Tuesday, April 16, 2019

US Nuclear Weapons Not On Hair Trigger Alert

US Nuclear Weapons Not On "Hair Trigger" Alert

Copyright 2019 by Michael H. Maggelet

  Another longstanding myth perpetuated by anti-nuclear activists and organizations is the claim that US nuclear weapon systems such as ICBM’s and SLBM's are on “hair trigger alert”. This is nonsense, since US nuclear weapons require authentication and enabling before launch. The time it takes to perform these actions takes several minutes (for nuclear release). As far as tactical and strategic nuclear aircraft, they have not flown airborne alert missions since 1968, and ground alert was cancelled in 1990 (although limited generations are conducted).  
  The ridiculous notion of the hair trigger myth has gone so far to even claim that ICBM “launch codes” were multiple zero’s (with one “expert” claiming it involved eight zeros, despite the fact the Minuteman Launch Enable Control Group contains only six code wheels). Even when Minuteman I was first placed on alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis (27 October 1962) there were various means in place to prevent an unauthorized launch.

Minuteman missile Launch Enable Control Group 

  I won’t go into the specifics of launching an ICBM, only to say that in order to launch a missile, it takes four, not two, launch control officers from two physically separate LCC’s to conduct a launch. Science fiction, Hollywood, Leslie Stahl, and other fantasies aside, there is no “red button”.
  I was part of PAL tech ops in USAFE during the Cold War era, and we had a number of measures in place to prevent unauthorized use of our nuclear weapons. Again, a subject area that I can't go into, but there are numerous declassified sources on the history of the development of Permissive Action Link and positive control measures.  

Video of simulated Minuteman launch from training LCC-


Titan II launch procedures- note mention of the butterfly valve.


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