U.S. Nuclear Missile Almost Launched

United Press International

A U.S. Titan 2 nuclear missile crew was performing a routine launch drill in Kansas in 1980 when a real launch sequence suddenly began, threatening to fire the weapon, a report on nuclear accidents revealed Thursday.

Scrambling, the crew managed to prevent the launch by hastily disconnecting the main power supply. Meanwhile, nuclear-armed B-52 bombers were being readied to respond to the false computer alarm of a “nuclear attack.”

The incident, caused when a technician accidentally loaded the wrong tape into the early warning computer at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas on Nov. 19, 1980, is one of more than 200 listed in “A Handbook of Nuclear Weapons Accidents,” a research report by Britain’s University of Bradford.


Some of the more recent examples in the report include:

--Jan. 10, 1984: At a Minuteman nuclear missile launch control center at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, a computer indicated that a Minuteman missile was about to launch itself from its silo.

Although the U.S. Air Force said later there was never any danger of a launch, during the emergency an armored car was hastily parked on top of the missile silo as a precaution.

--Oct. 4, 1986: An explosion occurred aboard a Soviet submarine patrolling the U.S. East Coast with 16 nuclear missiles. Three crewmen were killed. U.S. military experts said a nuclear missile had probably exploded, rupturing the cap of its container and possibly ejecting nuclear warheads into the ocean.