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Inspector General Report: Evaluation of the Aircraft Monitor and Control System’s Nuclear Certification

Source: DoD OIG

The Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General (DoD OIG) released a redacted public report on Jan. 26 assessing whether testing conducted on the Aircraft Monitor and Control (AMAC) system for DoD nuclear weapon capable delivery aircraft met DoD and Department of Energy (DOE) AMAC nuclear certification requirements.

The AMAC system is equipment installed in DoD aircraft to perform inflight monitoring and control of nuclear weapons, such as nuclear weapons safing, arming, enabling, disabling, and fuzing functions. These functions ensure that the nuclear weapon is safe in both ground and air environments, is delivered to its intended target, and is detonated at the correct point in space and time to achieve the desired goal.

The DoD and the DOE agreed on the division of responsibilities for AMAC compatibility testing through memorandums of understanding dating back to 1962, when the DOE was the Atomic Energy Commission. The current memorandum of understanding, signed in 2001, delineates the responsibilities of the stakeholders regarding the design requirements, test requirements, and documentation of aircraft monitor and control systems used with aircraft‑delivered nuclear weapons.

According to Titles 10 and 50 of the United States Code, nuclear weapon development and modification is governed by the DOE, whereas aircraft development and modification is governed by the DoD. Testing the compatibility of the nuclear weapon with the aircraft is a joint DoD and DOE activity. The DoD conducts its nuclear weapon testing and certification mission primarily through the Air Force Nuclear Weapon Center and the aircraft system program offices for the aircraft. The DOE conducts its nuclear weapon testing and certification mission primarily through the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and its national laboratories, such as Sandia National Laboratories.

The unclassified OIG recommendations include:

  • Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center should establish annual AMAC testing schedule that complies with joint DoD and DOE testing requirements
  • Calls for a reporting structure for future AMAC tests to include standardized test results, annual reports, and notifications when conflicts prevent tests from being accomplished
  • Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center Commander, with NNSA coordination, should make updates to documentation outlining AMAC system certification is a joint DoD and DOE responsibility
  • Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, in coordination with NNSA, should update current MOA to clarify roles and responsibilities; direct a joint review to ascertain the correct number of tests aircrafts have performed to date to ensure safety and surety of currently deployed AMAC systems; determine the minimum number of test aircraft required to determine nuclear weapon compatibility or functionality when loaded on a nuclear-capable aircraft.

The Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, in coordination with Headquarters Air Force Material Command, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, and Headquarters Air Force Global Strike Command, agreed with the findings of the report. The recommendations are ‘resolved’ but remain open until the OIG receives the completed action item documentation.

Evaluation of the Aircraft Monitor and Control System’s Nuclear Certification. Inspector General, U.S. Department of Defense. 22 January 2021

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