Jeffrey LewisWe Don't Need No Water, Let the Mother …

A fire broke out in a Minuteman III silo in Wyoming and burned undetected for five days.

Tom Roeder from the Colorado Springs Gazette has the story. The use of duct tape is my favorite detail:

The fire was May 23 at a silo 42 miles east of Cheyenne, Wyo,, where the Minuteman III missile is stored, ready for firing in an unmanned, underground launch facility. The command said it waited for the investigation to be completed before releasing a report.

An Air Force Space Command spokeswoman said the fire, caused by a faulty battery charger in a storage room, extinguished itself from a lack of fuel and was discovered later by repair crews looking for wiring problems on the cables connected to the missile.

[snip]

Problems revealed by the investigation include unclear instructions on the installation of parts for the battery charger, quality assurance issues and the use of duct tape on cables, the command said.

[snip]

The blaze was not discovered immediately because launch crews monitor the silos remotely from control facilities miles from the missiles. The crews did get warning alarms for an electrical problem and excessive heat.

Space Command said the fire never reached the missile launch tube and was limited to the equipment room, meaning the booster and warhead were never in jeopardy.

I am starting to sound like a broken record (once, twice, thrice):

This is not an isolated incident. The organization has a problem. This is dangerous.

Comments

  1. Vic (History)

    I particularly like how they didn’t know for FIVE FREAKING DAYS that there’d been a fire.

  2. yousaf (History)

    so perhaps before worrying about the reliability of the warheads (>98% w/ high confidence now, and just fine for another 70 years according to NNSA) they should invest several billion dollars in more reliable duct tape.

  3. Another Anon Commenter

    Well, the official announcement leaves out a few things. The batteries are stored under the upper level equipment room floor which encircles the launch tube. The actual launch tube is not very thick, and there are many cut outs in the wall to allow for the umbilical and other cables to go into the launch tube and connect to the missile guidance unit. So, in actuality, if the batteries had exploded then it could have penetrated the wall and caused a catastrophic ignation of the solid rocket fuel. They were lucky the fired burned up all the oxygen in the tube and extinguished itself.

  4. Major Lemon (History)

    I heard a rumour that this Minuteman warhead was stuck on to its rocket with duct tape. The problem with all ballistic missiles is that they resemble extraction ducts and you only need an over zealous ducting installer into a silo and all havoc breaks loose. Ductwork contractors should be banned from defense installations IMHO.

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