US nuclear missiles are a force in much distress

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of nuclear missiles have stood war-ready for decades in underground silos along remote stretches of America.

They're silent and unseen, and packed with almost unimaginable destructive power.

They're also a force in distress, if not in decline.

The number of intercontinental ballistic missiles — or ICBMs — is dwindling.

Their future defense role is in doubt, and missteps and leadership lapses documented by The Associated Press have raised questions about how the force is managed.

Once called America's "ace in the hole," the ICBM is the card never played. None has ever been fired in anger.

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