Friday, June 20, 2008

Sensitive US nuclear parts missing

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Sensitive US nuclear parts missing

The Pentagon has been unable to locate hundreds of sensitive nuclear missile components in the US inventory, a British daily reported.

The Financial Times citing US military officials said Thursday that the US Air Force is unable to account for over 1,000 sensitive nuclear missile components. This is yet another embarrassment for the Pentagon -- the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, it said.

The finding comes after the air force last year found that a bomber mistakenly flew across the US with six live nuclear warheads onboard and an accidental shipment of nuclear triggers to Taiwan.

After a probe that raised concerns about American nuclear safeguards, Washington recently dismissed its top air force officials, including the Chief of Staff and Service.

The daily reported that according to previously undisclosed details, the probe also concluded that the air force could not account for many sensitive components previously included in its nuclear inventory.

The Pentagon is worried that the sensitive nuclear parts may have ended up in countries that should not have received them. This issue has shaken the confidence in US control over its nuclear arsenal.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said "a substantial number" of generals and colonels also face possible disciplinary action as a result of an investigation into a mistaken shipment of fuses for nuclear weapons to Taiwan.

The Taiwan incident, and an accidental transfer of nuclear armed cruise missiles from one US air base to another last year, were symptoms of a decline in the air force's standards and focus, Gates said at the time.

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