The Broken Arrow Project: Visualizing the Dangers of Maintaining the U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

March 14, 1961 - Yuba City, California

DOD: A B-52 [from Mather Air Force Base near Sacramento] experienced failure of the crew compartment pressurization system forcing descent to 10,000 feet altitude. Increased fuel consumption caused fuel exhaustion before rendezvous with a tanker aircraft. The crew bailed out at 10,000 feet except for the aircraft commander who stayed with the aircraft to 4,000 feet, steering the plane away from a populated area. The two nuclear weapons on board were torn from the aircraft on ground impact. The high explosive did not detonate. Safety devices worked as designed and there was no nuclear contamination.

CDI: The crew of eight survived though a fireman died extinguishing the fire. The nuclear weapons involved could have been either the free fall bombs located in the interior bomb bay compartment or "Hound Dog" (AGM-28B) air-to-ground missiles which are carried in pairs beneath the wings ofB-52s. The Hound Dog was a stand-off nuclear-tipped strategic missile with a range of 500-600 miles. It was inertially guided and powered by a turbo jet, air-breathing engine and had a warhead of about one megaton. It was first assigned to SAC in late 1959, and was part of the Air Force's nuclear inventory until it was phased out in 1977. By July 1961, SAC had increased the percentage of the bomber force on 15-minute ground alert from approximately 33% to 50%.


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