Errors by three airmen troubleshooting a nuclear missile in its launch silo in 2014 triggered a "mishap" that damaged the missile, prompting the Air Force to strip the airmen of their nuclear certification and quietly launch an accident investigation, officials revealed Friday. In a statement released to the AP, the Air Force declined to provide key additional details or a copy of the report produced last November by the Accident Investigation Board, saying the information was classified and too sensitive to be made public. Under the Air Force's own regulations, Accident Investigation Board reports are supposed to be made public. The Air Force did release a brief summary to the AP after it repeatedly sought answers for more than a year.
The Air Force said the accident caused no injuries and posed no risk to public safety. It said top Pentagon officials were briefed on the results of the investigation in December, as were members of Congress. The damaged missile was removed from its underground silo, which is situated among wheat fields and wind turbines near Peetz, Colorado. The silo is one of 10 in a cluster that straddles the Colorado-Nebraska border. The Air Force's brief summary of the mishap said the Minuteman 3 missile "became non-operational" during a diagnostic test on the evening of May 16, 2014. The next morning a "mishap crew" chief "did not correctly adhere to technical guidance" during troubleshooting efforts, "subsequently damaging the missile." No further details about the damage or errors were revealed. (Read more Colorado stories.)