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


As strange, serious and scary as the erroneous emergency notification on Saturday about a missile attack on Hawaii could have been, it was far from the first false alarm of this kind that the country has faced

decade since the dawn of the nuclear era has seen its share of close calls, according to experts. During the Cold War, the government routinely dealt with hundreds of anomalies that could have resulted in a nuclear launch

But it is rare that a false alert regarding an impending missile attack actually reaches the public, said Garrett M Graff, who wrote about the extensive preparations made to allow the government to continue in case of a nuclear or terrorist attack.

Mr. Graff, the author of "Raven Rock: the story of the US government's secret plan to save himself – while the rest of us die", said in a telephone interview that alert on Saturday, at a time of heightened tensions with North Korea "

" This was the precise scenario that greatly preoccupies US officials and civilians across the country ", he said.

As moving and disturbing as the According to him, it was not the most dangerous episode of its kind because it did not reach the chain of command of the army nor the government decision makers, he said.

Here are some cases where:

The command post of the North American Aerospace Defense Command in 1982. In 1960, NORAD was sent at its maximum level of alert because of a "moonrise over Norway".

Oct. 5, 1960: The moon deceives a radar

A false alarm occurs when a rapid alert radar in Greenland signals to the headquarters of the command of North American Air Defense that he detected dozens of incoming Soviet missiles

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the report pushed Norad to his maximum level of alert , but authorities later determined that the radar had been duped by the "moonrise over Norway".

Nov. 9, 1979: A "War Game" Tape Causes Six Minutes of Disquiet

Norad's Computers Report US Launched Missile Attacks by a Soviet submarine. Three bases in the United States and Canada have been scrambled, and the missile bases have gone on "low level alert," reports the New York Times.

When satellite data did not confirm an attack after six minutes, According to the Union of Concerned Scientists and The Times, no immediate action was necessary.

Investigations eventually discovered that a "war game" band had been loaded into the Norad computer as part of a test. A technician mistakenly inserted it into the computer.

"The tape simulated a missile attack against North America, and by mechanical error, this information was transmitted to the very sensitive early warning system, which read it live. "and thus initiated a sequence of events to determine whether the United States was actually attacked," reported the Times.

3 June 1980: 2,200 missiles that never arrived

Less than one A year later, computers again issued a warning on a nuclear attack.

Bombers and tankers were ordered from their stations, the National Command Post of Canada. airborne emergency set in position and the Federal Aviation Administration According to the Union of Concerned Scientists and The New Yorker

President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, received a call from # 39 informing that 2,200 missiles were heading for the United States

Then Mr. Brzezinski received another call: it was a false alarm. An investigation then revealed that a faulty computer chip – costing 46 cents – was to blame.

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

Stanislav Petrov, a 44-year-old lieutenant-colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, was the only one in the world. officer in a secret command center near Moscow when the alarms went off

Computers warned that five missiles had been launched from an American base

"For 15 seconds we were in a state of shock, "he recalls later in an interview with the Washington Post.

Colonel Petrov, according to his obituary in The Times, was an essential cog in the chain of decision. His superiors at the headquarters of the warning system have informed the army staff, which would consult the Soviet leader Yuri V. Andropov, of the opportunity to launch a retaliatory attack. .

Electronic cards and screens were flashing as he tried to absorb information flows. His training and intuition told him that a first strike from the United States would come in a crushing assault, not "just five missiles," he told the Post.

After five agonizing minutes, he decided that the reports were

And they were

The satellite had confused the reflection of the sun at the top of the clouds To launch a missile.

An airborne command post known as Nightwatch from which the president could control US forces during a nuclear war. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan joked in a live microphone that "we are starting to bomb in five minutes." Credit United States Air Force

AUGUST. 11, 1984: A President's Prank Raises an Alert

Preparing for its regular broadcast on Saturday afternoon, President Ronald Reagan joked in a microphone that he had "signed a law that outlaws the Russia forever "and that we begin to bomb in five minutes. "

Months later, the Times reports that two days after President Reagan's joke, a low-level Soviet military officer ordered an alert of troops in the Far East

L & # 39 alert would have been canceled about 30 minutes later by a higher authority.

US intelligence agents argued that the alert was "a non-event."


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