The CBS news show, 60 Minutes, reported that shortly after JFK was inaugurated, a bomber with a nuclear bomb accidentally dropped it on North Carolina. It came close to going off.
Close, but no exploding cigar.
The show said that we have 400 nuclear missiles in the ground. They did not mention MIRVed warheads: 10 warheads per missile. So, it’s one bomb per missile, if we are to believe the story. Yet to keep these armed and ready, it will cost the government $25 billion a year to upgrade them. Some of the equipment was deployed in the Nixon administration.
Will they be upgraded? Don’t count on it. Missile command is more like Missile Command than they admit: old and forgotten.
The phones barely work. They will be fixed . . . in a few years. They are analog phones.
They will keep the 8-inch floppy disks. They are immune from cyber attack. They are too old for the Internet hacks to get too them.
Where do they buy them? Not Radio Shack.
Why not just deploy nuclear missiles on submarines and bombers? You can at least call back a bomber, unless it’s Dr. Stragelove.
Can you call back a sub-launched missile? No one asked.
The land-based missiles are targets. Why not switch to train-based cruise missiles? They can be called back. They are slow: about 600 mph. Because they are slow, they are defensive weapons only — launched after a first strike on the U.S. They cannot be targeted: mobile.
I recommended this 30 years ago. The technology was there. It is better now. It gets land-based missiles off anyone’s radar. But no. We stick with the old systems.
Why? Infrastructure. Human infrastructure. Bureaucracy. Careers. “Better to be inside a missile target than to be inside a shut-down branch of the Air Force.”
Like floppy disks, bureaucracies persevere. But upgrades are very expensive.