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4:12, 14 January 2018

Causes of False Missile Alerts: The Sun, the Moon and a 46-Cent Chip

Causes of False Missile Alerts: The Sun, the Moon and a 46-Cent Chip


As strange, serious and scary as the erroneous emergency notification Saturday about a missile attack against Hawaii might have been, it was far from the very first such false alarm the country has faced.

Every decade considering that the dawn of the nuclear age has noticed its share of close calls, experts stated. Throughout the Cold War, the government routinely dealt with hundreds of anomalies that could have led to a nuclear launch.

But it is rare for a false alert about an impending missile attack to actually attain the public, mentioned Garrett M. Graff, who has written about the comprehensive preparations produced to let the government to continue in the event of a nuclear or terrorist attack.

Mr. Graff, the author of “Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Strategy to Save Itself — Whilst the Rest of Us Die,” mentioned in a telephone interview that the alert on Saturday, coming at a time of heightened tensions with North Korea, was “pretty unprecedented.”

“This was the precise scenario that is really best of mind for U.S. officials and civilians across the nation,” he said.

As emotional and disruptive as the false alert was, it was not the most dangerous episode of its sort because it did not attain the military’s chain of command or selection-makers in government, he mentioned.

Here is a appear at a handful of cases when it did:

The command post for North American Aerospace Defense Command operations in 1982. In 1960, Norad was sent to its maximum alert level since of a “moonrise over Norway.”

Oct. five, 1960: The moon tricks a radar

A false alarm came when an early warning radar in Greenland reported to North American Air Defense Command headquarters that it had detected dozens of inbound Soviet missiles.

The report thrust Norad to its maximum alert level, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, but officials later determined that the radar had been fooled by the “moonrise more than Norway.”

Nov. 9, 1979: A ‘war game’ tape causes six minutes of worry

Computers at Norad indicated that the United States was under attack by missiles launched by a Soviet submarine.

Ten jet interceptors from three bases in the United States and Canada have been scrambled, and missile bases went on “low‐level alert,” The New York Occasions reported.

When satellite information had not confirmed an attack soon after six minutes, officials decided that no quick action was essential, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists and The Times.

Investigations later found that a “war game” tape had been loaded into the Norad pc as part of a test. A technician mistakenly inserted it into the computer.

“The tape simulated a missile attack on North America, and by mechanical error, that information was transmitted into the highly sensitive early warning system, which study it as a ‘live launch’ and hence initiated a sequence of events to determine regardless of whether the United States was truly beneath attack,” The Occasions reported.

June three, 1980: two,200 missiles that in no way came

Much less than a year later, computer systems once once more issued a warning about a nuclear attack.

Bomber and tanker crews were ordered to their stations, the National Emergency Airborne Command Post taxied into position and the Federal Aviation Administration prepared to order every airborne commercial airliner to land, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists and The New Yorker.

President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, got a contact informing him that 2,200 missiles had been heading toward the United States.

Then Mr. Brzezinski got one more get in touch with: It had been a false alarm. An investigation later discovered that a defective computer chip — costing 46 cents — was to blame.

Sept. 26, 1983: Similar difficulties on the other side

Stanislav Petrov, a 44-year-old lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, was the duty officer at a secret command center outside Moscow when the alarms went off.

Computer systems warned that five missiles had been launched from an American base.

“For 15 seconds, we were in a state of shock,” he later recalled in an interview with The Washington Post.

Colonel Petrov, according to his obituary in The Instances, was a pivotal cog in the decision-producing chain. His superiors at the warning-system headquarters reported to the general staff of the military, which would seek the advice of with the Soviet leader, Yuri V. Andropov, on whether or not to launch a retaliatory attack.

Electronic maps and screens had been flashing as he attempted to absorb streams of data. His coaching and intuition told him a 1st strike by the United States would come in an overwhelming onslaught, not “only 5 missiles,” he told The Post.

After 5 nerve-racking minutes, he decided the reports were most likely a false alarm.

And they had been.

The satellite had mistaken the sun’s reflection off the tops of clouds for a missile launch.

An airborne command post identified as Nightwatch from which the president could control United States forces for the duration of a nuclear war. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan quipped in a live microphone that “we begin bombing in 5 minutes.”CreditUnited States Air Force

Aug. 11, 1984: A joke by the president prompts an alert

Preparing for his typical Saturday afternoon radio broadcast, President Ronald Regan quipped in a reside microphone that he had “signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever” and that “we start bombing in five minutes.”

Months later, The Times reported that two days soon after President Reagan’s joke, a low-level Soviet military official ordered an alert of troops in the Far East.

The alert was mentioned to have been canceled about 30 minutes later by a greater authority.

American intelligence officials contended the alert was “a nonevent.”


Published at Sun, 14 Jan 2018 03:24:17 +0000

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