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Official says missile malfunction not a sign of greater problems

From Jennifer Rizzo, CNN
  • The Air Force experienced an hour-long communications break with 50 missiles
  • Indications are that Saturday's disruption was a computer malfunction
  • An Air Force general says the service is taking a "very hard look" at the episode
  • But the general says, "I don't think it signals a degradation" in nuclear capabilities

Washington (CNN) -- A high-level Air Force official defended the capabilities of the U.S. nuclear arsenal Thursday, after the Air Force lost communication with 50 nuclear missiles last weekend.

"I don't think it signals a degradation," Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Carrol Chandler said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"We're dealing in many cases with a weapons system that was designed and built in the '60s. I will also tell you that there's some goodness in the simplicity with the way that system is built"

Early indications are that Saturday's disruption to one of the launch control centers linked to Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, where the 50 missiles are held, was due to a computer malfunction similar to glitches at two other nuclear missile sites in the late 1990s.

The disruption lasted longer than an hour, but the military maintains that because of redundant systems, at no time was the Air Force unable to monitor, communicate with or, if need be, launch the intercontinental ballistic missiles on the president's command.

Chandler applauded the men and women tasked with trouble-shooting the problem but said the Air Force is going to take a "very hard look" at command and control.

The United States has 450 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles in its nuclear arsenal.

CNN's Larry Shaughnessy contributed to this report.