US lost link with 50 nuclear warheads for 45 minutes

US lost link with 50 nuclear warheads for 45 minutes

A defence official said the failure disrupted communications between a control centre and the missiles at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, making it difficult to launch them and sending the military scrambling to determine the cause of the incident.

There was no danger of an accidental launch, the official said. President Barack Obama was briefed about the incident this week, the Journal added. The incident took place Saturday and was first reported by the Atlantic on its website Tuesday.

The Atlantic reported that the squadron of inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM) was in "LF Down" status, which means the airmen in the missile bunkers could not communicate with the missiles.

The missiles still could be launched, but only by airborne command and control platforms, the report said.  Although the missiles at Warren air force base represent a large proportion of the ICBM arsenal, the defence official said that at no time was President Obama without a nuclear-launch capability.

The Wyoming based arsenal is nearly one-ninth of the country's nuclear stockpile, the Atlantic said. The report comes days after a senior military official admitted in a book that former president Bill Clinton's White House lost the codes needed to launch nuclear missiles.

Retired General Hugh Shelton writes in his memoir, "Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior", that the card containing the codes was missing for months before an aide finally admitted it was misplaced.

The card, known as the "biscuit", holds the code required to open the briefcase holding another set of codes needed to launch nuclear missiles. The briefcase is commonly referred to as the "football" and is always accompanied by a military officer and kept close to the president.