Friday, July 25, 2014

Anti-Nuclear Hysteria Versus the Historical Facts





Copyright 2014 by Michael H. Maggelet

   With the advent of the internet, the anti-nuclear movement has spurned a whole slew of new conspiracy theories on nuclear weapons accidents. These range from a supposed Broken Arrow involving a B-52 crash near Monticello, Utah, to the purported accident at RAF Greenham Common in 1958, to the W53 at Damascus, Arkansas almost “incinerating the entire state”. In such cases, a review of the aircraft weight and balance sheet, and the declassified accident reports and AEC post mortems shed more light on the bizarre world of the anti-nuclear movement, where political activism, hysteria, and disinformation are key to aping the disarmament agenda. 
  Such is the case of one Eric Schlosser, whose background as an “investigative journalist” includes a book on fast food. Schlosser, among others, has made dozens of ludicrous claims by purporting to uncover “hundreds” of nuclear weapons accidents (which of course, are nothing more than incidents and accidents detailed in two books by Jim Oskins and myself). Schlosser contacted me wishing to use the Director of Nuclear Safety report on the Damascus, Arkansas Titan II accident a few months before his manifesto was published- so much for his claims of “exhaustive research”.
 
 
 

 
  Of course, to the anti-nuclear movement and conspiracy theorists, the facts don’t matter. This is evident in statements by several media anointed “nuclear weapons experts” who wouldn’t know a gun type from a sewer pipe. While Schlosser may be the ranking King of BS (“BullSchloss”), there are others with blogs typing out utter nonsense and “facts” which are intentionally distorted from declassified documents.

  Anti-nuclear activist Hans Kristensen is a Danish researcher who has proclaimed that the B53 bomb was “unsafe”. This is based off a declassified LLNL document which gave dubious “safety ratings” to various weapons. Kristensen contends that the 53 “… did not have Enhanced Nuclear Detonation Safety (ENDS), Insensitive High Explosive (IHE), Fire-Resistant Pit (FRP), Protective Action Link (PAL), or Command Disable (CD).” In fact, the 53 was produced in 1962, years before many of these concepts were implemented- ENDS in 1968, IHE was not required by DOD until 1984, and the 53 did not require a fire resistant pit since the Type 76 pit (U-235) does not present the contamination hazard of plutonium.1  

  PAL wasn’t a requirement for the SAC only B-53 when it was fielded, nor was command disable. All SAC B-52’s required at least three crew members to arm and release weapons using Aircraft Monitoring and Control equipment, and SAC’s B-52’s were maintained on ground alert after January 1968 (the Coded Switch Set was also introduced around 1970). PAL of course means “Permissive Action Link”, not “Protective Action Link”. So much for expertise.

  The 53 system has been involved in three accidents, with one warhead HE and pit melting in a fire at Bunker Hill AFB with minor contamination.  The W53 and B53 were safe, reliable, and exceptionally robust weapon systems. 2

  Douglas Keeney is another individual who takes license with historical fact. For example, he claims that one accident weapon “in Morocco that almost certainly went nuclear if only partially.” 3   He’s made some rather ridiculous statements regarding the lost Tybee Mark 15 Mod 0, including one that a lighting strike on the bomb could result in a nuclear explosion. 4
  Weapons such as the Mk 15 Mod 0, equipped with automatic in-flight insertion mechanisms did NOT fly airborne alert with nuclear capsules in the AIFI- they only sat ground alert. Keeney also used a significant portion of James Oskins recollections as a USAF 332X0 nuclear specialist at Biggs AFB, TX without permission for his book “15 Minutes- General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation.”
 


Mark 36 thermonuclear weapon identified in B-47 accident debris by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins (photo DOD) 

 

  Eric Schlosser’s recent “breaking news” in July 2014 with claims that a Sandia document is “proof” that one of the Mark 39 Mod 2 accident weapons near Faro, North Carolina (12 miles NE of Goldsboro) was “one step away” from detonation comes as no surprise. This is materially false, as the document in question, Sandia Corporation SC 81-61, clearly states that two solenoid safety switches in each of the two weapons were safe, electrically isolated and could not pass an electrical signal to the X-unit (pages 5, 11, 14, and 20). This is reiterated in documents declassified over a decade ago by the Department of Energy (“Official Observer’s Report, Air Force Accident, Goldsboro, North Carolina” by AEC/ALO rep Ross B. Speer). This myth originated from Daniel Ellsberg and has been perpetuated by others with no knowledge of the Mark 39’s sequence of operation (despite the fact such info has been declassified/sanitized and available to serious researchers for over seventeen years).  
  While the process to detonate the Mk 39 Mod 2 is complex, each weapon was individually armed through specific voltage and amperage through the DCU-47/A (T-380) readiness switch (controlled by the pilot), and the T-249 or DCU-9 monitored by the bomb-nav (or other crew member). Charging of X-unit components, to include saturable core transformers and spark gaps, could only take place after the MC-788 Ready/Safe Switch and MC-772 Electrical Arm/Disarm switches had been pre-armed via aircraft power and crew intent. The Mk 39 with an uncharged X-unit cannot be charged via the 12 volt nose impact piezo switch, nor can the piezo voltage bypass the two electrically operated solenoid safety switches in the safe position.
 

 

 

EOD and MMS personnel examine Mk 39 “Bomb 2” at Faro, North Carolina. This weapon was severely damaged on ground impact after falling several thousand feet. The two electrically operated safing switches were both found in a later post mortem to be “SAFE”. The weapon could not have detonated in a nuclear fashion since the high voltage thermal battery was not activated, and the X-unit and numerous other components were not activated nor fired. The bomb’s HE did not detonate and the pit was recovered, along with the full reservoir. The secondary punched through the nose of the weapon and has never been recovered. 

 

  Eric Schlosser’s anti-nuclear bias and political agenda are pretty evident in “independent” radio and Youtube video’s showing his disdain for the military and links to Leftist anti-nuclear organizations. Hardly a scholar, Schlosser has made dozens of ludicrous claims, a few of the most absurd I’ll address below.

Eric Schlosser Myths- “They were trying to do an emergency landing at one of our most top secret important military installations in Greenland which had a secret radar site there, and the pilot was just able to guide the B-52 away from this top secret installation and it crashed. Plutonium was spread all over the Arctic. Those hydrogen bombs could have detonated full scale!” (Jim Axelrod interview with Eric Schlosser on CBS News Online, Youtube, 21 September 2013).

Facts: The construction of Thule Air Base by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and USAF was public knowledge in 1953, and featured in numerous media outlets (“The Big Picture” television report on Thule, “Operation Blue Jay”, 1953, from the National Archives, and dozens of movie reports from Universal Newsreel on Thule AB from 1953 onwards). The BMEWS site was operational on 1 January 1961, and by November 1962 the Soviets had positioned a trawler near Thule with a history of cable cutting. 6

  The B-52G was intentionally flown over Thule where the aircrew bailed out, it then continued to fly and crashed more than 7.5 miles from the base on the sea ice. Danish AEC radiological health surveys prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Arctic is not heavily
contaminated with plutonium, nor does the dispersed plutonium oxide present a major health hazard to wildlife or the environment. The safety features in the four Mk 28 FI weapons worked as designed, and have proven time and again to be one point nuclear safe (two HE detonations at Palomares in 1966, four weapon HE detonations at Thule in 1968). 7

Mk 28 FI weapons in a clip-in assembly on MHU-7 trailer 

Eric Schlosser Myths- On Goldsboro- “What prevented the detonation was one switch, one safety switch, and a fair amount of good luck, because that safety switch was later found, in some cases, to be defective. And as the plane was breaking apart in mid air, there were so  many wires, there was so much electrical  equipment  in  that  plane,  that  if  one  of  those  wires  had crossed with the arming wire of the bomb, there would have been a full scale nuclear detonation of this hydrogen bomb...”

Facts: In actuality, as previously shown, the Mark 39 had two electrical safety switches. A defective R/S switch would have been detected via the T-249A during any safety status check (and during any post assembly, pre-load, and monitoring checks). I don’t see anything in the FOIA incident reports of “that safety switch” in the Mk 39 Mod 2 being “defective”. 8

   Specific voltage through aircraft monitoring equipment (pilot’s readiness switch and aircrew AMAC), aircraft/bomb cable, specific pins, and wiring in the shielded neoprene cable would have to occur before any rotation of the R/S switch and Electrical Arm/Disarm Switch. Since weapon electrical components are isolated and housed in electrically grounded and potted fiberglass housings, with additional protection by ESD’s, thermal fuses, resistors, etc., stray voltage has not resulted in unintentional charging of the X-unit on a war reserve weapon in DOD custody. 9
 



Eric Schlosser Myths- Schlosser states the Labs were “unaware that nuclear weapons in the 1950’s were being taken out of their bunkers and put on airplanes for ground alerts. They were never consulted about that” (Global Security Newswire, 23 Sep 2013), and “…the secrecy was so intense that the Air Force wasn’t telling the weapons designers problems that they were having in the field.”

Facts- Storage and security was the responsibility of AEC and the military services in the early days, as shown in several AEC/DOD site custody agreements (which also spell out incident/accident reporting). It’s obvious Schlosser and others who argue about “custody disputes” just can’t grasp the subject matter nor comprehend the content of documents such as  “The History of the Custody and Deployment of Nuclear Weapons, 1945-1977”, which has been declassified since 1999. The fact that AEC was aware of incidents and accidents is evident in the routing of messages from AFSWP to AEC, AEC observers present at several early accidents, and the fact that an AEC capsule custodian had to be present with a military capsule technician to open the AEC cap building before and during the “Bombs on Base” program in 1956. Jim Oskins states that AEC reps were also present when aircraft were uploaded.
  Weapons incident reports, and subsequent product improvement reports, are readily available from declassified government archives, and claims that weapons designers were unable to review non-compartmentalized SRD reports (Dull Swords, Bent Spears, and Broken Arrows) is pure nonsense since the classified FC DASA Technical Letter 20-3 reports (obtained by Jim and I via FOIA in 2008) were kept in the FC DASA (DTRA) Tech Library and widely distributed to the military services and AEC complex.
 


Eric Schlosser Myths- Regarding the Titan II accident, ”.The accident that I wrote about at length could have destroyed the state of Arkansas while Bill Clinton was governor.” (Rolling Stone, 16 September 2013).

Facts- As I previously noted, Schlosser contacted me since he couldn’t FOIA the report in “Broken Arrow, Volume II” for his forthcoming masterpiece. Schlosser goes on to claim in interviews that his “exhaustive research” is “meticulous”, while ignoring the fact that his footnotes are largely derived from previously published books and online sources (not only did he borrow heavily from our Broken Arrow books, but according to one online posting, his “research” into the Titan II is largely derived from “Titan II: History of a Cold War Missile Program” by David Stumpf). Schlosser never did forward a copy of his book as promised.

  The W53 warhead at Damascus was severely damaged after being blasted out of the silo and thrown 500 feet into a ditch (no HE detonation). Since the Mk 6 RV separated from the warhead, all battery power to charge the X-unit was removed.  In addition, the neutron generators were blown off the warhead, and det cables were broken and frayed.  The 53’s X-unit (capacitor discharge type) used a rotary chopper converter which required two independent signals from the arming and fuzing subsystem in the RV; one to start and run the chopper motor and another to supply continuous low power voltage to be transformed to high voltage (which would be chopped, rectified, and stepped up to the necessary voltage). The RV also required two distinct g-force inputs during the launch and reentry phases before the ESD’s could supply power to the warhead. Thus, with the warhead blown out of the RV, no electrical power was available to the warhead. A nuclear detonation at Damascus was not possible.10

  So, there you have it, a brief rebuttal to a collection of innumerable conspiracy theories promoted by individuals with zero experience in the nuclear weapons field, desiring to promote themselves as “nuclear weapons historians” and “scholars”, at the same time making a buck off their new found knowledge and sad lack of expertise.   

References-

 1. “Los Alamos Source Data for B53 Mod 1, Nuclear Explosive Safety Study”  (FOIA’d by Hans Kristensen). One wonders if these people actually read the documents they request. Info on hazardous materials is available from the INWS brief.  

 2. “DOD Narrative Summaries of Accidents Involving US Nuclear Weapons, 1950-80”. The EOD render safe and post mortems are presented in “Broken Arrow, The Declassified History of US Nuclear Weapons Accidents”. The B53 was “ inherently one point safe”, see B53 NESS, p. 73.

 3. “On Point- Lost Nuclear Bombs: A Dangerous Place for Confusion” by L. Douglas Keeney (27 March 2011). http://www.commandposts.com/2011/03/lost-nuclear-bombs-a-dangerous-place-for-confusion/.

 4. “Lost Archives 4: Irretrievably Lost - The search for the Savannah Warhead”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKo647E53BU. An exceedingly poor documentary.

 5. “History of the Mark 39 Warhead” by Sandia Corporation, declassified from SRD, 1997.

 6. By November 1962, the Soviets had positioned a trawler with a history of cable cutting near the BMEWS undersea cable (excerpt from McNamara to Pres. Kennedy, "Strategic Retaliatory Forces, 1964-1968").MacNamara to Kennedy, “Strategic Retaliatory Forces, 1964-1968”.

 7. “History of the Mark 28 Weapon” and “Hydronuclear Experiments” (LA-10902). The 28-0 was restricted from use in the Hound Dog after hydronuclear experiments showed a very slight nuclear contribution (one-thousandths of a pound fission release); it was modified and the safety issue rectified. The 28 Mod 1 warhead used an external neutron generator. Info about Thule health surveys in “Thule Nuclear Weapons Accident Dose Evaluation Report, April 2001” and “Radio-ecological  Investigations”  by  Asker  Ankerborg,  pp.  11-12.  Danish  Atomic  Energy  Commission,  Research  Establishment  Riso, April 1969.

 8. Pre-arming incidents are detailed in “Technical Letter 20-3”, and various NWEF documents Jim Oskins and I obtained via FOIA over seven years ago.   

 9. ibid, see also “Safety of Air Delivered Nuclear Weapons Now in Stockpile”, Fowler (SNL) to Graves (DMA), no date, possibly 1974. Declassified from SRD.

10. “History of the Mark 53 Warhead”, pp. 27-28, and SC 42-41 “A Survey of Nuclear Safety Problems and the Possibility for Increasing Safety in Bombs and Warhead Designs”, p. 30, Feb 1959.  

Michael H. Maggelet is a retired U.S. Air Force nuclear weapons team chief. He has written two books on nuclear weapons accidents with James C. Oskins. While in tech school Mike trained on the early sealed pit weapons to include the W25, B28FI, and the later B53 bomb. He worked on the B43, B57, B61, B83, and AGM-69A SRAM. Mike’s research for the NWTA includes articles on Little Boy and Fat Man, early Soviet nuclear weapons, Warsaw Pact special operations forces, and Soviet nuclear torpedoes.

Mike's Note- I will be posting more material on the antics of anti-nuclear activists (not to mention some US major media outlets) deleting posts by nuclear veterans correcting their poor research, intentionally blocking our posts on their blogs ("awaiting moderation"), and posting material without proper accreditation.  




 
"Anti-Nuclear Hysteria Versus the Historical Facts" Copyright 2014 by Michael H. Maggelet
 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Many Broken Arrows?

Nuclear Weapons Accidents- The Maggelet/Oskins Broken Arrow Blog

by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.

 
 Over the past few decades, the Department of Defense has made several changes to the "narrative summaries of nuclear weapons accidents". 
 
  In 1968, DOD released the first list which contained 17 accidents. 
 
  By 1977, the list had changed to 27 accidents.
 
  In 1980, the most recently updated list, the accident tally remained at 32, and did not include the  four Thor launch accidents which occurred at Johnston Island in 1962. At least two of these accidents were released to the media by DOD at the time, and published in Time magazine. Why they weren't included in the accident tally is unknown.
 
  Background on the Johnston Island accidents was declassified by Field Command, Defense Nuclear Agency in 1983, and DOD has declassified films, messages, and other papers on the accidents and cleanup. FC DNA also issued a press release in 1983 which the media ignored (I read about the JI accidents in Chuck Hansen's 1988 book "US Nuclear Weapons, The Secret History"- remember, this is long before the internet as we know it existed, and FOIA material was not readily accessible).
 
  The problem identifying past accidents is the change over the years defining what is an "incident versus an "accident". Jim Oskins and I use the original DOD definition from 1957 which states in part-
 
"(6) Public Hazard, Actual or Implied. (Note: Accidents that involve  major mechanical damage  to the weapon without burning, explosion, or contamination are listed in this category)." 
 
Thus, while many weapons have been accidentally salvoed or dropped, the event may, or may not have damaged internal components (which require the weapon to be returned to the production agency for disassembly and repair, or retirement). The key phrase is "major mechanical damage", and is dependent on the weapon involved (for example, early large diameter bombs involved in accidents suffered internal damage from salvoes to include damage to the IFI mechanism, or extensive damage to the HE sphere, or a displaced secondary).

  Therefore, we have concluded after reviewing hundreds of incident reports (published in "Broken Arrow, Volume II- A Disclosure of Significant US, Soviet, and British Nuclear Weapon Incidents and Accidents, 1945-2008") that the accident list is near 66 for the US. The UK accident list is zero (counting UK weapons), and six accidents in the former Soviet Union (to include the four known submarine accidents).  Two US weapons, which were test duds, sat underground for years at the Nevada Test Site, and were not included in the DOD accident list (apparently since they were not DOD weapons). The Soviets also abandoned in place at least one unexploded warhead at the Semipalatinsk test site (the US and Soviet weapons were later destroyed). More information on these accidents is forthcoming.  
 
   In 1993, the US Navy declassified some aspects on the loss of the USS Scorpion, which sank on May 22, 1968 about 400 miles southwest of the Azores with two nuclear torpedoes. It should also be noted that weapons lost at sea pose no nuclear detonation hazard, since nuclear components exposed to saltwater deteriorate (in the case of plutonium, dissolve into a localized gelatinous sludge).
 
  In 1995, the Department of Energy released its list of "Unrecovered Nuclear Weapons and Classifed Components" which corrected some early discrepancies in the DOD accident list. Among these was a change in the location of the loss of a Mark 7 Betty bomb from a P-5 ASW aircraft in the Pacific, instead of Puget Sound. Also included was a narrative for the Scorpion accident. However, some discrepancies remain from the early accidents, for example, the statement that a B-36 crashed on Vancouver Island where the aircraft actually flew on another 200 miles after it's crew bailed out and crashed on Mt. Kologet in British Columbia. One of the reasons we published our first book was to correct these errors and dispel myths about purported accidents.   
 
  We have several unresolved dates for other Broken Arrows, and if the FOIA process is any indication, we will be waiting years for a response.

Excerpt from "Broken Arrow, Volume II" by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins
 
Table I
Additional U.S. Broken Arrows, 1945 to 1989
Accident/ Date              Event
 1.  1949-1953               Mk 4 bomb/Beta Crate/40 foot trailer
 2.  1951-1962               Mk 6 Beta Crate/40 foot trailer
 3.  1951-1962               Mk 6/C -124, weapon dropped
 4.  1951-1962               Mk 6/C-124, weapon dropped
 5.  Unknown date         Unknown bomb, accidentally salvoed
 6.  1952- Unknown location    Unknown bomb, accidentally salvoed
 7.  Mar 1956- Loring AFB, ME    Mark 17, accidentally salvoed
 8.  1956-1963               Mk 1 BOAR W7, impact damage
 9.  1957-1966               Mk 39 bomb/B-52, accidentally salvoed
10. 1957-1964               T-4 ADM, fire damage
11. July 19, 1957           Mk 15/A3D, weapon jettisoned
12. Feb 8, 1958              Mk 15/B-52, weapon salvoed
13. May 1958                 Mk 21/B-52 or B-47, weapon dropped
14. Apr 1960                  W-31/Honest John, warhead dropped
15. Jul 31, 1958             Possibly W7/AF Missile Dev Center
16. 1958-1967               Mk 28 bombs/At Sea, flood
17. Dec 13, 1960           Unknown weapon(s)/location
18. Oct 27, 1961 Italy   W49/Jupiter, tritium leak, Gioia del Colle
19. Nov 6, 1961             Plutonium Release/Pantex Plant
20. Jul 19, 1962             W49/Jupiter, lightning strike
21. Dec 15, 1962           Mk25/AIR-2A Genie/F-106
22. Mar 28, 1964           Mk 34 & Mk 57, flood
23. Nov 17, 1964           W28/Hound Dog/B-52G, frag damage
24. Jul 15, 1965             W28/Mace Missile, lightning strike
25. Jan 19, 1966            W45/Terrier, missile dropped
26. Feb 7, 1966              Mk 28FI, weapon dropped
27. Mar 25, 1967- DMZ Viet Nam    W44 ASROC/USS Ozbourn, fire
28. May 17, 1989           Unknown weapon + 9 pits, Pantex Plant, Amarillo, TX, tritium leak
 
 
Copyright 2008-2014 by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.
 
 
 






Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to Become a Media Expert on Nuclear Weapons, Policy, and History!

by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins

  The internet and media swarms with nuclear weapons “experts”, many of whom don’t know the first thing about nuclear weapons, history, deployment, nor safety. Therefore, we've created a simple guide for investigative journalists, prospective authors, and other clueless individuals on how to become a media nuclear weapons expert in a few short months-

1. Have absolutely no background in the nuclear weapons field (this is an obvious first step in being anointed by the press as a nuclear weapons expert).


2. Create a Wikipedia entry promoting yourself as an expert on fast food, the porn industry, and yes, nuclear weapons.

3. Plaster your face all over the internet (see number 2).

4. Issue press releases announcing “shocking” new FOIA documents which have been uncovered through your “exclusive research” (even though they’ve been in the public domain for decades and printed in previous publications or books).

5. Distort the facts from declassified documents, stating the exact opposite of what is actually in the documents.  For example, claim that the B53 bomb was “unsafe”, or that the Mark 39 accident weapons at Goldsboro were “one step away from detonation” (knowledge of past accident history, weapons safety features, nuclear safety concepts, and the facts do not apply).

6. Claim that your “exhaustive research” shows beyond any reasonable doubt that nuclear weapons are unsafe, and could detonate from “stray voltage” and at any time (and could “incinerate” the state of Arkansas).

7. Maintain a blog, and delete posts or keep posts “awaiting moderation” for weeks or months if subject matter experts dispute your more enlightened claims of nuclear expertise and impending nuclear doom.

8. Use Left wing media and family connections to promote your new found expertise among celebrities and political activists (Hanoi Jane Fonda included). Demand that the US disarm now, since all nukes could explode near our major cities…

9. Team up with other newly crowned nuclear weapon history and policy experts and, with your vast knowledge and new found celebrity status and literary accolades, proclaim how much you “admire” those in the US military (while in Leftist media interviews bash them incessantly with absurd conspiracy theories about the "national security state" keeping nuclear weapons accidents and incidents "secret").

10. Ignore criticism by uneducated neo-Con revisionists and right wing pundits who conduct personal attacks against your enlightened and educated progressive colleagues (they are obviously war criminals, not to mention Yankee Air Pirates!).


11. And remember it is all about the money, not the facts.


 
Anti-US North Korean poster
 
 
 
"Citizens! Surrender your weapons" (USSR 1920)
 



Offensive and slanderous anti-Soviet propaganda-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYLCRJUNWGQ


Even more offensive and exceedingly slanderous anti-Soviet propaganda!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Goldsboro- 19 Steps Away from Detonation

Nuclear Weapons Accidents- The Maggelet/Oskins Broken Arrow Blog

by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.

  The B-52G accident on 24 January 1961 near Goldsboro, North Carolina is another example of unfounded hysteria over a nuclear weapons accident. For decades, claims abounded that one bomb, a Mark 39 Mod 2, "went through five of it's six interlocking safety devices" and was only "one step" away from a nuclear detonation. This is not true.
 
  The following material has been declassified from various documents obtained from DOE and NNSA.

  First and foremost, B-52G aircraft power must be applied to the weapon via two crew members using the Aircraft Monitoring and Control System and a specific voltage and amperage (and for a specific amount of time) before the Ready/Safe Switch could be rotated to the "Arm" position.

  The pilot of the bomber aircraft controlled power via his T-380 Readiness Switch, which was safety wired and sealed near his seat in the aircraft. The Radar Navigator could monitor the bomb's circuits via the DCU-9, but he could not arm it without electrical input via AMAC nor consent from the pilot. The aircrew, in two physically separate positions in the aircraft, had to perform at least 19 steps from their checklist before nuclear weapons could be pre-armed and dropped.

  Bomb 2, the object of the Goldsboro controversy, was not "one step" away from detonation (nor was Bomb 1). The Mark 39 Mod 2 had two additional safety switches, the Trajectory Arm Switch and Rotary Safing Switch. It should be noted that aircraft power to monitor and pre-arm the bomb is separate from power supplied by the bomb's short life thermal batteries.

  In Bomb 2, the High Voltage Thermal Battery was not activated, so no electrical power could reach any components necessary to fire the weapon and produce a nuclear explosion. In any regard, the R/S Switch, Trajectory Arm, and Rotary Safing Switch prevented any current from reaching the X-Unit.




  While the Ready/Safe Switch in Bomb 2 showed "armed" after recovery, it was actually safe, and post mortem examination by the AEC proved it to be electronically open (the housing having been destroyed during impact). Most importantly, the high voltage necessary to fire bomb components was not present for bomb 2.

  In Bomb 1, the HVTB did activate, however the three safety switches, the MC-772 Ready/Safe Switch, the MC-732 Trajectory Arm, and the MC-788 Rotary Safing Switch prevented any voltage to reach components necessary to arm and fire the bomb. The arming and firing sequence is quite complex, and much more was required to produce a nuclear explosion. 

  It should be noted that in several other accidents, thermal batteries were activated due to severe ground impacts. In all cases, from lightning strikes to accidental jettisonings to crashes, the safety features, although not as advanced as today's nuclear safety concepts, were well designed, tested, and robust.
 
  Documentaton obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, including copies of the original AEC and EOD reports, are available in "Broken Arrow, The Declassified History of Nuclear Weapons Accidents" by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins. It should also be noted that Bomb 2's secondary, containing uranium and lithium, was not recovered and poses no detonation hazard.

  How close was the Goldsboro bomb to producing a nuclear explosion? Not at all.

 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

U.S. Navy Jettisoned Nuclear Bomb Off Jacksonville, Florida in 1957

Nuclear Weapons Accidents- The Maggelet/Oskins Broken Arrow Blog

by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.
 
  Our exclusive research into early weapons accidents and incidents reveals the US Navy jettisoned a 7000 pound weapon off Jacksonville, Florida on June 19th, 1957.
 
  Since many of these early reports dealt with inert training units or operational suitability test weapons (OST) minus nuclear components, we had to verify this information through additional documentation.
 
 
U.S. Navy A-3D Skywarrior (James Mulligan/Wikipedia)
 
 
  On June 19th, 1957, a Navy A-3D Skywarrior was launched from the USS Roosevelt cruising off Jacksonville, Florida. The aircraft attempted to land at Naval Air Station Sanford (near Orlando, Florida). Landing lights were not operational at the base, and the aircraft was diverted to NAS Jacksonville.
 
  An in-flight emergency was declared due to landing gear failure, and after several attempts to bring down the gear, the aircraft was diverted off NAS Mayport (Jacksonville, Florida) with an escort to jettison the bomb. We believe the bomb was a Mark 15 Mod 0, which did not have a nuclear capsule installed on the in-flight insertion (IFI) mechanism. Additional documentation from the Eisenhower papers shows that the Navy was searching for the weapon, and that it did not have a nuclear capsule. 
 
  During this time frame, live caps were never installed in weapons and instead stored in M-102 "birdcages" kept in the crew compartment. Training capsules containing lead were carried by the crew for handling and custodial purposes. However, the crew had no means to install the cap on the IFI, since the Mk 15 tail subassembly could only be removed on the ground by a certified crew (in this case, US Navy Nuclear Weapons Men). 
 
  The A-3D crew successfully bailed out and the aircraft crashed a few miles off NAS Mayport. To the best of our knowledge, and statements published by the late Navy EOD officer Art Arsenault, the Jacksonville bomb was never retrieved.

 The Mark 15 Mod 0 lost off Jacksonville, in addition to the Tybee bomb lost on February 5, 1958 near Wassaw Sound, Georgia, do not contain capsules and cannot produce a nuclear explosion. 
 
  More details on the history of flight, and search for the missing weapon can be found in our second book on nuclear weapons accidents, "Broken Arrow, Volume II- A Disclosure of Significant U.S., Soviet, and British Nuclear Weapon Incidents and Accidents, 1945-2008" by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins (ISBN 978-0-557-65593-9).
 
  Our books are available through Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

RAF Lakenheath- Fact vs. Fiction

Nuclear Weapons Accidents- The Maggelet/Oskins Broken Arrow Blog


by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.


July 27, 1956/B-47/Overseas Base

  The July 27th, 1956 crash of a B-47 into a storage igloo at RAF Lakenheath continues to be the source of disinformation (along with several other Broken Arrows we will discuss in the future).

  One of the most common myths is that the weapons, if they had detonated, would have "turned southeast England into a desert". Well, not quite.


  The three Mark 6 bombs were in storage, and therefore no nuclear capsules were installed, nor stored in the building (the nuclear capsule was manually installed in the Mk 6, and only when airborne and just prior to strike) . Each Mk 6 did contain at least 5,000 pounds of high explosives, and depleted uranium. Even if the weapons  detonated due to fire, there would not have been a nuclear reaction (U-238 is not fissionable through high explosive compression or fire). 



Declassified "Top Secret" message describing accident (source- U.S. Air Force)

  The former Atomic Energy Commission site at Medina, Texas is a prime example of such an accident. On November 13th, 1963, a forklift driver accidentally scraped a load of weapon components which subsequently caught fire. The resulting detonation of 123,000 pounds of HE vaporized the storage igloo and disassembled weapon components. No fatalities resulted, and the area around the Medina complex, Lackland Air Force Base, and San Antonio, Texas are not radioactive wastelands.



  Mark 6 fission bombs in storage did not contain material capable of a nuclear explosion. The nuclear capsules were stored in "birdcages" in a separate secure facility inside the storage area.
 

  Details on the 36 known Broken Arrows can be read in "Broken Arrow, The Declassified History of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accidents" by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins (ISBN 978-1-4357-0361-20). Our book contains copies of declassified accident reports, explosive ordnance disposal reports, and photos and drawings of accident scenes. Our books are available through Amazon.com, Books A Million, Barnes & Noble, and other fine booksellers.
 
 
 
 
 
  James C. Oskins is a U.S. Air Force retiree, and was a Nuclear Specialist, a Nuclear Weapons Arming and Fusing Technician, a Nuclear Weapons Technician, and Team Chief from May 1955 to June 1975. He had assignments with the 35th Munitions Maintenance Squadron (MMS), Biggs AFB, Texas, 702nd Strategic Missile Wing, Presque Isle AFB, Maine, 11th MMS RAF Upper Heyford, England, 28th MMS Carswell AFB, Texas, 381st Strategic Missile Wing, McConnell AFB, Kansas, and 320th MMS RAF Upper Heyford, England, and 3096th Aviation Depot Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nevada. During these assignment Jim worked on the Mark 6, Mk 15, Mk 17, Mk 21, W39, Mk 15 Mod 2, Mk 28, B53, W53, B57, and B61.
 
  Michael H. Maggelet is a U.S. Air Force retiree and was a Nuclear Weapons Specialist and Team Chief from December 1980 to June 1995, He had assignments with the 509th MMS, Pease AFB, New Hampshire, 380th MMS, Plattsburgh AFB, New York, in Rheinland Pfalz, Germany, and with the 28th Maintenance Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. During his time in service Mike worked on the B43, B57, several mods of the B61, the B83, and the AGM-69A Short Range Attack Missile.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nuclear Weapons Accidents- The Maggelet/Oskins Broken Arrow Blog


by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.


  This blog was created to inform the public on facts surrounding nuclear weapons accidents (Broken Arrows) and incidents (Bent Spears) that have been declassified by various government agencies.


 
 
 In 1980, the U.S. Department of Defense released a list of 32 accidents. In 1983, Field Command, Defense Nuclear Agency released details on four additional accidents on Johnston Island in the Pacific in 1962.

  It's our opinion, after reviewing thousands of declassified documents, that there are nearly 60 accidents which resulted in severe damage to US nuclear weapons. This would have involved return of the weapon or warhead to a production facility for disassembly and replacement. Despite the severe stress on weapon components, there was no possibility of a nuclear explosion.

  After a four year effort through the Freedom of Information Act, we published our second book on nuclear weapons accidents and incidents, "Broken Arrow, Volume II". We believe it is the definitive source on US nuclear weapons accidents, and includes information on Soviet accidents, and incidents in the United Kingdom. Some of the Broken Arrows we cover include never before released details on the Thule, Greenland, and Palomares, Spain accidents, and details on the loss of the USS Scorpion in 1968 (which do not point to any hostile act, despite the claims of conspiracy theorists).

  We were also fortunate to include several first hand accounts by individuals present during several accidents and incidents. These include the Cunningham incident at RAF Sculthorpe in 1958, the 1965 USS Ticonderoga accident, the 1967 USS Ozbourn incident off Viet Nam, and a 1974 confrontation at an overseas base.

  Our books are available on Amazon.com, Books A Million, Barnes & Noble, and other fine booksellers.

"Broken Arrow, Volume II- A Disclosure of Significant U.S., Soviet, and British Nuclear Weapons Incidents and Accidents, 1945-2008" by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins. ISBN 978-0-557-65593-9, 348 pages, black and white photographs. Lulu Press.