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Washington (AFP) May 8, 2013
The US Air Force has relieved 17 officers of their responsibilities for the control of intercontinental nuclear missiles, a military spokesman said Wednesday, citing a poor performance review.
Although individual officers have sometimes lost their certification to control and launch missiles, the removal of so many at once is "unprecedented," Lieutenant Colonel John Dorrian told AFP.
He said the officers received a score of "satisfactory" on 21 of 22 points under review, but failed the last unidentified category, which led to their de-certification.
"In nuclear enterprise, leadership expects perfection," said Dorrian.
The officers, who were responsible for control over and launch of Minuteman III missiles at Minot air force base in North Dakota, could be re-certified after 60 days of training, he said.
In 2008, after a series of high profile blunders involving nuclear weapons, a Pentagon investigation concluded that the air force's management of the nuclear mission had undergone "dramatic and unacceptable decline."
Then defense secretary Robert Gates sacked the air force's top military officer and civilian boss after a B-52 bomber flew across the United States, accidentally loaded with six nuclear cruise missiles.
The Minot base has about 150 Minuteman III missiles, a third of the US force of ground-based intercontinental missiles. The silos housing them are dispersed over an area the size of Massachusetts, according to Globalsecurity.org.
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