Air Force Nuclear Units Fail Inspection in Montana

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Two Air Force units responsible for the nuclear missiles warehoused in Montana failed inspections last month, military officials said Monday.

There is no threat to the public and the units at Malmstrom Air Force Base near Great Falls are still performing their missions while correcting the problems, according to Global Strike Command and Air Force Materiel Command, which oversee the units.

The 341st Missile Wing and 16th Munitions Squadron received “unsatisfactory” ratings in February from Air Force inspector general teams evaluating the units’ ability to carry out their missions. Neither Global Strike Command, which oversees the 341st Missile Wing, nor Air Force Materiel Command, which oversees the 16th Munitions Squadron, would detail the problems found in the nuclear surety inspections, citing security reasons.

“There were no critical deficiencies noted. The wing is still fully able, in the eyes of the inspector general team, to conduct its mission safely, securely and with credibility,” said Lt. Col. John Thomas, spokesman for Global Strike Command based in Barksdale, La., which oversees the nation’s nuclear equipped bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Air Force Materiel Command released a statement that said the 16th Munitions Squadron is correcting the deficiencies and will keep its nuclear certification. Spokeswoman JoAnne Rumple declined further comment Monday.

Both units will be re-inspected within 90 days, military officials said.

The Air Force Times first reported on the failed inspections Friday.

The 341st Missile Wing oversees security, maintenance and operations of 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles across north-central Montana. The 16th Munitions Squadron is part of a larger munitions maintenance group under the Air Force Materiel Command’s Nuclear Weapons Center.

In 2008, inspectors evaluating the 341st Missile Wing’s readiness to execute nuclear operations also found deficiencies, but the unit passed another inspection less than three months later.