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Air Force Nuclear Unit Fails Inspection

The 341st Missile Wing at the Malmstrom Airforce Base in Montana handles one-third of the United States' land-based nuclear missiles.

Today, it failed an inspection after making "tactical-level errors during one of several exercises," the Air Force's Global Strike Command said in a statement.

The AP reports this is the second setback in a year for the unit. The news service adds:

"Without more details it is difficult to reliably judge the extent and severity of the problem uncovered at Malmstrom, home of the 341st Missile Wing, which is one of three nuclear missile wings. Each wing operates 150 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, on alert for potential launch against targets around the globe.

On Capitol Hill, a spokesman for Rep. Howard 'Buck' McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said that "two troubling inspections in a row at two different missile wings is unacceptable" to McKeon.

'It is his sense that the Air Force must refocus on the nuclear mission,' spokesman John Noonan said. 'The Air Force should hold failed leadership at the group and wing level accountable, recommit itself from the top down to the nuclear deterrent mission, and ensure a daily focus on its centrality to our nation's security.'"

In its press release, Lt. Gen. Jim Kowalski said this failure doesn't mean "the wing isn't able to accomplish its mission."

He added: "Commanders use these inspections to continually improve our training and procedures. These inspections allow us to identify causes and find solutions to problems in areas that aren't meeting our exacting standards."

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