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January 16, 2011

Yes, Virginia, there still is a countdown.

At 10 seconds out, we place our hands on a series of launch switches.
Contrary to popular myth, there is no red button. Four launch switches means it takes four hands to launch — it’s one of many safety mechanisms built into the system as a means of preventing unauthorized execution of missiles by a lone individual. At five seconds out, I start my countdown, commanding a final “3, 2, 1 — execute.” We turn our keys, and watch as the control screen flashes with missile-launch notifications. Some fly immediately, some with a delay to prevent nuclear fratricide when the bombs approach their targets in 20 to 30 minutes. -- In Nuclear Silos, Death Wears a Snuggie | Danger Room | Wired.com

Posted by Vanderleun at January 16, 2011 8:13 AM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

Do ya have a link for that one, Gerard?

Posted by: Patvann at January 16, 2011 8:41 AM

Oops.... added.

Posted by: vanderleun at January 16, 2011 10:03 AM

I have been in that Control Capsule Training Emulator a few times as a guest. They call it an "Emulator" because unlike a Simulator, it is an exact replica of the real thing. I confirm that exactitude, because we would later go into an on-duty Capsule with the Wing Operations Officer. The first time was during the height of the Cold War, and being a SAC missile Combat Crewman was the high status assignment. I had the opportunity to interact with Combat Crews, and the closest thing that came to mind to describe them was Jesuit priests. Serious, dedicated, and humble.

During that visit to the Emulator, part of the dog and pony show involved the alert alarm going off without warning and the Combat Crew snapping into the code and launch procedure described. I promise you, THAT will get your undivided attention.

On my last visit [During the time of Operation Desert Shield] the quality of crews was visibly less. The status assignment in the AF was now Space Command. "Death wears bunny slippers", indeed. To be honest, we saw things that were professionally embarrassing not only at the Combat Crew level, but also farther up the chain of command. Some of the things we saw were also witnessed by the Wing Operations Officer, who did not react. Our assigned escort was a Captain who was a Missile Combat Crewman. He was wearing a flight suit with the "running handle" Killer embroidered on it like he was a subterranean Air Force version of a Top Gun fighter pilot; and a blue silk scarf [not the regulation ascot] tied around his neck. He was openly disrespectful of senior NCO's to their faces in front of civilian witnesses and his Wing Operations Officer. And the briefing by the Wing Intel Officer was painful.

At the time I was part of a civilian defense industry organization that is ... very well thought of by all services. They make the point to put their best foot forward for us. This was the best that they could do.

After seeing this, I understood some of the failures in the handling of and accounting for nuclear weapons in the Air Force a couple of years ago. I also have to conclude that the Personnel Reliability Program is either no longer operative, or has been watered down to uselessness.

It is apparent that the attention of the government and the military is not on strategic weapons as a priority in either employment or personnel. At a time when we are fairly sure to be the victim of a WMD attack in the foreseeable future; this is not encouraging.

Subotai Bahadur

Posted by: Subotai Bahadur at January 16, 2011 4:07 PM

Subotai - thank you for your frank comment. I really appreciate it. It sounds to me that someone needs to shake some things up at that installation - if it has not already happened.

The same things happen elsewhere when people get complacent (one of our failings as humans) but in these places complacency carries an horrific price.

Posted by: Anonymous at January 16, 2011 5:15 PM

Anonymous was me.

I do not know how that happened.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at January 18, 2011 7:03 PM

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