Broken Arrow: The Lost Nukes
Lost nuclear weapons are one of my favorite topics, because most people are completely unaware of them. Whether by incompetence or unexplained phenomenon, there are dozens of nuclear devices that have been completely lost to humanity.
1. On March 10th, 1956, four B-47Es took off from MacDill AFB (Florida) en route to Ben Guerir Air Base (Morroco) carrying nuclear cores. Upon their second refueling at 14,000ft, callsign Inkspot 59 vanished into a cloud layer and was never seen again.
An extensive search was conducted over a large spread of the Mediterranean Sea, but this failed to turn up any bodies or debris from the aircraft. To this day, nobody knows the whereabouts of those two transport cases of weapons-grade uranium.
2. On January 24th, 1961, a structural failure was discovered on a B-52G while it was attempting to aerially refuel. Initially, the aircraft diverted to Seymour Johnson AFB and descended to 10,000ft. Stability worsened until the pilots could no longer control the plane.
At 9,000ft, the eight-man crew was ordered to abandon the aircraft. The plane continued to break up, until two Mark 39 nuclear bombs separated from the aircraft between ~1000-2000ft. A parachute on one of the bombs deployed, while the other slammed into the ground at 700mph.
The first bomb went through its entire arming process, with the exception of a single safety switch out of four that prevented the bomb's detonation. The second bomb split into two pieces, the first of which was found 20ft below the surface.
Upon examination of the second bomb's tail section, a single high-voltage switch prevented it from arming and subsequently detonating. An attempt was made to fully recover the second bomb, but this was called off after a waterlogged 50ft dig failed to locate the rest of it.
The thermonuclear stage of the second bomb still remains in a field near Eureka, North Carolina, and is estimated to be located between ~100-200ft below the surface. Of the crew, two failed to escape the plane and one didn't survive his parachute landing.
3. On December 5th, 1965, an A-4E Skyhawk rolled backwards off an elevator on the USS Ticonderoga during a training exercise. This sent the plane, the pilot, and a B43 nuclear bomb down ~16,000ft into the ocean, none of which were ever recovered.
The entire event was covered up until the early 80s, when the Navy admitted it had lost a nuclear weapon 500 miles off the coast of Japan. This turned out to be a lie, as the hydrogen bomb was actually lost 68 miles off the coast of Kikaijima.
In addition to causing a massive political scandal in 1989, the event is still controversial, because pilot Douglas Webster's name was never added to the Vietnam War Memorial to facilitate the cover-up. The weapon remains intact somewhere below the Phillipine Sea.
4. On January 21st, 1968, a B-52G with the callsign HOBO 28 took off from Plattsburgh AFB on a Hard Head mission over Thule AFB. In the event of a surprise nuclear war, HOBO 28 was supposed to deploy its four B28FI bombs over the Soviet Union as quickly as possible.
Shortly after takeoff, third pilot Alfred D'Amario placed four foam cushions over a heating vent to rest his legs on during the 24+ hour flight. Five hours later, the aircraft met up with a KC-135 Stratotanker to refuel before beginning their holding pattern over Greenland.
To battle the -55°F wind buffeting the aircraft, the crew siphoned heat from the engines and maxed out the onboard heating system, which ignited the polyurethane cushions on the vent at ~600°F. The crew proceeded to dump two A-20 fire extinguishers onto the blaze with no effect.
With fire engulfing the plane, the crew attempted to land at Thule AFB, but the aircraft lost power at 19,000ft during a rapid descent. The crew were ordered to bail at 8,000ft while maintaining 690mph. Soon after, the plane and its 100+ tons of jet fuel slammed into Bylot Sound.
The force of the impact and ignition of the jet fuel set off the B28FIs' primary high-explosives, scattering plutonium, uranium, and other debris across a 1×3 mile area. The B-52 then sank 600ft into the ice, which subsequently refroze over the wreckage of the plane.
The Danish government required the US to remove 237,000 cubic feet of material from the crash site, which at times reached -76°F. This cleanup took hundreds of personnel over four months to complete, some of which took place during polar night.
The US initially claimed to have recovered all four B28FIs, but this was revealed to be false by declassified documents obtained during a FOIA request in the early 2000s. In reality, the thermonuclear stage of one of the bombs was never found.
It's believed jet fuel and high-explosives allowed the bomb to bore its way through the ice to an unknown depth somewhere near the crash site, where it remains frozen in time.
The whole point of this thread is to illustrate that while we may have the capacity to subjugate reality, we are by no means competent enough to wield it responsibly. Hopefully, we'll never meet the consequences of our hubris some distant, sunny day.