Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
User Panel

Posted: 2/28/2002 8:52:57 AM EDT
Recall the Titan II missle accident that occurred in Arkansas in the early '80's.  Maintenance guys were working on or near it, dropped a wrench which hit the missile and caused it to leak fuel.  The Titan II blew up, sending the 9 megaton warhead up through the 3 foot thick silo door.

Does anybody have a copy of the report that was issued on that accident?

I am particularly interested in the causes of the accident and the effects that explosion had on the silo and the nuclear weapon on top of the missile.


Link Posted: 3/2/2002 8:53:42 PM EDT
When I went through EOD school, this event was talked about.  The Air Force could not exactly find the exact cause mainly because that Titan II detonated with the force of a small tactical nuke and completely destroyed the silo(destroyed is a understatement)!  There are several theories as to what was the cause of the accident.  The Titan II was a old liquid-fueled missile that was prone to leaking due to the nasty liquid fuel.  The wrench may have caused a leak, so may a mouse (rodents have been big problems in silo's).  All the Air Force knows is that when a fan went on, the Titan II exploded.

From what I was told, it may be wrong, the search for the warhead was a long one and it was found by a Air Force EOD member when he left a tent to take a leak.  If it is true I bet his eyes popped out of his head.  Pretty lucky the warhead did not yield, had it been a full yield, there would have been absolute devastation, similar to the blast from Mt. St. Helens minus the cubic mile of rock turned to ash. That's about all I can say on the warhead as I am still bound by secrecy rules.

The Air Force almost tried to blame the maintenance crew for the accident (Fall guys) but instead the Air Force got rid of the decrepit Titan II 's.

Check out FAS.org (Federation of Atomic Scientists web site) I believe they list some accidents.
Link Posted: 3/4/2002 3:49:14 AM EDT

Thanks for help!

I'll check out the FAS site.

Link Posted: 3/6/2002 7:26:21 PM EDT
It would be difficult for the warhead to detonate as the conventional explosive around it has to go off in a super critical timing arrangement. The conventional explosive could have gone off and scattered radioactive elements all over hell.
Link Posted: 3/6/2002 8:24:14 PM EDT
Troynm, yes the chances of a full yield would have been remote but it could have happened.  That warhead was a 1950's design and did not have much for fail-safe built into it.

From what I remember the warhead basically got shot out of the silo like a bullet.  That old warhead was retrieved intact so things could have been a lot worse.  

The worst scenario is that would have functioned and gave a full yield, very bad.

It also could have had the explosives detonate and partially yield and been more or less a dirty bomb (DOE considers 2.5 lbs. of explosive force caused by fission to be a yield).  This would have been very bad also.

It also could have broke apart, burned and spread radiological material all over.  Not cool either.

Luckily in the Arkansas case the warhead stayed intact spreading no contamination, the best scenario.
Link Posted: 3/15/2002 9:26:59 PM EDT
Also look at http://www.nuclearfiles.org/anw/
Many of the accidents hit home.  Especially the Nov 9, 1979 NORAD false alert.  That was the day I left Iceland with orders for NORAD.  My first roomate when I got to the mountain was one of the computer operators involved.  Later, I was working (Security) during one of the 1980 false alerts. Was a very scary time.  really interesting to see how many times we were so close to the "big one."
Link Posted: 3/16/2002 4:57:39 AM EDT
I may be mistaken, but I seem to remember a made for T.V. or Cable movie about this accident in the 80's a couple of years after the incident. The movie suggested that poor communication between onsite personal and the activation of a fan to ventilate fuel fumes/vapor was the cause. Also dealt with the fact the Airforce tried to put the blame on the crew they sent in (after leak had occurred) to appraise the situation(the ones that survived the detonation, they were evacuating and at least some made it clear just in time, though they were injured/burned/full of shrapnel). Gotta love the cover your ass military/govt. buearucrat types.
Link Posted: 3/16/2002 5:03:56 AM EDT
Eek.  If it was a 50's design, that suggests it was a BIG one.   10+ megatons, and I wouldn't doubt it was a 50.   That'd do the Mt. St. Helens thing, all right!

My understanding from what I've read is that the Soviets at least designed a 500.  They may even have built one, but they did not TEST one.

I can't remember what the largest above-ground nuclear test ever was, but I seem to recall that the Mike test yielded 11-odd MT.   I think we've shot bigger ones underground.  

At last...effective gopher medicine!

Link Posted: 3/16/2002 5:31:57 AM EDT
Check out FAS.org (Federation of Atomic Scientists web site) I believe they list some accidents.
View Quote

Sorry to break the news but FAS stands for [u]F[/u]ederation of [u]A[/u]merican [u]S[/u]cientists.

Link Posted: 3/19/2002 9:08:14 AM EDT

Some nuclear weapons history for you:

- Mike was the first H-bomb exploded, it was 10.5 megatons.
- Castle Bravo was the largest bomb ever detonated by the US at 15 megatons.  We wanted to do at least one at 25 MT but Eisenhower denied it.
- The Soviets designed up to 100 MT and set one off at 57-58 MT.
- The largest underground test was by the US at 5 MT in the Alaskan islands (project Canniken) in 1970. Incidentally, this test was instrumental in the organization Greenpeace being founded.
- The Titan II missles held one 9 MT warhead, I don't remember the warhead designation since I don't have my Nuclear Weapons Databook handy.
- The largest bomb fielded by the US was the Mk17, a 15-20 MT bomb.  It weighed +40K lbs and only the B-36 Peacekeeper bomber could carry it.  They say that the bomber rose over 1000 feet after dropping full-weight models.  It only lasted a couple of years in service back in the '50's.


Link Posted: 3/31/2002 7:32:45 PM EDT
The Global Security website has some info about the accident.

Link Posted: 4/1/2002 7:51:31 PM EDT
It had a mark 6 re-entry vehicle with penetration aids. The stated yield was approximately 6 MT. This was the largest warhead in our arsenal to have been fielded in significant numbers. The remaining 52 were retired shortly after this event. For the purpose of comparison a UGM-93 trident was armed with eight mark 4 RV each rated at 100 kT.

Launch weight of the LGM-25c, titan II, was 330,000 lbs. The greater portion of this mass was nitrogen tetroxide and Aerozine. Liquid under pressure the fuel vaporized when the tank was punctured. Mixing it with the atmosphere introduces an oxidizer. This was a large conventional detonation with resultant NASTY fire.

The RV itself was uranium. It was ejected from the silo before it could be set on fire. Yes, it burns, no you do not want to inhale uranium oxides either.

Even so, environmentally the results were milder than a shuttle launch.

Obsolescent then, maybe, yet it remains NASA's bad boy. There have been few significant changes. First, they are produced on a separate assembly line dedicated to civilian usage. The second, improved guidance and avionics. Third, the introduction of side mounted solid fuel boosters.

Hopefully this is more than anyone wanted to know.

Link Posted: 4/2/2002 1:46:48 AM EDT
Correction, upon digging out some old documentation, I realized the last of the mark 6 crowdpleasers were retired five years later in 1987.

All of this is information that has been released to the public.

Link Posted: 4/2/2002 2:40:07 AM EDT
The soviet doomsday devise was never built. It would have been a designed into the structure of a 45,000 ton ship. The hull itself would have contained fissionables. Thus, it would have been a fission fusion fission reaction. The soviets always exerted meticulous control over their strategic rocket forces. A suitable checks and balance system authorizing use was considered problematic. In addition, the strategic rocket force also possessed considerable polictical acuemen. Thus it was unlikely that their navy would have been issued such a toy, had an acceptable authorizing proceedure been developed.
Link Posted: 4/6/2002 12:49:19 PM EDT
The FAS Nuke page:



Link Posted: 4/6/2002 12:58:34 PM EDT
Pretty lucky the warhead did not yield, had it been a full yield, there would have been absolute devastation, similar to the blast from Mt. St. Helens minus the cubic mile of rock turned to ash. That's about all I can say on the warhead as I am still bound by secrecy rules.
View Quote

It takes A LOT to get a nuke to unintentionally detonate.  And by that, I don't mean a lot of explosives.  I mean a lot of chance, as there is an extremely complicated switching routine that must be accomplished in order to fire all the triggers at the exact same time.  Dropping, blowing up, or burning a warhead is highly unlikely to cause this.  I used to work with W71 warheads as a Lance launch platoon leader and XO, and a significant part of our training was blowing them up.  As a matter of fact, demolition of a nuclear warhead is safe, as far as the chances for nuclear detonation go.  You still have to stay upwind from the radiation.
Link Posted: 4/6/2002 1:07:26 PM EDT
Causing a nuclear device to go boom on purpose is VERY hard. Accidental detonation is almost impossible. If just one trigger device is out of sequence, you just get a messy conventional explosion, with radiation problems.


Link Posted: 4/6/2002 1:09:06 PM EDT
Wasn't there a broken arrow incident involving a U.S. plane in Europe in the '50s or '60s? Two (IIRC) warheads lost at sea when a bomber crashed?


Link Posted: 4/6/2002 5:37:57 PM EDT
I think you're talking about the 1966 incident, where a KC-135 and B52 had a mid-air during refueling.  The B-52 had a total of 4 bombs on board, one of which went into the water off the coast of Spain.  That one took them a while and a lot of work to recover.  The other three landed on the ground in Spain.  

If you get to Albuquerque, the Nat'l Atomic Museum, which is on base at Kirtland Air Force Base, could be worth a visit.  Not real large, but interesting.

Link Posted: 4/9/2002 12:42:27 PM EDT
Chuck Hansen's U.S History of Nuclear Weapons has a listing of all Broken Arrow incidents.  As far as I know, there are at least 4 nuclear weapons lost and never recovered by the US: 1 in NC, 1 in GA off the Savannah coast and 2-4 in the Med from a B-47 that was lost and never found.

Hansen's book is now going for $300, the CD is available here for the same cost:  http://members.aol.com/uscoldwar/index.html

I reviewed my last copy by going to the local library, I had it for 2 weeks then renewed for 2 weeks more.  Very interesting and detailed book.  
The Nuclear Weapons Databook series has a lot of the same data as Chuck Hansen, but is not as detailed on the acutal weapons themselves, but the NWD has a lot of info on the US nuclear weapons industry.  Both are dated to around 1986, but Hansen's web site has an updated CD for the $300.

Dpcop, I've been to the National Atomic Museum several years ago (around 1984) and found it immensely interesting.  I'd love to go back again and it will be on the agenda during my next desert trip (as will a tour of the NTS).


Link Posted: 6/12/2002 9:59:05 PM EDT
Another one:

1965 (Dec 5) A-4 aircraft loaded with one nuclear weapon rolls off deck of USS Ticonderoga in North Pacific 70 miles from Japan; sinks in 16,000 ft of water; bomb and pilot not recovered.


Close Join Our Mail List to Stay Up To Date! Win a FREE Membership!

Sign up for the ARFCOM weekly newsletter and be entered to win a free ARFCOM membership. One new winner* is announced every week!

You will receive an email every Friday morning featuring the latest chatter from the hottest topics, breaking news surrounding legislation, as well as exclusive deals only available to ARFCOM email subscribers.

By signing up you agree to our User Agreement. *Must have a registered ARFCOM account to win.
Top Top