Skip to comments.Inside the US Nuclear Silos Where Floppy Disk Are Still High-Tech
Posted on 04/28/2014 7:48:06 AM PDT by lbryce
It's not very often you get to see inside a US Air Force nuclear silobut CBS recently got to take a peek for us. In this video, Lesley Stahl finds that they're not quite as high-tech as you might like to think.
This segment, which you can watch below, appeared on 60 Minutes, and it provides a rare glimpse into the inner working of America's nuclear bunkers. Cozying up with the ageing rockets, two things are striking. First, the staff don't seem wildly experienced. Second, the technology down there still relies on 5.25-inch 8-inch floppy disks from the 70s. Thank goodness the nation is so well protected
(Excerpt) Read more at gizmodo.com ...
Are you kidding? If we are using 5.25 floppies at our nuclear facilities, the Russians are still on magnetic tape reels.
Yeah. You’re absolutely right. I hadn’t thought of that.
I was wondering why this is being leaked now but you’re point is very well taken.
The Doomsday Machine
And the Chinese on ferrite core memory.
I take nothing from SeeBS without thinking of what agenda is behind it.
0’ has been dismantling nukes... unilaterally, firing officers, cutbacks, etc. Something is up here, like sowing the seed for the remainder of collapsing the US nuke deterrence. He needs to get this done within the next 2.5 years...
Ferrite core or an abicus.
The Chinese use abaci.
Gee a 25 megaton warhead based on 1950’s techology can still leave a pretty big hole in the ground.
Older technology is often less vulnerable.
The Russians used vacuum tube radios in their MiGs & Sukhois. Impervious to EMP.
Nah...they’re still using wire recorders...
I don’t get it. The first nuke to hit the US would be DC. Even if he’s got advanced warning and gets out of dodge his power base will be gone. Something is definitely up, as you say. Maybe this was the side deal he cut with the Russkies when he told them he’d have more time when he gets re-elected.
I remember just before the Anthrax hit, they did a big show about Ft. Detrick.
It begs the question...where the heck does the Air Force still get those 8” floppy disks?
The technology in the silos is stable and been proven over 50 years. Why change it?
Thank God they use old technology. with all of the vulnerabilities of modern day software the last thing we need is to hook these silos up to the internet or some other thing that you just know someone is pushing for just by the very existence of this report
SeeBS should have left this alone until FUBO is gone! Now he will probably hire his wife’s black female college “friend” from Canada to “develop” a new missile control system patterned after her “innovative and reliable” Healthcare website! If the Russians hear that’s going on, they will probably attack!
I watched the segment and a lot of what CBS tried to imply is BS.
I was a missileer and missile ops officer both underground and airborne as well as nuclear command and control. Until about 35 years ago the memory units that held the guidance data for MMIII were still plaited wire memory going back to MMI and before.
Although the giant floppies are ancient technologically, they and the system they are used in are much more secure. If I remember correctly and it’s been a long time (retired 20+ years ago), the large floppies are part of the communications system and not the launch/launch codes system which are/were electro-mechanical coded systems that are not externally computer controlled. The AF looked at computerized satellite linked systems for launch coding/decoding back 20+ years ago but it was not feasible or secure enough.
They did mention that the result of a cybersecurity audit of these systems it was determined that they were as safe as could be because they are not connected to the internet and do not rely on computerized systems or the internet to store and transmit enable or launch codes or sequences. In this case, hardened, electro-mechanical hardwires and giant floppies for some data storage are better and more secure.
The old movies like Colossis The Forbin Project and Wargames made a point that fully computerized systems were not safe, secure or infallible. Electronic, mechanical, human interface with strict and constant procedural training along with monthly evaluation for crew members makes for the safest and most secure systems.
Radiation-hardened computers are always going to lag behind the most recent civilian tech. They’re secret + they’re made of non-standard materials for milspec + the job they’re required to do just isn’t changing.
I guess there may also be advantages against hacking. Smuggling a virus in on a USB stick gets you nothing if the interface is a triangular floppy disk or something crazy like that.
A nuke base is the classic venue for “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
What do you mean our space station. It’s about to become Putin’s space station when he bans US Astronauts from Russian space flights!
I can just seem some image-over-brains politician react to this story by insisting that we link all our nuke missile to the intrawebz so we “look” more high tech.
Result: WWIII about 45 minutes later.
The ignorance of this opening statement is astounding. You would think that rudimentary reporting would get at least some things right.
The 60 minutes hit piece was recorded at a Minuteman Launch Control Center (LCC), a manned capsule miles from the nearest Launch Facility (LF).
The actual missiles are located at ten remote LFs in each flight assigned to an LCC. No one in the business would ever refer to a LF as a silo. That term died in the 60's with the second generation of ICBMs like the Atlas and Titan I.
If the story can't even get that straight how can there be any credibility elsewhere? There is no news in this story only whatever alarmist crap cbs wants to feed a gullible American public.
We have no 25 Mton warheads on any ICBM. They retired with the Titan IIs.
With a floppy disk system, hard for others to stick a USB stick in to copy data or inject a virus!
In a world of high speed internet and high bandwidth communications, it is a wise bet to use the slowest mode of data transfer to transmit important data - US Govt does it everyday at multiple agencies. Ever hear of the world’s largest antenna which is used for Submarine com’s - it is miles long and the data transmitted is only a few bits per minute - safe and secure — totally overlooked by those who try to find it in the rest of data streams or radio waves.
I could see that as well. These systems and procedures have been proven secure and that they work since the days of LeMay who demanded strict procedures and rules. The systems installed in today’s LCCs are technologically more advanced than when I was doing that job and are a lot more reliable than the old monitor and control panels we had. The capsule environment is a lot nicer and heuristically better. The boredom that comes in the middle of the night is a given, regardless of the technology and other amenities. We were instilled with the gravity and importance of the job with regard to the threats. We went out daily knowing that the mission was an important one. After 1990, the consensus was that the outside nuclear threats had gone away and it is evident today that they have not. The crewmembers of today need to understand that and maybe gain some appreciation for the importance of their role in our defense.
He will be in Hawaii.
I dont get it. The first nuke to hit the US would be DC. Even if hes got advanced warning and gets out of dodge his power base will be gone. Something is definitely up, as you say. Maybe this was the side deal he cut with the Russkies when he told them hed have more time when he gets re-elected.
Same at NASA. The computer technology was invariably a decade and a half behind. Defense and aerospace projects move through the timeline much more slowly than computer technology races ahead.
I’m with you. People shouldn’t underestimate old technology which can be very resilient. There are many USAF aircraft flying around right now with circuits built in the 60s and 70s. What do they propose we do instead, connect via the Internet (through “secure” connections of course—LOL) and use modern software and thumb drives that have all sorts of vulnerabilities and software bugs?
Roger that. While I was on active duty, I was peripherally involved with a lot of different operations. EVERY TIME the LSM reported on those things, they always got them wrong. Not just on details, but the fundamentals. Don’t know if it was just standard arrogance and ignorance, or if PA types were wanting to make them look like buffoons. Or maybe, back in the day, it could have been active disinformation that was the cause.
Good news is a 5.25 inch disk isn’t large enough to hold a typical virus, so it couldn’t be hacked. I hope.
My vote is arrogance. They come in with a pre-determined agenda and reinforce it using their terms and perceptions rather than reality.
The two big focuses in our nuclear silos are communication and preventing mishap. All of these things have a lot of redundancy and fail safe, and not much reason to screw with what works. As long as the silos are still capable of getting the launch signal and not launching on accident the system is working perfectly.
None of this stuff is all that secret. You can go to the Titan Missile Museum outside Tucson and walk through an old silo and go through a simulated launch and learn about a good chunk of the systems for under $10. If you’re willing to drop a couple hundred you can do the “behind the scenes” tour, heck you can even spend the night. Yeah it’s all old stuff, but a lot of the concepts (the communications array, the construction of the silo) haven’t changed much. Deterrence weapons aren’t built around secrets, they’re built around openness.
“It begs the question...where the heck does the Air Force still get those 8 floppy disks?”
“If the story can’t even get that straight how can there be any credibility elsewhere? There is no news in this story only whatever alarmist crap cbs wants to feed a gullible American public. “
Was it possible that the reason “silo” was referred to and not “LF” was for the lay person to understand?
A landfill in Alamogordo.
The Russians still use vacuum tubes in much of their electronics. Their favorite “control computer” is a PDP-11 knock-off.
And the Chinese crank out circuit boards like Ritz crackers.
By not properly describing the terminology or the geographic layout of a Minuteman flight, the LSM is perpetuating ignorance rather than presenting facts. That, in turn, suggests an agenda rather than a story.
Does the button still work?
That’s really all we need right? We need the engine to start.
I have a 1911 pistol.
The basic design hasn’t changed in over 100 years. Yes, some of the metallurgy has improved, but the pieces are still the pieces.
I vote complete ignorance.
My wife was a reporter for years. She would always complain about dealing with the local AFB. They would speak in jargon, acronyms, and would assume that you already knew points A-B-C, so they would just start talking about D. If you asked any follow up questions, you would get the “you must be a civilian” response.
So, yes...after a few go arounds like that you begin to not like dealing with the PIO’s at the bases.
One thing I noticed and maybe someone else wrote it but I strongly believe there are 15 LCF’s (Launch Control Facility) and not 10. Each LCF had 10 individual sites for a total of 150 MM2/3.
Then again it is almost 35 years since I been at Ellsworth so things may have changed. I recently went through my parents nostalgia items and found an LCS key with tag still on it I must have brought home with me by accident.
I think only the MMS people would get that.
I just re-watched the 60 Minutes piece since may last postings. This time I noticed that the real agenda was the book Command and Control.
The questions and inferences throughout the hit piece was "unauthorized launch or accidental detonation of a nuke" because the systems were designed during the era of Nixon (which in itself is incorrect. But mention Nixon whenever you want a ready made media villain).
The agenda put forth by obambi's administration is the elimination of nukes. This is the opening shot in the regime's efforts to eliminate land based nuclear weapons. Withing weeks I expect dingy harry and the wicked witch of the west (pelosi) to bring this topic to the forefront.