Missile Unit Experienced Communications Disruption

The 319th Missile Squadron headquartered at FE Warren AFB, Wyo., overseer of 50 Minuteman III ICBMs, experienced “a disruption of communications” between its five launch control centers and the missiles on Saturday, Lt. Col. John Thomas, Air Force Global Strike Command spokesman, told the Daily Report Wednesday. He said the evidence so far points to a mechanical part failure associated with the missile complex’s primary communications system. Somehow the electronic queries that the LCCs send out to each missile to verify its health and status got out of sync and created a transmissions logjam, kind of like 50 people trying to speak simultaneously on the same walkie-talkie frequency. Thomas said it took the missileers about 45 minutes to diagnose and isolate the issue. They switched control of all 50 missiles to one of the LCCs. (Normally each LCC controls 10 missiles.) In short order, all but one of the LCCs were back in the network. However, one of the squadron’s LCCs remains offline for additional study of the anomaly, he said. Thomas said there’s no evidence of tampering or malicious conduct. USAF technical experts think the issue is similar to ones that occurred in the late 1990s at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and Minot AFB, N.D., he said. The missile crews at FE Warren had multiple safety, security, and command and control systems that were available throughout this event. Thomas said there was never any danger of unauthorized missile launch and the missiles’ wartime capability “was never affected.” And there was no outright outage of communications or power as some press reports have indicated. (See also Associated Press report and AFPS report by Terri Moon Cronk.)