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Russians pay visit for AF nuke inspection

A few Russian inspectors dropped by Minot AFB, N.D. this month just to make sure the Air Force had all the bombers on hand it said it did -- and, by all accounts, they saw what they came for.

The 5th Bomb Wing announced this week that it had been preparing diligently just in case any guests happened to swing by; per the official Air Force account, the base only gets 24 hours notice ahead of time.

Here's the Air Force background:

New START, which entered into force Feb. 5, 2011, calls for the United States and the Russian Federation to significantly reduce their strategic offensive armaments. It also allows for verification of data via national technical means (satellites) and onsite inspections.

According to the Minot AFB Arms Control Office, there are two types of inspections outlined in NST. A Type One inspection focuses on operational systems (such as the ICBMs and bombers at Minot AFB) and Type Two inspections focus on non-operational systems (such as those at a storage facility).

Under the treaty Minot is subject to up to four short-notice NST inspections per treaty year, two for the 91st MW and two for the 5th Bomb Wing. Minot AFB is a key player during New START inspections because it hosts both the Minuteman III ICBM and B-52H Stratofortress, both equipped with nuclear armaments.

Mr. Dennis Mikula, treaty compliance specialist, said once the base was notified of the inspection, the United States had 24 hours to get the inspectors on base. He added his team of experts were in charge of facilitating the overall inspection and ensured everything ran smoothly. He said it was important for the entire inspection sequence to flow adequately and to ensure everything went as scheduled.

It sounds like a pain in the neck for Minot airmen, but the Air Force's nuke bosses say they really like this sort of thing. During last year's sturm und drang in Washington over whether the Senate would ratify New START, top strategic leaders broke their usual silence to urge its passage. The deal is a two-way street, they said, and without an agreement with Russia, there was no way for American teams to conduct these kinds of visits to Russian sites, to keep tabs on what's happening there.

We've asked how many of these visits the U.S. had made so far under New START, so look for an update if we can get to the bottom of it.

H/t: Daily Report

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