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Tuesday, July 08, 2014 - Updated: 9:09 AM

One reason 'Big Stick' nuclear missiles can't outrun trouble: They're really old

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AP) -- The nuclear missiles hidden in plain view across the prairies of northwest North Dakota reveal one reason why trouble keeps finding the nuclear Air Force. The "Big Sticks," as some call the 60-foot-tall Minuteman 3 missiles, are just plain old.

The Air Force asserts with pride that the missile system, more than 40 years old and designed during the Cold War to counter the now-defunct Soviet Union, is safe and secure. None has ever been used in combat or launched accidentally.

But it also admits to fraying at the edges: time-worn command posts, corroded launch silos, failing support equipment and an emergency-response helicopter fleet so antiquated that a replacement was deemed "critical" years ago.

The Minuteman is no ordinary weapon. The business end of the missile can deliver mass destruction across the globe as quickly as you could have a pizza delivered to your doorstep.

But even as the Minuteman has been updated over the years and remains ready for launch on short notice, the items that support it have grown old. That partly explains why missile corps morale has sagged and discipline has sometimes faltered, as revealed in a series of Associated Press reports documenting leadership, training, disciplinary and other problems in the ICBM force that has prompted worry at the highest levels of the Pentagon.

Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The Israeli military launched what could be a long-term offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday striking at least 50 sites in Gaza and mobilizing troops for a possible ground invasion aimed at stopping a barrage of rocket attacks against Israel.

The military said "Operation Protective Edge" looks to strike the Islamic Hamas group and end the rocket fire that has reached deeper into Israel and intensified in recent weeks amid tensions over the killing of three Israeli teenagers and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager.

In a statement, the military said it was seeking to "retrieve stability to the residents of southern Israel, eliminate Hamas' capabilities and destroy terror infrastructure operating against the State of Israel and its civilians."


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