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TOPIC: Accidental release of Nuclear weapon, Wittering, May 1959

Accidental release of Nuclear weapon, Wittering, May 1959 04 Jul 2017 16:25 #11

  • canberra
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I read a book about the Jaguar and on TACEVALS all the Jags at Bruggen were loaded with live WE177s. But because they had to be guarded with guards with live rounds the exercise was suspended whilst they were loaded and unloaded.

But did the Navy unload the 177s from their ships during the Falklands?

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Accidental release of Nuclear weapon, Wittering, May 1959 19 Jul 2017 17:41 #12

  • whitecap162
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Sometime in 1987, whilst stationed at RAF Honington, a 'weapon' was to be transported to Bruggen by Tornado, with a second Tornado as the live-armed chase plane. On take off the chase plane managed to drop it's underwing stores onto the runway, leaving the live armed aircraft to tootle off. As the runway was now covered in fuel from the drop tanks I believe it diverted to Marham. There is an entry on www.ejection-history.org.uk/aircraft_by_type/tornado.htm dated 3 Jun 87, but with no incident details. This could be the same incident.

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Accidental release of Nuclear weapon, Wittering, May 1959 19 Jul 2017 18:36 #13

  • PaulGiverin
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whitecap162 wrote: Sometime in 1987, whilst stationed at RAF Honington, a 'weapon' was to be transported to Bruggen by Tornado, with a second Tornado as the live-armed chase plane. On take off the chase plane managed to drop it's underwing stores onto the runway, leaving the live armed aircraft to tootle off. As the runway was now covered in fuel from the drop tanks I believe it diverted to Marham. There is an entry on www.ejection-history.org.uk/aircraft_by_type/tornado.htm dated 3 Jun 87, but with no incident details. This could be the same incident.


The 3rd June 1987 accident was not the chase plane you refer to. It was a TWCU aircraft ZA366 operating out of Marham which crashed on the disused airfield at Manby.

Accident report here:- www.ukserials.com/pdflosses/maas_19870603_za366.pdf

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Accidental release of Nuclear weapon, Wittering, May 1959 20 Jul 2017 12:27 #14

  • Kevin Aeronca
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The Bruggen incident is briefly described by RAFG Deputy C-in-C, AVM Alan White in his book Lightning Up, pp 255-257. The WE177 had just arrived from the UK in a Hercules. It then lay where it had fallen for three weeks (!) while Aldermaston experts made a thorough check with X-Ray equipment, etc, before returning it to the UK.
The incident was presented as an “exercise” and the greatest problem was keeping the story out of the German press. (Forget “Don’t mention the war” — Don’t mention the WE177.)

Then there’s the undated story that’s been around for ages, concerning the Yellow Sun Mk 1 inside a V-Bomber at dispersal which lost its safety plug, resulting in personnel slipping and sliding all over the place when thousands of ball-bearings littered the ground. Sounds too good not to be apocryphal.

The question of non-carriage of real weapons on exercises is interesting. The USAF, obviously, thought this was necessary from time to time — as it occasionally, spectacularly and embarrassingly demonstrated. According to circumstantial evidence, the early UK nukes were not considered safe enough to be carried in the air or transported thus to dispersed operating airfields. Only at the time Yellow Sun Mk 2 became available was this limitation removed. Was this pure coincidence? Did this fact account for the stories of weapon downloading during training scrambles a home base?

It might be relevant that in October 1960 it was proposed to upgrade the readiness exercises from Mick to Mickey Finn. Mick did not involve dispersal or (as the official record chooses to make clear) “the supply of weapons by Maintenance Command”. YS2 became available in 1961 and Mickey Finns began in December 1961 and involved no-notice dispersals of the force, but the official history remains silent on Maintenance Command’s involvement. But why stress that no bombs were involved in Micks, if the same restriction would apply to Mickey Finns?

The prime — indeed, only — purpose of the V-Force was to launch (for example) a pair of Vulcans from (for example) Machrihanish, each with a live Yellow Sun or WE177 in its weapons bay. Was there never a full rehearsal of the means (airborne or surface) by which those bombs would be deployed to far-flung airfields? And made ready for use by armourers deployed far from home base? In a time-scale ranging from unknown to critical?

Considering the ‘elite’ nature of the V-Force, why did exercises for so long fall short of no-notice dispersal in a state as representative as possible of mere-hours-away-from-war? The nearest approach was the previous Mayflight exercise, which was dispersal training planned in advance — apparently with no bomb aboard. The description, in a post above, of the three types of WE177 is helpful, but were there ‘simulated’ Yellow Suns during the V-Force era as well?

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Last Edit: by Kevin Aeronca.
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