Like other branches of the military, the Air Force maintains nuclear weapons systems. Its nuclear weapons specialists are tasked with inspecting, repairing and storing such weapons and equipment. They keep sensitive nuclear materials stable and secure and are among the most rigorously screened members of the U.S. military.
The Air Force categorizes this job as Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) 2W2X1.
Duties of Air Force Nuclear Weapons Specialists
These airmen perform a wide array of duties around nuclear weapons; they inspect, maintain and assemble and disassemble bombs, missiles, launchers, bomb racks, and other related equipment and components.
They also conduct testing on alarm systems, develop rotation schedules for high-security locks and keys, and if conditions ever warrant, perform emergency disablement or evacuation of nuclear weapons and components. Nuclear weapons specialists make sure all parts and components are regularly tested and updated to ensure maximum safety for military and civilian personnel.
In addition, these airmen are tasked with performing escort duties and limited conventional munitions functions associated with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)'s custodial detachments.
Qualifying for AFSC 2W2X1 Nuclear Weapons
To be eligible for this job, you’ll need a high school diploma or its equivalent, and have knowledge of electrical and mechanical principles. You have to have normal color vision and depth perception and need to have a state driver’s license in case you need to drive government vehicles.
Like all recruits to the Air Force and other branches of the U.S. military, you’ll take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests. Nuclear weapons specialists need a score of 60 in the mechanical qualification area of the ASVAB, which incorporates the test taker's scores in the Mechanical Comprehension (MC), General Science (GS) and Auto and Shop Information (AS) tests.
Given the sensitive nature of this job, the screening process is stringent and thorough. You’ll undergo a single scope background investigation (SSBI) since an Air Force nuclear specialist must qualify for a top secret security clearance from the Department of Defense. This investigation, which can take several weeks to complete, scrutinizes your personal conduct and finances. A history of drug or alcohol abuse is likely disqualifying.
You’ll also be subject to the Personnel Reliability Program, a Department of Defense evaluation for anyone who handles or has access to biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. According to the DoD: “nuclear weapons require special consideration because of their policy implications and military importance, their destructive power and the political consequences of an accident or unauthorized act.”
In order to successfully complete the PRP, you must demonstrate trustworthiness, conduct, allegiance and other behaviors. Generally, a history of mental illness or emotional instability will disqualify you. And even once you’ve passed the PRP, as long as you’re in a job where you have access to nuclear weapons, you’ll be reassessed regularly, and are expected to report any changes that could affect your eligibility.
Training as an Air Force Nuclear Weapons Specialist
Following basic training and Airman's Week, airmen in this job spend 67 days in technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. You'll learn to handle, repair and store nuclear weapons, components, and equipment.
There's no true civilian equivalent to this job.