The 2007 United States Air Force nuclear weapons incident occurred at Minot Air Force Base and Barksdale Air Force Base on August 29–30, 2007. Six AGM-129 ACM cruise missiles, loaded with a W80-1 variable yield nuclear warhead, were reportedly mistakenly loaded on a United States Air Force (USAF) B-52H heavy bomber at Minot and transported to Barksdale. The nuclear warheads in the missiles were supposed to have been removed before taking the missiles from their storage bunker. The missiles with the nuclear warheads were not reported missing and remained mounted to the aircraft at both Minot and Barksdale for a period of 36 hours. During this period, the warheads were not protected by the various mandatory security precautions required for nuclear weapons.
The incident was reported to the top levels of the United States (U.S.) military and referred to by observers as a Bent Spear incident, which indicates a nuclear weapon incident that is of significant concern, but does not involve the immediate threat of nuclear war. The USAF, however, has yet to officially classify the incident.
In response to the incident, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and USAF conducted an investigation, the results of which were released on October 19, 2007. The investigation concluded that nuclear weapons handling standards and procedures had not been followed by numerous USAF personnel involved in the incident. As a result, four USAF commanders were relieved of their commands, numerous other USAF personnel were disciplined and/or decertified to perform certain types of sensitive duties, and further cruise missile transport missions from and nuclear weapons operations at Minot Air Force Base were suspended. In addition, the USAF issued new nuclear weapons handling instructions and procedures.
Separate investigations by the U.S. Defense Science Board and a USAF "Blue Ribbon" panel reported that concerns existed on the procedures and processes for handling nuclear weapons within the U.S. DoD but did not find any failures with the security of U.S. nuclear weapons. Based on this and other incidents, on June 5, 2008, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General T. Michael Moseley, resigned. In response to recommendations by a review committee, in October 2008 the USAF announced the creation of Air Force Global Strike Command to control all USAF nuclear bombers, missiles, and personnel.
Unauthorized Transfer of Nuclear Warheads Briefing [7 Pages, 190kb]
Commander Directed Investigation [67 Pages, 2.4MB]
Sole Vouching Authority Storage Structure Procedures [13 Pages, 14kb]
Index of Witnesses [222 Pages, 10.3MB]
Index of Exhibits [173 Pages, 4.3MB]