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USAF Almost Nuked North Carolina In 1961 – Declassified Document

Soulskill posted 1 year,3 days | from the south-carolina-would-be-a-more-understandable-target dept.

Government 586

Freshly Exhumed sends in a story about how close the United States came to accidentally attacking itself with nuclear weapons just a few days after John F. Kennedy took office. "A secret document, published in declassified form for the first time by the Guardian today, reveals that the U.S. Air Force came dramatically close to detonating an atom bomb over North Carolina that would have been 260 times more powerful than the device that devastated Hiroshima. The document, obtained by the investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act, gives the first conclusive evidence that the US was narrowly spared a disaster of monumental proportions when two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on 23 January 1961. The bombs fell to earth after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage."

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A little drastic but... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908231)

What an improvement for NC that would have been.

Re:A little drastic but... (0)

flayzernax (1060680) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908747)

I agree, not a troll!

That would have sped up nuclear disarmament (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908239)

Wouldn't it? (Of course I'm being facetious. What disarmament?)

Re:That would have sped up nuclear disarmament (2)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908383)

no, it probably would have triggered the doomsday clock and caused armaggeddon.

Re:That would have sped up nuclear disarmament (5, Insightful)

interval1066 (668936) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908625)

The doomsday clock is already triggered. Yes, "triggered", its been ticking back and forth since 1953. The doomsday clock is actually an indicator, not a countdown timer.

Re:That would have sped up nuclear disarmament (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908765)

Then what am I thinking of? The doomsday device?

old, really old, news (5, Informative)

turkeydance (1266624) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908241)

the triple fail-safe worked.

Re:old, really old, news (1, Troll)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908395)

the triple fail-safe worked.

or put it another way, a simple switch on a nuclear bomb failed as it fell to earth, rendering it inoperable. doesn't inspire much confidence for when it is used in war.

Re:old, really old, news (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908431)

or put it another way, a simple switch on a nuclear bomb failed as it fell to earth, rendering it inoperable. doesn't inspire much confidence for when it is used in war.

Well, if you choose to ignore the fact that the US has successfully used two nuclear bombs in war...

Re:old, really old, news (4, Interesting)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908489)

or put it another way, a simple switch on a nuclear bomb failed as it fell to earth, rendering it inoperable. doesn't inspire much confidence for when it is used in war.

Well, if you choose to ignore the fact that the US has successfully used two nuclear bombs in war...

I don't care as much about the reliability of bombs used in the past, so much as the reliability of bombs we may use in the future. I'd prefer them to inspire confidence!

btdubs, does anybody know if this switch failure was a safety feature that worked, or a malfunction of a critical piece that was a lifesaver in this scenario?

Re:old, really old, news (3, Informative)

rhook (943951) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908715)

Most likely it was a safety feature since nukes have to be armed right before they are used. This is by design so that they do not go nuclear is the event of an accident such as this one.

Re:old, really old, news (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908719)

from the article:

Jones found that of the four safety mechanisms in the Faro bomb, designed to prevent unintended detonation, three failed to operate properly. When the bomb hit the ground, a firing signal was sent to the nuclear core of the device, and it was only that final, highly vulnerable switch that averted calamity. "The MK 39 Mod 2 bomb did not possess adequate safety for the airborne alert role in the B-52," Jones concludes.

the final switch that prevented disaster could easily have been shorted by an electrical jolt, leading to a nuclear burst.

3/4 failed = not very confidence reassuring.

Re:old, really old, news (5, Insightful)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908481)

or put it another way, a simple switch on a nuclear bomb failed as it fell to earth

No, the switch didn't fail - apparently three of its siblings did, but the fact that this one didn't prevented the unarmed bomb from detonating.

Re:old, really old, news (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908501)

that's a good point. which things worked right, and which things worked wrong?

Re:old, really old, news (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908483)

the triple fail-safe worked.

or put it another way, a simple switch on a nuclear bomb failed as it fell to earth, rendering it inoperable. doesn't inspire much confidence for when it is used in war.

I don't care as much about the reliability of bombs used in the past, so much as the reliability of bombs we may use in the future. I'd prefer them to inspire confidence!
 
btdubs, does anybody know if this switch failure was a safety feature that worked, or a malfunction of a critical piece that was a lifesaver in this scenario?

Re:old, really old, news (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908497)

My assumption is that that switch was a safety and would have been closed when armed for war.

Re:old, really old, news (5, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908543)

Sure, if you want to lie about it. The switch didn't fail. The switch worked perfectly. The switch was there to prevent detonation and it prevented detonation.

Your way of looking at it is just a straight out lie.

Re:old, really old, news (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908569)

you can't lie about something if you don't know the answer! duh!

Re:old, really old, news (5, Insightful)

snowraver1 (1052510) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908623)

The point is that of 4 safeguards in place, 3 failed to properly work. That's not concerning?

Re:old, really old, news (2)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908777)

The point is that of 4 safeguards in place, 3 failed to properly work. That's not concerning?

Presumably that's why there were four instead of two or three.

Re:old, really old, news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908797)

It's discomforting to know we were that close to disaster but situations like this are probably why they chose to use four switches instead of just one or two. They were aware of what they were dealing with and designed accordingly.

Re:old, really old, news (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908637)

WRONG, noh8rz. THREE switches failed to PREVENT explosion, one WORKED.

Re:old, really old, news (2)

s.petry (762400) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908687)

I'm not sure you understand how these things are really designed to work. A Bomber crashing is supposed to be in the design scope of the munition. A mid-air collision or any other type of disaster should never send active bombs downward. This is true for conventional munitions as well as nuclear weapons. Nuclear bombs are supposed to be activated prior to release so that they can detonate. They are never supposed to be loaded in an armed state except for during combat missions. An inactive bomb should never get to the first fail safe, let alone the 2nd or 3rd.

I would be willing to bet that changes came about because the "almost" should have never been.

Re:old, really old, news (2)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908759)

I'd like to think (perhaps that's not reality) that the nuke shouldn't go off no matter what---unless it was propery activated. E.g. dropping bomb out of an airplane, burning in jet fuel, putting the thing into an incinerator, or have folks go at it with blow torches until they get tired... shouldn't cause anything other than a conventional explosion---not a nuclear one. Perhaps that's too much to wish for, but I'd imagine temper proof circuitry that controls the timings of conventional explosives can enable that sort of behavior for the whole device.

Re:old, really old, news (1)

sexconker (1179573) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908811)

I'm not sure you understand how these things are really designed to work. A Bomber crashing is supposed to be in the design scope of the munition. A mid-air collision or any other type of disaster should never send active bombs downward. This is true for conventional munitions as well as nuclear weapons. Nuclear bombs are supposed to be activated prior to release so that they can detonate. They are never supposed to be loaded in an armed state except for during combat missions. An inactive bomb should never get to the first fail safe, let alone the 2nd or 3rd.

I would be willing to bet that changes came about because the "almost" should have never been.

And why shouldn't the bombs go off if the plane goes down?
If you fall in the vicinity of the target, I say explode that shit. The bigger the munition's radius, the bigger your error margin.

If it's war and you're intent on bombing the enemy, isn't it better to lose the plane and bomb the enemy a few miles from the target than to lose the plane, not bomb the enemy, and have a planeload of viable munitions fall into their hands? All you'd need to do is arm when you get into the target's space and leave your own (and your allies's).

The worst that could happen is you bomb nothing instead of a factory. If you're engaged in a war (as opposed to the US's current political occupations), even bombing an unintended target (like a hospital) works out pretty well . The only other piece you need to add in is preventing detonation mid-air so your other bombers don't get hit if one goes down.

Bombs need to be safe for us (and our allies). Not safe for the enemy.

Re:old, really old, news (1)

Shavano (2541114) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908735)

That's not what the article says. It says the switch worked as designed even though everything else went wrong.

Re:old, really old, news (3, Informative)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908767)

the triple fail-safe worked.

or put it another way, a simple switch on a nuclear bomb failed as it fell to earth, rendering it inoperable. doesn't inspire much confidence for when it is used in war.

Nope. It was a safety mechanism that worked as intended, after three others did not. The bomb did not malfunction.

Re:old, really old, news (5, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908433)

No, the amazing thing is that the triple fail-safe failed! It was only the 4th and final failsafe that did not fail!

Jones found that of the four safety mechanisms in the Faro bomb, designed to prevent unintended detonation, three failed to operate properly. When the bomb hit the ground, a firing signal was sent to the nuclear core of the device, and it was only that final, highly vulnerable switch that averted calamity.

Egads.

If you had the choice between a repeat of this, vs. a certain 9/11-scale attack tomorrow, which would you choose?

Re:old, really old, news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908521)

Depends on where, and the method of detonation. A ground-level detonation, as would have happened in Goldsboro, is far less destructive than an air burst -- and if it happens in the middle of nowhere, the potential for casualties is much lower than you find in places with high population density like New York.

Re:old, really old, news (2)

Evil Pete (73279) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908671)

A ground-level detonation, as would have happened in Goldsboro, is far less destructive than an air burst

You have got to be kidding. A ground burst is the worst case scenario, it would produce a horrendously radioactive plume that would spread far beyond the affected area of an air burst.

Re:old, really old, news (2)

shentino (1139071) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908689)

Both options suck and you know it.

Especially because 9/11 takes our freedom as well as our lives.

Re:old, really old, news (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908761)

Especially because 9/11 takes our freedom as well as our lives.

Don't think this wouldn't have either. In the Northwoods era [wikipedia.org] they probably would have used the occasion to blame it on Cuba (or another political foe) and taken the nation to war.

Every time a second amendment argument devolves into "so you think everybody should own nuclear weapons?" feel some solace that eventually people will look back on our period and realize that nuclear weapons were a signal that States were too dangerous to keep around.

Re:old, really old, news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908437)

the triple fail-safe worked.

Yes definitely old news. I watched a "documentary" DVD ten years or more ago (which I think was called Nuclear 911) which went over several incidents, just like this one, both here and in Europe.

Re:old, really old, news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908449)

Exactly, they are designed to not go critical even when blown up in a conventional explosion. The timing has to be just right and there are at least two points (for safety) that have to be detonated at the same time and then the initiator has to produce 10-20 neutrons at the correct time. They just don't work if anything is the least bit off.

**what caused the plane to 'drop' the bombs?** (1)

globaljustin (574257) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908487)

the triple fail-safe worked.

right, I agree that the article is completely burying the lead (seriously talk about FUD..."It was a single switch!"...)

but what bothers me is the ridiculous lack of detail about **how the plane 'dropped' the bombs in the first place**

that's the first thing I looked for as I skimmed TFA

this is all we get:

The accident happened when a B-52 bomber got into trouble, having embarked from Seymour Johnson Air Force base in Goldsboro for a routine flight along the East Coast. As it went into a tailspin, the hydrogen bombs

"got into trouble" ok...so...what trouble?

"routine flight along the East Coast" with two nukes...I'm assuming this was part of our Cold War deterrence strategy...always having airborn assests...I can buy that...

"as it went into a tailspin" ok...again...why a tailspin?

what happened on that plane?

**THAT'S THE QUESTION**

I can't help but think sabotage of some kind...it's such a fundamental detail to the story...why isn't it discussed?

Re:**what caused the plane to 'drop' the bombs?** (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908611)

Sounds like a wing fell off:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1961_Goldsboro_B-52_crash

Re:**what caused the plane to 'drop' the bombs?** (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908699)

Wikipedia to the rescue:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1961_Goldsboro_B-52_crash

Re:**what caused the plane to 'drop' the bombs?** (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908803)

Why sabotage? Planes are complicated and any number of things can go wrong. You're right that more detail would be helpful, but there's no more reason to suspect sabotage than there is to suspect a bird strike.

It was a quadruple fail-safe. Three Failed! (1)

anubi (640541) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908537)

From the article:

Jones found that of the four safety mechanisms in the Faro bomb, designed to prevent unintended detonation, three failed to operate properly. When the bomb hit the ground, a firing signal was sent to the nuclear core of the device, and it was only that final, highly vulnerable switch that averted calamity.

I guess those who live by the sword, will die by the sword.

I should consider myself quite lucky that my screw-ups are quite limited in scope.

Yikes! (4, Insightful)

adisakp (705706) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908245)

FTA: "the final switch that prevented disaster could easily have been shorted by an electrical jolt, leading to a nuclear burst."

Re:Yikes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908655)

Yes, the low-voltage arming switch could have been shorted by a high-voltage arc of some sort. So, basically, if the accidentally-deployed nuclear weapon had been struck by lightning on the way down, it might have activated the arming circuit, assuming it didn't just fry the thing. I'm thinking that there's probably a higher chance of a devastating meteor impact... launched by giant space-bugs.

Re:Yikes! (4, Funny)

Rakarra (112805) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908705)

I'm thinking that there's probably a higher chance of a devastating meteor impact... launched by giant space-bugs.

I think I saw a documentary on that once.
Surprising amount of tits featured for an astrophysics documentary.

Re:Yikes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908717)

or you know become charged as it fell threw clouds?

I wonder who they would have blamed (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908261)

...if it had gone off? The Ruskies?

Re:I wonder who they would have blamed (5, Funny)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908281)

South Carolina.

Re:I wonder who they would have blamed (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908419)

No. Those damned Yankees. To arms, To arms in Dixie!

If at first you don't succeed .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908461)

Well let's give it another shot

Just like Monsters Incorporated (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908629)

I said North Korea, not North Carolina.

Re:I wonder who they would have blamed (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908773)

South Carolina.

Jesse Helms.

joshua (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908299)

and some person will get a fake death as well.

Re:I wonder who they would have blamed (3, Funny)

pspahn (1175617) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908403)

Think about it... if you were the Russians back then, and you were going to drop a nuke on the US, would North Carolina be at the top of your list?

I'll give you Fort Bragg, but outside of that, what there would be worth risking a counter strike?

In all likelihood they would have just blamed Bush.

Re:I wonder who they would have blamed (1)

s.petry (762400) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908721)

Ft. Bragg is the home of the 101st Airborne division and is most surely a high value target, as is Ft. Benning, and Ft. Hood. There are very few Military bases not considered high value targets.

Just to make the NSA happy, this is public knowledge and is not classified or sensitive information.

Re:I wonder who they would have blamed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908815)

Just to make the NSA happy, this is public knowledge and is not classified or sensitive information.

don't worry, you're on our list anyway.

Re:I wonder who they would have blamed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908643)

No, that would be one too many Bruskies consumed by certain Amerikanskies.

Something New? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908265)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1961_Goldsboro_B-52_crash

Nuclear war? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908275)

If it had happened, would they have blamed it on the Russians?

Wish they had (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908289)

Maybe the South would have finally surrendered.

Ironical justice (-1, Flamebait)

Reliable Windmill (2932227) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908295)

It would've been some ironical justice for what was done to innocent children and women in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think all U.S nuclear weapons should on completion have been pointed straight upwards and fired immediately. It would've been the most appropriate use.

Re:Ironical justice (1)

exigentsky (771810) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908307)

It wouldn't be justice because those people would have had nothing to do with the massacre in Hiroshima. That logic doesn't follow at all.

Re:Ironical justice (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908335)

Why is the solution to the killing of innocents always to kill more innocents? This is one of those times that I really wished every user account started at zero and had to work hard to prove they were worth listening to just like some ACs do.

Re:Ironical justice (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908363)

You'd prefer we invaded and fought house to house? You'd prefer we fire-bombed those cities instead? More would have died in both cases.

Re:Ironical justice (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908377)

So all Germans should have been gassed?

Re:Ironical justice (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908397)

It would've been some ironical justice for what was done to innocent children and women in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think all U.S nuclear weapons should on completion have been pointed straight upwards and fired immediately. It would've been the most appropriate use.

Because killing innocent American children and women is punishing whom, exactly?

Re:Ironical justice (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908459)

It would've been some ironical justice for what was done to innocent children and women in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think all U.S nuclear weapons should on completion have been pointed straight upwards and fired immediately. It would've been the most appropriate use.

Ok, but what should we have done to avenge the millions killed by the Imperial Japanese forces, wiped out every last man, women and child in Japan? Thankfully the US leadership was not as vengeful and bloodthirsty as you.

Re:Ironical justice (1)

mike1223 (2947541) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908471)

Actually, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justice for what was done in Nanking [wikipedia.org] .

You deserve to be shot.

Re:Ironical justice (2)

NikeHerc (694644) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908503)

It would've been some ironical justice for what was done to innocent children and women in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think all U.S nuclear weapons should on completion have been pointed straight upwards and fired immediately. It would've been the most appropriate use.

I've read one of Truman's considerations in nuking Japan is that the Japanese were starving to death about a quarter of a million innocents each month in the various countries the occupied, so you might want to consider that fact in your rush to judgement.

Here's what's new (5, Informative)

gman003 (1693318) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908329)

The accident has been known about for some time (I first read about it while researching a story I was writing - the protagonist had to build a nuclear bomb, so I was looking for lost and unrecovered nuclear material).

We have also had reports that one of the bombs was nearly armed. These were officially denied by the military, but it was confirmed by several military members.

The new development is that the documentation saying "yeah, that bomb nearly went off" has been declassified. Basically the same deal as the Area 51 thing a while back - everyone knew, but now everyone is "allowed" to know.

Re:Here's what's new (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908415)

Apparently the Secretary of Defense said more or less the same thing at a press conference in 1981: http://www.ibiblio.org/bomb/story.html

Re:Here's what's new (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908741)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1961_Goldsboro_B-52_crash [wikipedia.org]

Five of the six arming mechanisms on one of the bombs activated, causing it to execute many of the steps needed to arm itself, such as charging the firing capacitors and, critically, deployment of a 100-foot-diameter (30 m) retard parachute. The parachute allowed that bomb to hit the ground with little damage.

According to former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, he saw highly classified documents indicating that the pilot's safe/arm switch was the only one of the six arming devices on the bomb that prevented detonation.[1][8] The Pentagon claims that there was no chance of an explosion and that two arming mechanisms had not activated. A United States Department of Defense spokesperson told United Press International reporter Donald May that the bomb was unarmed and could not explode.[8] Later, however, it was found that both bombs were fully functional and that a single low-voltage switch was indeed all that stood between detonation. [9][10]

On a related note I wonder how unsafe the USSR nukes are in comparison.

Safety design was fine (3, Interesting)

mveloso (325617) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908331)

Unlike the article implies, the safety design was just fine - after all, the bombs didn't go off.

Sure, three out of four of them failed - that's why there were four.

I'd be good for someone with actual statistics knowledge to say what the probability of 3/4/5 safeties failing would be.

Re:Safety design was fine (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908387)

I'd be good for someone with actual statistics knowledge to say what the probability of 3/4/5 safeties failing would be.

You'd have to know about the system and what the probability of each type of failsafe failing is, not just the number...

Re:Safety design was fine (4, Funny)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908409)

I'd be good for someone with actual statistics knowledge to say what the probability of 3/4/5 safeties failing would be.

1/8 | 1/16 | 1/32. I'm a statistical god!

Re:Safety design was fine (1)

thebigmacd (545973) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908753)

Not sure if serious.

The probability of multiple safeties failing is the product of all of the probabilities of failure of individual safeties, no?

Re:Safety design was fine (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908413)

When 5 of the 6 arming mechanisms on a 3.8Mt bomb activate when they're not supposed to, it doesn't take an advanced knowledge of statistics to realize it was pretty close. Hopefully they went back to the drawing board on that one.

Re:Safety design was fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908479)

Really? Some of the arming mechanisms worked exactly as they were designed to. This validated the design.

Re:Safety design was fine (4, Informative)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908665)

The arming mechanisms are only supposed to work when you arm the bomb! That was not done. Wisely, the USAF decided that an airplane crash should not cause a nuclear explosion, hence the requirement to arm the bombs before detonation. The intent was right, but the execution was a close run thing.

Re:Safety design was fine (2)

sehlat (180760) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908475)

NASA has a saying, "If you're running on the backups, you're already in trouble." This was the backup to the backup to the backup to the backup.

OTOH, now we have evidence as to why you do NOT choose the lowest bidder for systems that are absolutely MUST NOT FAIL!

Re:Safety design was fine (1)

jmv (93421) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908771)

The problem here is estimating the probabilities of failure. Assuming failures are independent and considering there's probably (I'm guessing, feel free to plug in other numbers) been somewhere between 10 to 100 similar incidents with one case where 3 safety mechanisms failed, then we can say that the probability of failure of any one safety is between 14% and 30%. From this, the probability of all four failing would be somewhere between one in 100 and one in 3000. That's way too high considering what's at stake here. I assume it's been fixed (hopefully not just patched) because there would probably have been an actual accident since then.

One Low-Voltage Switch (5, Interesting)

Guppy (12314) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908369)

only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage.

Just imagine if there had been a Tin Whisker [wikipedia.org] shorting that switch.

Re:One Low-Voltage Switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908589)

Fortunately this was a built a time that was Lead Friendly.

Leaded Gas, Leaded Paint, Leaded solder

Re:One Low-Voltage Switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908763)

I think all that lead has gone to your head old timer.

Nothing Has Changed Then (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908393)

One should still fear ones own government more than that of any foreign power.

Almost doens't count (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908421)

Fortunately the B-52 was not carrying horse shoes or hand grenades.

Why were nukes making routine flights inside USA? (5, Funny)

JoeyRox (2711699) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908447)

Article says:

"The accident happened when a B-52 bomber got into trouble, having embarked from Seymour Johnson Air Force base in Goldsboro for a routine flight along the East Coast."

If carrying A-Bombs across the eastern coast is a routine flight I would love to know what the USAF considers an exceptional flight.

Re:Why were nukes making routine flights inside US (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908495)

During the Cold War, we had nuclear-armed bombers in the air 24/7 in case of a Russian strike. When you're doing something 24/7, it becomes routine.

Re:Why were nukes making routine flights inside US (1)

JoeyRox (2711699) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908573)

If that's the case maybe they should have flown a little east of the coast then. That way we'd be reading a declassified report that read 'USAF almost detonated an A-bomb somewhere over the Atlantic'.

Re:Why were nukes making routine flights inside US (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908513)

Go jam a dildo up your ass. You're the dumbest motherfucking douchebag I've seen on shitdot in a long time.

Re:Why were nukes making routine flights inside US (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908541)

Cold war... you know with bombers carrying nukes flying 24/7 as part of the mutually assured destruction.

Re:Why were nukes making routine flights inside US (1)

cdrudge (68377) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908799)

This was 50 years ago. During the Cold War, there were always B-52s in the air with nuclear weapons on board.

Broken Arrow. (1)

QuantumLeaper (607189) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908491)

A Broken Arrow is when the US Military loses a BOMB, it happen quite a few times over they years, it even kill a Cow once when they drop a bomb but it wasn't armed.

South Carolina (-1, Flamebait)

CHIT2ME (2667601) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908499)

Hey folks, it's just South Carolina. Home of Gamecocks and racists. What's the loss?

Did anyone in the USAF at least say, "Oops"? (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908519)

From the linked article: "The accident happened when a B-52 bomber got into trouble, having embarked from Seymour Johnson Air Force base in Goldsboro for a routine flight along the East Coast. As it went into a tailspin, the hydrogen bombs it was carrying became separated. One fell into a field near Faro, North Carolina, its parachute draped in the branches of a tree; the other plummeted into a meadow off Big Daddy's Road."

"Jones found that of the four safety mechanisms in the Faro bomb, designed to prevent unintended detonation, three failed to operate properly. When the bomb hit the ground, a firing signal was sent to the nuclear core of the device, and it was only that final, highly vulnerable switch that averted calamity. "The MK 39 Mod 2 bomb did not possess adequate safety for the airborne alert role in the B-52," Jones concludes."

Lets hear it for the Inanimate Carbon Rod! Um, I mean..., Malfunctioning Low-Voltage Switch!

Seriously, this was new news to me. Makes me wonder how many other near catastrophes also didn't happen due to dumb luck.

Where in Time is Edward Snowden? (1, Funny)

Raved Thrad (1864414) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908533)

If this was an attempt to rewrite history and kill Snowden before he was born, then they sent the time cops back over 22 years too early.

"almost nuked" (0)

nurb432 (527695) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908539)

Implies something other than what actually happened; a simple aviation accident.

It just happened the cargo was nuclear weapons. It could have been pallets of toilet paper instead.

Re:"almost nuked" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908791)

Yes, and then we would have said they almost toilet papered everything.

I know what would have happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908559)

If that bomb did go off, we would have started a full-out thermo-nuclear war with Russia since our "leaders" would NEVER admit that they were responsible for the disaster! Unfortunately, that mind-set of "not our fault" persists today in the "leadership" of the Congress, NSA, CIA, FBI, DOJ, and office of the President...

This accident happened again in 1966 (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908565)

From wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1966_Palomares_B-52_crash

The 1966 Palomares B-52 crash or Palomares incident occurred on 17 January 1966, when a B-52G bomber of the USAF Strategic Air Command collided with a KC-135 tanker during mid-air refuelling at 31,000 feet (9,450 m) over the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Spain. The KC-135 was completely destroyed when its fuel load ignited, killing all four crew members. The B-52G broke apart, killing three of the seven crew members aboard.[1]

Of the four Mk28 type hydrogen bombs the B-52G carried,[2] three were found on land near the small fishing village of Palomares in the municipality of Cuevas del Almanzora, Almería, Spain. The non-nuclear explosives in two of the weapons detonated upon impact with the ground, resulting in the contamination of a 2-square-kilometer (490 acres) (0.78 square mile) area by plutonium.

...

The B-52G began its mission from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, carrying four Type B28RI hydrogen bombs[3] on a Cold War airborne alert mission named Operation Chrome Dome.

Guess where the B-52 that broke up over Goldsboro flew out from? That's right, Seymour Johnson Air Force base!

What the article doesn't make clear is if the detonation of the bomb in Goldsboro would have been nuclear, or whether it would have only set off the non-nuclear charges like the two bombs in Palomeres.

Re:This accident happened again in 1966 (2)

mirix (1649853) | 1 year,3 days | (#44908805)

There's been a bunch of these over the years. To get the weapon to actually initiate fission, all the charges have to be fired with very precise timing, to compress the material into critical mass. If the charges go off accidentally, you don't get fission, rather it just blows the fissile material all over the place. What murrican tv likes to call a 'dirty bomb' i guess.

A B52 crashed and its bombs went off near Thule AFB in the late 60s (non fission, again). Greenland/Denmark had been lying to it's citizens that US planes were not carrying nuclear arms on their territory, but certainly they were. (this was a regular patrol, govn't said emergency / temporary / something). Seem to recall everything melted through the ice and recovery was a big trainwreck, they recovered maybe half of the fissile material... something like that, anyway.

They had a big deal about it uh.. maybe 20 years ago when it came to light that the flights were regular.

Kewl! Let's make a move and call it (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908577)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Goldwater, I wish you were here.

It's a bomb! Not magic! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44908731)

Come on, people. It's a bomb. You have to drop it on the thing you want to blow up. You can't drop it thousands of miles from any target and expect it to kill anything. Faro, NC is the middle of fucking nowhere. You'd probably be having a bad day in Goldsboro (population a few thousand), and the fallout would fall over a swath a few hundred kilometers long. Maybe over the Hampton Roads area and the Atlantic ocean. That would probably suck and kill hundreds or thousands, but it's not going to kill millions of people and cause doomsday or whatever. You've got a Katrina-scale disaster, not a Holocaust-scale disaster. The power of nuclear weapons has been vastly exaggerated.
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