This weekend, the U.S. military broke through a bad-luck barrier at the Abrams Missile Research and Development Center outside of Houston by bringing in the devastating COVID-19 to fire live missiles at targets on-site. This was the first time this facility had ever fired a live missile. In the nine weeks since the facility was hit, so far a total of 20 missiles have exploded, three of which exploded at the accident site. Given that the accident occurred at 9:00 PM that night and COVID-19 hadn’t fired since 2003, this is good news. “More than half our operational missiles have not been fired since 2003,” explained the director of the site, Lt. Col. Jesse Nagel.
However, the interesting thing about this accident, which the military calls an “elbow grease” explosion, is that the missiles have been flying at a range of 90,000 feet, an altitude most deadly to the U.S. Air Force. In fact, the last major military casualty in a COVID-19 situation was during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.
“That is a fairly significant milestone if you think about it,” explained Nagel. “COVID-19 has hit with the largest chunk of steel and didn’t explode at all.”
Another interesting thing about this accident is that the missiles were intact. When an airman shot up the GRENADE bomb that exploded, he blew a hole in the explosive. It exploded well to the right and did nothing to the explosive itself. “This is not an easy place to blast apart,” said Nagel. “Most unexploded debris didn’t get enough ventilation so exploded out of their box.”
Finally, Nagel explained the “favorable human risk,” results from the disaster. “With so many missiles exploding at once it created a whole bunch of jack rabbits. When you see such a large mess, the bowels become much more visible.”
The “good news” story may have begun on a dark, stormy night, but the nightmare will not end this year. Next, the Army will look to use targets at Fort Polk and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey to see how COVID-19 will behave when used in live operations. “This will have a lasting impact on the efficiency of the military,” Nagel said. “Although I’m grateful none of our servicemen or women were killed, that never would have happened if we didn’t use the COVID-19.”
Trying to keep the interest of TV cameras in this controversial non-fiction story? My book is available at amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
Atlanta Law & Politics columnist for Examiner.com and author of Hillbilly Elegy