US Air Force authorities have covered a recent ballistic missile incident near a North Dakota air base, refusing to disclose the information about the incident to the public. The Air Force officials reported the event to the Pentagon officials, but decided not to publicize the information about the maintenance lapse, arguing that the incident posed no risk to public safety, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The US Air Force crew damaged an unarmed US intercontinental ballistic missile while performing maintenance, prompting a partial evacuation. The Air Force officials, however, confirmed the incident on Monday in response to queries from Washington, D.C.’s largest paper.
Technicians were conducting “routine maintenance” on a section of a Minuteman III missile on November 17 when a “small replaceable component” was damaged, said a spokesman for the Air Force’s Global Strike Command, Lieutenant Colonel Ron Watrous said.
He said the component was not attached to the missile, adding that the missile was not armed with warhead at the time of the incident.
The Air Force maintains about 450 Minuteman IIIs at three bases in North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. The damage is said to have been a serious lapse, but not as serious as the Air Force’s pervious mistakes in maintaining its nuclear arsenals.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, this is probably around the 1 to 2 level of seriousness, which is why we didn’t make any statements about this proactively,” Watrous noted. “It just doesn’t rise to the level of needlessly frightening the public.”