WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2010 — The public was never endangered when launch control center lost communication with ballistic missiles Oct. 23, an Air Force spokesman said today.
The glitch suspended communication between 50 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles a control center at F.E. Warren Air Force Base near Cheyenne, Wyo., for nearly 45 minutes, said Lt. Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for the Air Force’s Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
The Wyoming Air Force base has 450 of the Minuteman missiles.
Combat missile crews isolated the communication problem and returned the system to normal operations, Air Force officials said in a statement.
Thomas told American Forces Press Service that analysis of the disruption remains under way, although the cause appears to be a launch control center that “didn’t wait to take its turn.”
“We got unverifiable info because [the center] was trying to communicate in the wrong time slot,” he said. “As soon as we detected an anomaly, we made a point to check on the physical security of the missiles.”
Security forces with television cameras surveyed each of the 50 missile launch sites, he said. Physically inspecting all of the sites took several hours to complete, he added.
“There is no indication of intentional or malicious causes in the communication disruption,” Thomas said.
Multiple redundant, or back-up, systems were operational to protect the safety, security and command and control of the nation’s ICBM nuclear deterrent force, according to the Air Force statement. Officials said the incident did not pose “a significant breach in nuclear security,” and that neither a power breach nor a power outage had occurred.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident. In the event of an actual threat, the airborne launch control center would assume the launch of the missile crews, as ordered by the president, officials said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)