Ex-Missileer: Wyoming Incident Highlights Reliability Concerns

The communications disruption between missileers at FE Warren AFB, Wyo., and 50 Minuteman III missiles last month was “a big deal, no matter what the Administration says,” asserts John Noonan, a former USAF captain who served as a missileer with FE Warren’s 321st Missile Squadron. “One little circuit board going bad caused us to lose control of 50 nuclear missiles. I look at that and I see a very serious reliability issue,” said Noonan, now an advisor with the Foreign Policy Initiative in Washington, D.C., last week during a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation, also in Washington. Over the course of his 300, 24-hour missile alerts as an airman, Noonan said he witnessed the loss of communications with an individual missile “maybe three or four times.” Yet during the Oct. 23 incident at FE Warren, “for 45 minutes, there was no security situational awareness around 50 nuclear missiles. . . . So to hear that it’s not a big deal . . . is very strange to me,” he said. The reliability of the Minutemen III fleet will become an even greater concern should the Senate ratify the New START agreement with Russia, said Noonan.