the public was never put in danger by a nuclear weapons incident that caused $1.8 million in damages to a Minuteman III missile in Colorado. But the accident, which happened in May of 2014, initially went unreported by the US Air Force even as a team of experts reviewed the service’s nuclear forces in the wake of a testing scandal and security failures.
The Associated Press received what it called “the first substantive description of the accident” last Friday following more than a year of requests to the Air Force.
Details of the incident have been kept secret by the Air Force because of their sensitive nature, but we now know the situation rendered an intercontinental ballistic missile inoperable. Three airmen were trying to troubleshoot the missile after it failed a diagnostic test and had become “non-operational.” Ultimately, the accident would likely have been categorized as a “Bent Spear” event, the code used by the military for damaged weapons (as opposed to “Broken Arrow,” the code for an accidental nuclear detonation or other weapons incident in peacetime).
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