Hey, What Does This Button Do?


On Saturday morning, according to people briefed on what happened, a squadron of ICBMs suddenly dropped down into what’s known as “LF Down” status, meaning that the missileers in their bunkers could no longer communicate with the missiles themselves. LF Down status also means that various security protocols built into the missile delivery system, like intrusion alarms and warhead separation alarms, were offline. In LF Down status, the missiles are still technically launch-able, but they can only be controlled by an airborne command and control platform like the Boeing E-6 NAOC “Kneecap” aircraft, E-4B NAOC aircraft or perhaps the TACAMO fleet, which is primarily used to communicate with nuclear submarines. Had the country been placed on a higher state of nuclear alert, those platforms would be operating automatically because the frequencies used to transmit nuclear codes would be interfacing with separate systems, according to officials.

…Commanders at the Air Force Base sent warning notices to colleagues at the country’s two other nuclear missile command centers, as well as the to the National Military Command Center in Washington. At that point, they did not know what was causing the failure, and they did not know whether other missile systems were experiencing similar symptoms.

According to the official, engineers discovered that similar hardware failures had triggered a similar cascading failure 12 years ago at Minot AFB in North Dakota and Malmstrom AFB in Montana. That piece of hardware (pictured below) is the prime suspect.

The Prime Suspect:

I don’t want to set the world on fire…

13 Responses to “Hey, What Does This Button Do?”

  1. Tim says:

    From a report by John Noonan in The Weekly Standard:


    The White House response to the incident has been jaw dropping. When pressed on the critical security lapse, an unnamed official told Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic (emphasis mine): “to make too much out of this would be to sensationalize it. It’s not that big of a deal. Everything worked as planned.”

  2. JeffS says:

    Tim, that sounds an awful lot like the DHS secretary’s doofus response to the “Christmas Day Bomber”. Clearly, the current occupants of the White House have not learned their lessons. Again.

    Heh — Mr. B, the sad thing was that I would not be surprised to see an old Tandy computer still in operation in the military.

  3. Kathy K says:

    ROFLLMAO – I know it’s not funny. But that picture IS…

    Actually – an old Tandy is probably more reliable than a modern Windoze computer (“Blue screen of death” could come to have a whole new meaning with nukes…)

  4. mojo says:

    Ah, Mind-rot, the Tragic City

    Never been so happy to leave anyplace as that hole.

  5. JeffS says:

    They are reliable, Kathy. I have a couple of the Tandy “laptop” models (the original model 100), and they work pretty much the same now as they did back when.

    (Why do I have obsolete computers? ‘Cuz I’m a technogeek, and I like to demonstrate just how far computer technonolgy has changed within my lifetime.)

  6. Yojimbo says:

    Doesn’t amount to a hill of beans when you have a president who has no intention of using them even if he knows what the launch codes are for. Just sayin’

  7. Mr. Bingley says:

    JeffS, as you’ll see I have a collection myself. No Tandys but I do use my Bride’s Mac SE from 1988 every couple of months.

  8. Skyler says:

    I’d be very surprised to have something so modern as a Tandy in the military.

  9. Yojimbo says:

    Well where in the heck did all those BILLIONS(!) for “technology upgrades” go?

  10. JeffS says:

    Tandys were Da Bomb, Mr. B! I had a bunch of them, before I shifted over to IBM clunkers. I had to pay cash to transfer data between different media formats.

    But I used a Mac in the National Guard; we had a militarized version for intelligence analysis.

  11. nightfly says:

    Does this count the Apple II you turned into a box wine delivery system, Bings?

  12. Mr. Bingley says:

    The MacInslosh was an old SE also, ‘Fly.

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