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U.S. nuclear missile base loses communication

A computer failure caused a break in communication with 50 nuclear missiles at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming during the weekend, military officials said Tuesday.

White House told Tuesday about 45-minute outage Saturday

A computer failure caused a break in communication with 50 nuclear missiles at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming during the weekend, military officials said Tuesday.

The officials said the outage Saturday lasted about 45 minutes. The White House was briefed about the incident Tuesday morning.

There was no evidence of foul play and the air force never lost the ability to launch the missiles, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles are part of the 319th Missile Squadron stockpiled at Warren Air Force Base near Cheyenne. ICBM sites in Montana and North Dakota were not affected.

The computer failure appears to be linked to problem with an underground communications cable. Engineers are focusing on a piece of equipment in the launch control centre that has been the subject of unspecified communications problems in the past, one of the officials said.

The White House referred questions to the Pentagon.

The outage, first reported on the Atlantic magazine's website, is the latest in a series of mishaps in U.S. air force nuclear operations in recent years.

In August 2007, a B-52 was mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and flown from North Dakota to Louisiana with its crew unaware they had nuclear bombs aboard.

In March 2008, the Pentagon acknowledged a mistaken shipment of four electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads to Taiwan, and a subsequent investigation found that slippage in nuclear standards was a "problem that has been identified but not effectively addressed" for more than a decade. Defence Secretary Robert Gates then fired Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and chief of staff Gen. Michael Moseley.

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