The disappearance of a machine gun and a box of grenades from an Air Force base in North Dakota has prompted military officials to order a full, command-wide inventory and investigation to establish that weapons used by security personnel at eight military bases are accounted for, according to a US military official familiar with the details of the situation.
The full, command-wide inventory at eight bases under the Air Force Global Strike Command will cover all small arms, machine guns, pistols, rifles and grenades, according to the official. Routine inventories of military armories at the bases are conducted three times a day and weapons are matched against serial number records.
The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have also been called in, according to the official.
The inventory was ordered on Thursday, after an M-240 fully-automatic machine gun was found to be missing at the base in Minot, North Dakota during a routine inventory the previous day.
"During a standard weapons inventory at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota on 16 May, a M-240 7.62 caliber weapon was discovered missing. The 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Missile Wing immediately began a search of their weapons inventories and opened an investigation with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be provided as it becomes available," the command said in a statement.
"Air Force Global Strike Command takes the safety and security of our installations, our Airmen and the public very seriously. In the interest of safety and accountability, AFGSC leadership has directed an immediate command-wide weapons inventory," the statement went on to say.
On May 1, a box of 32 grenades for an automatic grenade launcher apparently fell off the back of moving military vehicle also from Minot. When the driver and crew got to their destination they found the back of the vehicle had opened and the box was missing. They searched for it but did not find it.
All eight bases being inventoried are part of the Air Force's Global Strike Command which is responsible for nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles; B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers, air-launched cruises missiles and gravity bombs as well as the Air Force nuclear command, control, and communications system. More than 30,00 personnel are assigned to the command. The armories and security personnel are not directly involved in the protection of nuclear weapons, the official said, adding there is no indication that the security of those weapons has been compromised.
In 2007, six nuclear warheads on cruise missiles were mistakenly carried on a flight from Minot, North Dakota to Barksdale, Louisiana prompting a major investigation and disciplinary action. The crew was unaware they had nuclear weapons on board.
In 2016, more than a dozen airmen at Global Strike Command's F.E. Warren base in Wyoming were investigated for alleged illegal drug use. Several of the personnel at the time held jobs involving nuclear weapons security,
Task and Purpose was first to report details of the inventory.