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They Lost Nukes Too!

Recently the US Marine Corps lost an F-35. The circumstances are mostly undisclosed or rumour based, though that is to be expected in regards to such a sensitive matter. While it has become a comical example of incompetence, especially given the platforms controversy, it’s not the worse thing that the US military has lost. They have also lost nuclear weapons, on a few occasions.

The US term for it is, “Broken Arrow”. There have been officially 32 reported incidence involving “Broken Arrows”. Lost ‘nukes’ outside of the US are unknown given that not all national governments are as “open” with information as the United States is. The US has admitted that six nuclear weapons remain lost. During the reign of the Soviet Union it is possible that such weapons also went missing, especially in the chaotic years following the break up when ownership and security of the strategic arms changed hands or remained in limbo.

Another concerning reality is that Soviet era “suitcase sized” nukes may also be unaccounted for, retired Russian General Alexander Lebed has claimed that as many as one hundred of such devices are likely missing. The one kiloton ‘mini nukes’ assigned to Spetznaz special forces are not only the perfect weapon of terror, but are small enough that they could be misplaced sitting in a storage facility somewhere slowly ‘cooking’ until the moment of accidental detonation. That is the real concern for all of the missing nukes. If the safety mechanisms on them fail or erode they may someday detonate with random carnage. Given that all seem lost in remote locations, there is still a risk of harming the innocent not to mention the environmental impact such an event would cause.

The first Broken Arrow occurred in February of 1950, when a B-36 bomber while experiencing mechanical issues dropped an atomic bomb over the Pacific Ocean near Princess Royal Island. The Mark 4, 30-kiloton (Fat Man) bomb is still missing to this day. Four more accidents in 1950 occurred with US bombers carrying nuclear weapons over US soil. The high explosive materials detonating or burning, likely causing a spread of the radioactive materials. Thankfully none of the accidents resulted in nuclear detonation.

In March 1956, a B-47 bomber crashed in the Mediterranean sea, two nuclear cores were onboard. The crew, bomber and nuclear devices remain missing. During a training mission in February, 1958 another USAF B-47 bomber carrying a Mk 15 atomic bomb collided with an F-86 Sabre fighter jet. The bomb was dropped over Wassaw Sound before the crew could attempt an emergency landing. The crew survived though that bomb remains missing also.

Such accidents and the potential for further Broken Arrows increased during Operation Chrome Dome, an ambitious readiness routine that kept US nuclear bombers airborne 24hrs a day. Armed and constantly flying, at least a dozen strategic bombers remained capable of hitting the Soviet Union in response to any attack around the clock. In 1961, early into Chrome Dome, a B-52 crashed shortly after take off in North Carolina. One of its 24-megaton nuclear bombs remains missing. Another bomb from this incident that was recovered showed that three out of the four arming mechanisms had been activated, fortunately there was no nuclear explosion from this mishap. The other missing bombs safety mechanism status remains unknown, along with its whereabouts.

It was not only the Strategic Air Command that lost nukes, the US Navy had a Broken Arrow in December 1965, an A-4 Skyhawk armed with a one-megaton thermonuclear bomb fell off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, USS Ticonderoga. The aviator, Skyhawk and bomb remain missing around 500-miles from land beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean. In Spring of 1968 the USS Scorpion sank 400 miles southwest of the Azores Islands, taking with it the lives of 99 crew members and a pair of nuclear tipped weapons. Theses nuclear weapons and material remaining deep under the ocean, only time will tell what damage long term such weapons will cause.

An incident that was considered one of the worse nuclear accidents of its day occurred in January 1966 when a nuclear weapon splashed under the waves close to Spanish fishermen near the Alboran Sea and outside the village of Palomares three thermonuclear bombs crashed into the countryside, spreading radioactive plutonium. The US government conducted an extensive clean up, shipping thousands of tonnes of contaminated Spanish soil back to the United States. Though the area remains contaminated still to this day. The missing bomb, somewhere under the water.

Other Broken Arrows are as follows, two bomber accidents in 1956, three in 1957, six in 1958, four in 1959, one in 1960, three in 1961, another in 1963, three more in 1964, up to three in 1965, another in 1966, three for 1968, one for 1969, one in 1975 and one in 1980. A further seven more accidents occurring up until 2000. Each of these incidents involved US or Russian aircraft or submarines in accidents some that ended with the loss of life with the potential to cause a catastrophic mass death event. Not to mention the environment damage that is likely still being felt to this day. The safety protocols on these devices have been proven to be life saving, the clean up operation have at times been thorough or as best as possible to manage. That is when a clean up has occurred or any recovery was possible.

It is unknown what other nuclear armed governments have experienced with their weapons as far as accidents and loss goes. Given the sheer numbers and regular movements of their arsenals it stands to reason that the US and Russian-Soviets would experience more accidents. It is also assumed that they may have better safety standards and training in regards to such weapons. It’s hard to imagine Pakistan, North Korea or even China would have the level of training and practice when it comes to handling such weapons compared to the US. Then again by having far less of them available, it stands to reason that they may be a little less reckless with the deployment of such weapons. Future accidents and losses involving nuclear weapons is likely.

We are sliding into a world of frightened global environmental awareness, notably under the blanket of “climate action”, governments across the planet are taking it upon themselves to tax and grow in the name of green policies. The truth of the matter is that government is not only wasteful and destructive even when well meaning, it’s also often incompetent and reckless. The placard of environmental protection is the fixture for future policies, based on altruistic sloganeering. To save the planet has become a mantra for public servants to spit out while they consume resources, blow the planet to pieces and steer society into a path of perhaps in years to come as dangerous to nature as ever thanks to current policies. Not to mention the coming plastics and e-waste nightmare that awaits us all.

There was a time when the wider public and most conscientious activists were concerned by nuclear war and the catastrophic effects of one bomb detonating, let alone numerous. It seems with the climb into another cold war and the irrational desire for jingoism that nuclear Armageddon has been forgotten or is a distant nightmare for another generation. The energy to save the planet is alive and well, it seems however to have become hijacked by awareness advocates and big government establishments careerists who wish to maintain a status quo just in green. The heightened tensions between powers capable of destroying the planet with nuclear weapons is dangerous, in both the obvious direct implications of war but also because we may see a return to the Broken Arrows of the past. Losing an F-35 shows that there again could also be the loss of a cheaper nuclear tipped system that may fall from or be lost with another aircraft in the coming years, we know it’s possible because it’s already happened.

To imagine that the biggest government in the world, the most superior has time and time again not only poisoned the world with chemical defoliants, the plumes of death from burn pits, scattered bombs over civilians, sprayed herbicides in the hopes of curbing drug production, pumped depleted uranium into each war zone it’s created, dropped mega litres of jet fuel into the ocean, ruined sea life with naval activities and dropped numerous atom bombs all over the place. And, it turns out lost some. Those unaccounted weapons of mass destruction, while unlikely a third party may find them first, linger as potential dangers that in time may leak or explode with catastrophe. No amount of benevolent prayers for a big government solution will every fix the culture of government itself.

Humanity and the planet deserves better than to constantly be left in the hands of such central planners who rule with both cynicism and incompetence, even the well meaning drown in such a work place. If another world war is not a bad enough prospect, losing the weapons intended to wage it certainly won’t save the planet. It’s likely that by the time this is out, the F-35 will be found or at least someday soon. The nukes, if they even are still looking, may turn up when we least expect it and there is a chance not for the best. Life on Earth is too precious to constantly put at risk with such contemporary and political stupidity, how many regimes and administrations can the planet survive? The only green government is the one that does not exist, if you want to fix the planet then we need to get out of it’s way and let nature heal. And there is no tax for that, for the destroyers of the world, that’s precisely the problem.

September 2023

Published inAll Articles and EssaysWar, History and Foreign Policy