During the recent combined nuclear surety inspection and operational readiness inspection of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., the inspectors were told to “look deeper, look harder, and look longer” at the unit’s ICBM operations, according to Col. Michael Fortney, 341st MW commander, speaking of the direction given by Air Force Space Command boss Gen. Robert Kehler. As we reported earlier, the inspectors—some 90 officials from AFSPC and US Strategic Command—found deficiencies that call for a repeat test in 90 days. However, as happened earlier this year with the NSI review of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, N.D., the discrepancies noted were limited compared to the entire review and did not signal a major problem that would have prompted a mission standdown or necessitated a leadership change. Gen. Roger Burg, 20th Air Force commander, told the Malmstrom missileers, “You just witnessed you can have hundreds of tasks performed perfectly; have thousands of people performing their jobs without any flaws, and yet one single event in one or more parts of our business can affect the overall team score.” Fortney noted that the inspection was “much tougher than they have been in the last 15 years.” He declared that he’s certain the wing will fix the deficient areas before the follow-up review, saying, “I have every confidence in the airmen of this wing and have no doubt, we’ll be ready when they come back.” (341st MW report)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.