Belated congratulations to members of the 91st Space Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota, who successfully completed their Nuclear Surety Inspection (NSI) last week. In a brief interview with the Associated Press, Colonel Marty Whelan, the 91st Wing Commander, said he was “pleased” with the inspection’s results, which showed the unit is ready to carry out its nuclear mission.
The 91st Space Wing is in charge of 150 Minutemen III ICBMs, based in remote silos across northwest and north-central North Dakota.
Originally, the space wing and Minot’s 5th Bomb Wing were supposed to receive their NSIs at the same time. However, the bomber unit’s evaluation was pushed back, after a preliminary evaluation discovered lingering problems in personnel training and certification.
The 5th BW lost its nuclear certification last fall, after a B-52 mistakenly carried six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from Minot to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. Weapons involved in that incident were loaded by crews from the 5th Bomb Wing. The resulting nuclear mishap was described as the worst in more than 20 years, and has prompted three seperate Air Force investigations.
A spokesman for the 5th BW recently indicated that the unit’s NSI will now be held “later this spring,” giving the unit more time to prepare.
On a related note, results of last fall’s nuclear surety inspection at Barksdale AFB remain unclear. The evaluation was held in September, not long after the unauthorized transfer between Minot and the Louisiana base. In From the Cold filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request for the inspection results more than four months ago; while the request has been approved, the response–at last report–was still being prepared by the Air Staff.
Official Air Force policy discourages the release of specific inspection scores or ratings. But such information has been provided through past FOIA requests, and occasional media leaks.