Илья - Reading log
November 19th, 2013
03:05 pm


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Reading log
Eric Schlosser, Command and Control (2013). Around 6:30pm on September 18, 1980, two missile technicians were servicing a Titan II ICBM in a silo in rural Arkansas. As one of them was unscrewing an oxidizer pressure cap with a socket wrench, a socket fell off the wrench and dropped through the gap between the missile and the work platform; falling about 70 feet, the nine-pound socket bounced off the thrust mount platform, hit the missile and punctured its skin, causing a leak of rocket fuel. Incompetent management of the emergency by Air Force officers could not be fully mitigated by heroism of missile technicians, so by 3am the missile exploded, blasting a 740-ton silo closure door 200 feet into the air. The 9-megaton thermonuclear warhead was also blown away but, luckily, hasn't exploded; if it had, it would have contaminated much of Arkansas.

This book is a minute-by-minute account of the disaster interwoven with the larger story of nuclear weapon safety in the United States. A nuclear bomb or a missile warhead should explode when commanded to, and not explode when not to: even if it is inside a B-52 that is on fire, or one that is crashing, or disintegrating in a mid-air collision. In a situation like this, a crushed electrical circuit can have unanticipated currents, and remember that a nuclear explosion takes place on a much shorter timescale than a mechanical collision. Also, a missile crew can be on drugs (yes, this has actually happened); its members can have psychiatric problems; in fact, the President of the United States, who is supposed to order a nuclear strike, could be drinking heavily, as Richard Nixon did shortly before his resignation. As Turkey was preparing to host American nuclear missiles, it went through a military coup. In Italy, American missiles were put up in a Communist-leaning region, the residents of which could steal or disable the warheads if the push came to shove. In addition to problems with the nuclear weapons themselves, there also have been problems with command-and-control and early warning systems. An early warning radar once mistook the rising Moon for Soviet missiles. Once, all communication between the SAC headquarters in Omaha and both an early warning radar in Greenland and the NORAD headquarters in Colorado Springs went dead; were they destroyed by Soviet missiles? No: an AT&T phone switch in Colorado has burned out. Another time, a computer system that was supposed to show "0000 ICBMs detected" started replacing some of the 0s with 2s because of a faulty computer chip.

Over the years, the United States has manufactured some 70,000 nuclear weapons. Luckily, none have accidentally or mistakenly detonated and produced a nuclear yield. A few times, the chemical explosives detonated and scattered deadly plutonium. However, nuclear weapons are an inherently unsafe technology. The fewer of them there are, the better for everyone.


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[User Picture]
Date:November 20th, 2013 02:37 am (UTC)
Так в любой армии с любым оружием так. По хорошему армия вообще должна быть вооружена бамбуковыми копьями.
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