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.