Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

The Pentagon's latest nuclear snafu

Those helicopter batteries the Pentagon thought it had shipped to Taiwan back in 2006? In March, seven months after the Air Force lost track of six nuclear warheads that were inadvertently flown over the U.S., the Defense Department was informed that the batteries it meant to deliver to Taiwan had actually been fuses used to trigger nuclear warheads. Whoops. Though the shipments contained no nuclear material, this was still a potentially explosive mistake since China considers Taiwan part of its territory, making U.S. arms sales to Taiwan among the most sensitive points in U.S.-China relations. Amazingly, the fuses' absence managed to escape notice in at least six and possibly up to eight quarterly inventory checks. The U.S. only learned about the mix-up when the Taiwanese found themselves a few helicopter batteries short, dusted off the 2006 shipment and told the Pentagon what was inside.