Oct 26, 2010 9:38 PM by Alison Haynes
WASHINGTON (AP) - A computer failure caused a break in communication with 50 nuclear missiles at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming over the weekend, military officials said Tuesday.
The officials said the break occurred Saturday and lasted about 45 minutes. The White House was briefed about the failure Tuesday morning.
There was no evidence of foul play, and the Air Force never lost the ability to launch the missiles, the officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the incident publicly.
The Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles are part of the 319th Missile Squadron stockpiled at Warren Air Force Base near Cheyenne.
The Air Force's ICBM nuclear missile sites in Montana and North Dakota were not affected.
The computer failure appears to be linked to problem with an underground communications cable. Engineers are focusing on a piece of equipment in the launch control center that has been the subject of unspecified communications problems in the past, one of the officials said.
The White House referred questions to the Pentagon.
The failure was first reported by The Atlantic on the magazine's website.
The communications failure is the latest in a series of nuclear mishaps that have plagued the Air Force in recent years.
In August 2007, an Air Force B-52 bomber was mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and flown from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. At the time, the pilot and crew were unaware they had nuclear arms aboard.
Then, in March 2008, the Pentagon disclosed the mistaken shipment to Taiwan of four electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads and launched a broad investigation into the military's handling of nuclear related materials.
An internal report asserted that slippage in the Air Force's nuclear standards was a problem that has been identified but not effectively addressed for more than a decade. Those findings led to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to fire Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Gen. Michael Moseley, the Air Force
chief of staff.