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

As emotional and disruptive as the false alert was, it was not the most harmful episode of its type as a result of it didn’t attain the navy’s chain of command or decision-makers in authorities, he stated.

Here is a have a look at a few instances when it did:

The command publish for North American Aerospace Defense Command operations in 1982. In 1960, Norad was despatched to its most alert stage as a result of of a “moonrise over Norway.”

Oct. 5, 1960: The moon tips a radar

A false alarm got here 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 most alert stage, in keeping with the Union of Concerned Scientists, however officers later decided that the radar had been fooled by the “moonrise over Norway.”

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

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

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

When satellite tv for pc information had not confirmed an assault after six minutes, officers determined that no quick motion was mandatory, in keeping with the Union of Concerned Scientists and The Times.

Investigations later found that a “war game” tape had been loaded into the Norad laptop as half of a take a look at. A technician mistakenly inserted it into the laptop.

“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 read it as a ‘live launch’ and thus initiated a sequence of events to determine whether the United States was actually under attack,” The Times reported.

June three, 1980: 2,200 missiles that by no means got here

Less than a yr later, computer systems as soon as once more issued a warning about a nuclear assault.

Bomber and tanker crews had been ordered to their stations, the National Emergency Airborne Command Post taxied into place and the Federal Aviation Administration ready to order each airborne business airliner to land, in keeping with the Union of Concerned Scientists and The New Yorker.

President Jimmy Carter’s nationwide safety adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, bought a name informing him that 2,200 missiles had been heading towards the United States.

Then Mr. Brzezinski bought one other name: It had been a false alarm. An investigation later discovered that a faulty laptop chip — costing 46 cents — was in charge.

Sept. 26, 1983: Similar issues on the different facet

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

Computers warned that 5 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, in keeping with his obituary in The Times, was a pivotal cog in the decision-making chain. His superiors at the warning-system headquarters reported to the normal employees of the navy, which might seek the advice of with the Soviet chief, Yuri V. Andropov, on whether or not to launch a retaliatory assault.

Electronic maps and screens had been flashing as he tried to soak up streams of data. His coaching and instinct advised him a first strike by the United States would are available an awesome onslaught, not “only five missiles,” he advised The Post.

After 5 nerve-racking minutes, he determined the stories had been in all probability a false alarm.

And they had been.

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

An airborne command publish often known as Nightwatch from which the president might management United States forces throughout a nuclear warfare. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan quipped in a stay microphone that “we begin bombing in five minutes.”

United States Air Force

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

Preparing for his common Saturday afternoon radio broadcast, President Ronald Reagan quipped in a stay microphone that he had “signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever” and that “we begin bombing in five minutes.”

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

The alert was stated to have been canceled about 30 minutes later by a increased authority.

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

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