Last Summer, there was much angst in the U.S. Department of Defense when
it was discovered that six nuclear cruise missiles had accidentally been
mounted on a B-52 and flown halfway across the country. How could this happen?
investigations and studies later, it turns out the fault lies mainly with the
demise of SAC (Strategic Air Command) in 1992. Throughout the Cold War, SAC was
seen as the ever-powerful, ever-vigilant military organization that preserved
peace by scaring potential enemies half to death. SAC controlled most of the
U.S. nuclear weapons (the U.S. Navy controlled the nukes for its sea launched
missiles and aircraft). SAC controlled the bombers and ICBMs, as well as the
nuclear weapons they carried. SAC considered itself an elite operation, and was
pretty intense about whatever it did. SAC made sure the nukes were secure and
well taken care of. But when SAC was disbanded, the nukes were disbursed to two
different organizations (bombers to the
ACC, or Air Combat Command, and the ICBMs to the Space Command). Neither of
these outfits was as tight-assed as SAC, and that's what eventually led to the
unauthorized flight of the nuclear armed cruise missiles.
meanwhile, had no problems after the Cold War, because nothing changed. They
still had their nukes (although, as with the Air Force and Army, fear fewer of
them because of nuclear disarmament treaties entered into right at the end of
the Cold War), and still took care of them the same way (marines were involved
in this security, which is always a good thing).
nuclear weapons security look easy, and that lulled ACC into a false sense of
security. ACC stored nuclear warheads just like any other warhead, and it
became easy to get them mixed up. Read the paperwork wrong, and there you have
it. The SAC crowd may have been a little intense, but they knew what they were
dealing with, and took care of business for nearly half a century.