Skip to comments.Nuclear Weapons 101: How to launch a weapon of mass destruction
Posted on 03/26/2014 1:02:27 PM PDT by F15Eagle
As President Obama and world leaders conclude the Nuclear Safety Summit in Europe, On the Radar travels to the frozen plains of Nebraska and Wyoming to meet the men and women in charge of the US nuclear missile arsenal.
Our mission is to provide the president with an option to launch nuclear weapons, Capt. Mark Wullshleger explained during a tour of a 20th Air Force underground missile bunker. If he wants to utilize us, we're always here, and we're always on alert.
We traveled underground to a Missile Alert Facility, a capsule secured behind blast doors and five-foot thick concrete walls. Eight times a month, officers like Wullshleger pull alert, going 60 feet underground for a 24-hour shift at the launch controls for the worlds most powerful weapons of mass destruction.
Pulling alert, it's a different animal, Wullshleger said. Going underground for 24 hours at a time without seeing daylight is kind of an experience.
Launching a nuclear weapon isnt as simple as flicking a switch. In fact, it takes four switches. But the warhead is always at the ready.
If we were ever to get direction from the president of the United States to actually employ our mission and actually launch our missiles, there are certain procedures that we take that insure that those are authorized, valid commands from the president, he said.
They are run through intense training and testing. But its all for a mission they hope never to complete.
I definitely think about the what ifs when Im on alert, Lt. Rachel Lovelady said. I hope that it never has to happen.
(Excerpt) Read more at news.yahoo.com ...
If you can't read my sarcasm in there, you haven't been paying attention.
Clearly this guy isn't submariner material...
You, sir, are politically incorrect.
Why, thank you. :)
Yeah, 3 to 6 months on a boomer, he’d be a little more ... contained.
Disable the transponder mid-flight and steal an airplane flying out of Malaysia?
Raddatz is an idiot, but this is the LCF simulator facility at F.E. Warren AFB at Cheyenne WY. I’ve toured it and received a much more realistic demonstration of the complete process (missing were alarms, voice communications, dim lights and other lights flashing that would have made filming impossible, and the blast doors were sealed with HVAC pumping just as in the actual LCF). And even though we knew full well it was a training simulator, when they turned the keys it still scared the sh!t out of me.
Raddatz would have to try hard to ask more insipidly stupid questions. Which must be why she was chosen to moderate a Presidential Debate.
I have no idea for sure, but you’ve been there, so perhaps you are correct.
She claims she was in Nebraska at the end. Maybe the silo door shot.
But I would hope they were in the simulator as you said and not in a live facility.
Is she about 70 years old?
Because those officers look like they are about 16.
Back in the mid 80's I was on Alert when we had a tour come down to the capsule. The tour consisted of US and foreign military officers who were attending the National War College and one of the US officers was a Navy Captain.
The capsule we were in was a "Deuce" capsule made by Sylvania and was about two and one half times the size of the remaining Boeing built capsules still on Alert.
The Navy Captain told me he could never stay down in one of our capsules and pull Alerts like we did.
I forgot to say the Navy Captain was a submariner.
First...Get a plane...check...Flt 370???
Second...Load device into an empty, plane of cargo, passengers...check...
Third...Fuel it up...Check...
Forth...Take off, blend into ATC, put the burn on controllers to de-conflict IFF code discrepancies...check...
Fly near target...detonate device...check...
“Next, we build a gopher.”
I was at Ellsworth in the early 80’s. Was definitely an experience being underground.
Here's two of the four switches.
The training facility is in Cheyenne. The missles flights are actually spread across three states: eastern WY, northern CO, and western NE.
It’s funny, I clicked to stop the video just as she signed off at the “I’m Martha...click” Now that I listened to the whole thing I see she screwed up once again - there is no Pine Bluffs Nebraska. It’s Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. And while it’s right on the stateline, the town lies entirely in Wyoming.
Just another example of the journalistic accuracy we now receive.
I did get into an actual Launch Control Facility one time back in the 70s when they used to allow landowners to come in once a year. That program ended soon thereafter, but it was neat to ride the elevator down 60 ft. Each LCF controls 10 missiles, which are located miles away, none are actually at the same site as she infers in the beginning, where she’s standing in front of an actual silo. No one got tours of those ;-)
Nope. There is only a single Launch Switch there. The left one with the key slot is the Launch Switch and the right one is the Inhibit Switch.
The Inhibit Switch is used to cancel Enable or Launch commands sent erroneously or if a missile reports Enabled or Launch Commanded when it is not supposed to be.
In the picture the Inhibit Switch is set to the Code Used position. That is because when the panel is installed in the console the Inhibit Switched is tested to ensure it is sending the properly encoded Inhibit command to the missiles which is extremely important.
The second Launch Switch for the Crew commander is on another panel a few feet to the left.
Basically that scenario makes me wonder if we aren’t being fed a whole lot of baloney directed to a remote area where things are hard to find.
Well, it’s probably one or the other. Weird.
How did they go about ‘aiming’ those things in the days before GPS? Sure they can be fired out of the ground and go up in the general direction, but what gave them their precision?
You can't make this stuff up.
Aren't you paying attention?
They found some unknown flotsam and jetsam in the ocean and have come to the inescapable conclusion the airplane crashed.
I can’t remember. Stars, perhaps, like the guidance on an SR-71?
Check out the W-88’s peeling off a boomer’s suborbital platform. They used to do a PAM (upgraded - Plume Avoidance Manuever) by turning the platform around before kicking off the warheads so their (spinning) warheads wouldn’t be wobbled by the gases.
Yep, and maybe you should explain to ‘em why the Commander and Deputy both wore sidearms.
And by the way, thank you for your service. It was always neat to exchange a few words with the missileeres in the coffee shops, etc back when I lived near Cheyenne. Always top professionals and courteous to us civilians.
They never made light of their duty but seemed like great folks. Like the one AP told us when I toured that LCF, “if you ever really need help, like there’s a bad car wreck or something nearby - just go to a silo and rattle on that fence. A crew of APs will be there within 7 minutes. Oh, and you might want to be “assuming the position” when they do!”
Yes, ICBMs had stellar guidance added at some point during the Cold War, out of fear that the existing navigation systems might be mucked-up by over-the-pole tragectories (kinda difficult to test that theory without starting the whole shootin’ match for real). I suspect they still have that as a backup to GPS guidance.
Thanks - I remember Ben Rich noting how an SR-71 in a facility accidentally “locked on” to a hole in the roof.
Thanks for a great post!
If the AF forgot to issue a pair of dikes, there is no way to launch, since the keys are “secured”!
Even if the US were to be attacked with nuclear weapons from North Korea or Iran, Obama would be too busy surrendering to give launch codes.
Likely inertial guidance - the launch point location is known down to a gnat’s eyebrows of accuracy and after that, it’s just math to get to any other known coordinate. Failing that, we’ll take it up in the yield...(old missileer should appreciate that old saying.)
How did they go about aiming those things in the days before GPS? Sure they can be fired out of the ground and go up in the general direction, but what gave them their precision?
If it knows where it started, how long it’s been going how fast in what direction, it knows where it will end up. Basically, with each having just one (actually several) targets, there’s presumably a program that says: “Run the engines at this thrust for this duration while pointed in this direction, then coast for this duration, then go boom when the air pressure reaches this threshold.”
Why not just use a boat? It’s easier.
Sure...That’s been contemplated...
The thing with that is you have to get really close with a boat...Plus it is a surface blast...
An airburst (pretty much any altitude) is way more effective, both mentally and physically on any population...
I think that if they had a chance of a surface blast, they’d take it. Easy low hanging fruit is also a good terror weapon. It doesn’t have to be the ultimate attack, it just has to happen.
You may be right...Either way, it is a lose/lose situation for the rest of the world...Wherever it occurs...
Countries will literally become unglued socially and economically almost instantly...And they will not even have to be hit...The dominos are already set in place, with the beginning already tile ready to be tipped over...
It really is a concern many have, not just me...
You are right. It would completely change the world, and not in a good way.