Cold War nuclear artifact prompts police call

February 12, 2024, 10:31AMANS Nuclear Cafe

It’s not every day that local police departments find nuclear missiles in garages. But that’s what the bomb squad of the Bellevue, Washington, police department encountered on February 1 when they responded to a call. Fortunately, the missile turned out to be inert. It was a McDonnell Douglas AIR-2A Genie unguided air-to-air rocket (once known as an MB-1), which was designed to carry a 1.5 kiloton W25 nuclear warhead, but there was no warhead on the rusted rocket in the garage.

Phone call from museum: The unusual call to the police came from the National Museum of the United States Air Force, which is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio. Museum staff called the police after they were contacted by an individual who said that his neighbor had recently died, leaving an old rocket in the garage. He said that the rocket had been purchased from an estate sale, and he was inquiring whether the museum wanted it for its collection.

AIR-2 Genie: The Bellevue bomb squad and patrol division went to the residence to inspect the reported rocket, determining it to be the inert AIR-2 Genie. The officers found that the object had no warhead and no fuel and therefore posed no explosive hazard.

Thousands of these rockets were produced for the Air Force between 1956 and 1962, with some remaining in service until the mid-1980s. Designed to be used against enemy bombers, the rocket was powered by a solid-propellant motor. A Genie launched from an F-89J interceptor and detonated over Yucca Flats, Nevada, in July 1957 was the only test detonation of a nuclear-tipped air-to-air rocket in U.S. history.

Museum display: After determining that the object was not dangerous, the Bellevue police left it with the neighbor who had phoned the museum. The old Cold War artifact is going to be restored for eventual museum display.

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