Released: Jul 10, 1998
The accident occurred due to a combination of three causes according to the accident investigation report. First, the University of Utah was allowed to place an observatory belonging to the University of Tokyo in an area reserved for hazardous test operations. Second, mission planners were unaware of the existence of the observation array. Finally, the communications suite for controlling the missile was not configured to do what test people expected it to do.
The report also states that if any one of these causes had not existed, the accident could have been prevented.
The AGM -129 was released over the Utah Test and Training Range from a B-52 assigned to Minot AFB, N.D. The cruise missile test was part of the Weapons System Evaluation Program and was conducted by the 53rd Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla. WSEP is designed to test operational weapons to ensure system reliability and accuracy.
The missile had flown for approximately 3.5 hours on its planned route and had fulfilled all test objectives prior to the mishap. The missile was carrying an inert test payload. (Courtesy of ACC News Service)
* Air Combat Command
* B-52 Stratofortress
* 53rd Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla.