Reddit Reddit reviews Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

We found 60 Reddit comments about Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. Here are the top ones, ranked by their Reddit score.

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60 Reddit comments about Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety:

u/dog_in_the_vent · 126 pointsr/videos

There was infighting between proponents of nuclear safety and proponents of nuclear readiness in SAC and Los Alamos. Some people wanted to have multiple independent safety devices to prevent accidental nuclear detonations or launches, others wanted nothing but a big red button to launch the missiles.

Command and Control by Eric Schlosser does a very good job of telling this story, as well as the story of a nuclear accident in Damascus Arkansas.

u/HenryJonesJunior · 87 pointsr/todayilearned

Most of what you're talking about is Hollywood, not reality. Eric Schlosser wrote an excellent book about the history of nuclear weapon controls, and most of the time most of what you mentioned wasn't in place.

u/DiscordianAgent · 69 pointsr/explainlikeimfive

A great read on this subject is Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser. At some points during the cold war Strategic Air Command had nuclear equipped bombers circling around the perimeter of US and NATO airspace non-stop. As with anything we decide to do 24/7, there were some accidents. If you think a B-52 bursting into flames on a runway sounds kinda stressful, imagine how much worse it gets when you know it has shaped explosives ready to jam together some fissile materials inside it. A situation like that occurred once, and lucky, the shaped explosives melted in the heat before they could go off. In another incident a B-52 had something fail and ripped apart in mid-air. This occurred over US airspace, and in some kinda crazy failure of oversight, the bomb on that plane had its physical safety enabled, meaning if the pilot had happened to also have his bomb key turned to the right we would have ejected a live nuke onto Virginia.

To answer your question though: minor taps are unlikely to set off the shaped explosives which start the reaction. Think of the nuke as a football shaped thing with two bits of material in them that, when slammed together with a lot of force, set off a nuclear reaction. If only half the "lens" explodes, that might not be enough force even, so even if you shot the exposed bomb it might only set off some of the shaped explosives, possibly resulting in a 'dirty bomb' or possibly just a loud bang. The detonation charge has to be perfectly timed to all parts of the football in order to make sure the two halves slam together with maximum surface area.

By the way, I can't recommend that book enough, it made me much more aware of how many crazy accidents and near accidents our nuclear weapons program has had, and it really makes you think twice about why the fuck we need thousands of these weapons sitting around, and the huge amount of effort which went into them, both on the design level and on the practical every-day level.

u/verbatim2242 · 50 pointsr/politics

For anyone looking at a deep dive into the subject of command and control, "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety" by Eric Schlosser is well worth the read.

>“As part of that administrative process, Butler decided to look at every single target in the SIOP, and for weeks he carefully scrutinized the thousands of desired ground zeros. He found bridges and railways and roads in the middle of nowhere targeted with multiple warheads, to assure their destruction. Hundreds of nuclear warheads would hit Moscow—dozens of them aimed at a single radar installation outside the city. During his previous job working for the Joint Chiefs, Butler had dealt with targeting issues and the damage criteria for nuclear weapons."

>"He was hardly naive. But the days and weeks spent going through the SIOP, page by page, deeply affected him. For more than forty years, efforts to tame the SIOP, to limit it, reduce it, make it appear logical and reasonable, had failed. “With the possible exception of the Soviet nuclear war plan, this was the single most absurd and irresponsible document I had ever reviewed in my life,” General Butler later recalled.

>“I came to fully appreciate the truth . . . we escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”

To say that our current PEOTUS does not know what he is doing is an understatement. Given the history of nuclear power, storage, fallout, errors and use and given the chilling interview KAC gave last night on the Rachel Maddow Show clearly showing no formal knowledge on nuclear controlling powers across the globe, we should all recognize we are in for a long and hazardous ride which might not end well.

The history of nuclear power is ripe with peril and human error. Having someone at the trigger without an understanding of the issues and the technology behind that power should rightfully scare the hell out of everyone on the planet.

u/GuitarFreak027 · 36 pointsr/videos

The book Command and Control gives a good accounting of that story, along with a really interesting look into the history of nuclear weapons. I'd highly recommend the book if you're interested in nuclear stuff.

u/lurking_quietly · 22 pointsr/TrueReddit

This is a useful companion piece to Eric Schlosser's recent "World War Three, by Mistake" in The New Yorker. (Hat-tip to /u/puck2 for posting that article to this subreddit.)

For those still not sufficiently alarmed, PBS will premiere the documentary Command and Control, based on Schlosser's book of the same name, in its American Experience series next week (Tuesday, January 10, 2017).

u/Moominballs · 20 pointsr/news

If you are interested in stuff like this you should check out the book Command And Control.

It really highlights how close to utter devastation we have been during the past 60 years...

One of the top reviews from Amazon:
As a former Titan II Missile Facilities Technician, this was a page-turner for me. The author got it right in his descriptions of the attitudes and culture in the missile career field, the systems in use, even the music we listened to back then. It is rare for a military themed book written by a non-military writer to be so spot-on (IMO). The descriptions of some of the close calls we (we citizens) had with H-bombs are chilling, and the story about the Damascus Arkansas Titan II explosion was weaved in perfectly throughout the book. Time well spent.

u/Fargonian · 12 pointsr/aviation

Kind of an aside, but if you like "Bridge of Spies," read Command and Control. It's a great book about the cold war and MAD theory.

u/uid_0 · 12 pointsr/videos

If you want to read more with some amazing technical details of the Titan silos, I highly recommend Eric Schlosser's book "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety". It's a compelling read.

u/sadtimedadtime · 12 pointsr/news

Interesting fact about the term 'Megadeath' that I just learned from a cool book I'm reading, Command and Control by Eric Schlosser: It is a unit that describes 1 million deaths resultant from a nuclear attack, and was coined in some of the initial reports assessing the potential damage from an all out nuclear war (measuring fatalities in megadeaths, e.g. 40 megadeaths = 40 million killed) during the 1950's. I guess fans of the band are probably aware of this etymology, but as someone who doesn't really listen to them, I was not.

u/Rollondger · 9 pointsr/WarshipPorn

I have a book recommendation for you: Command and Control

It's a superb read regarding a series of briefs on nuclear weapon safety in fire conditions, and how safe modern weapons are in comparison.

u/Korgzilla · 8 pointsr/worldnews

Also, Command and Control is a good (non-fiction) read on the topic.

u/APOC-giganova · 8 pointsr/Physics

I recomend the book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser, also available in audio format. It's a much better history and synopsis of the issues at hand.

u/Nessunolosa · 8 pointsr/changemyview

Hiya, I am a person who lived in Korea in 2012-2013 and for six months up to April this year. I don't have a military perspective on the issue, but I can tell you a little about my experiences in Korea.

Firstly, know that this uptick in worry and hand-wringing about an imminent nuclear attack by North Korea goes in cycles. The US media get annoyed or bored with whatever it is that they are covering, and start to focus on NK again. This happens about once a year, usually in the springtime. In 2012 it was an imminent existential threat. In 2013 it was, too. As it was in 2014, 2015, 2016, and this year. You can almost set your watch by the coverage, and it is almost always as doomsday as the last time. I went on google's search engine and looked for 'north korea' as a search term for the time since 2004 and made images of each individual year here. Admittedly, 2017's graph looks a little different, but you can clearly see the cycles in the previous years. I would be willing to bet that 2017's graph is more due to POTUS tweeting and the generalized anxiety of the Left in the States than a genuine march toward war.

I'll be that you didn't know there was a genuine exchange of fire in Korea in 2010. There were tense moments of actual live fire for that whole of that year, leading to a 23 November bombardment of a South Korean island by North Korean artillery. 70+ South Korean houses were destroyed, and several were killed on both sides. Even with the tensions and the live artillery, the peninsula did not descend into open war.

In addition, you should know that the coverage of NK issues tends to be overblown in US media. I heard this story from even the likes of NPR the other day, and laughed aloud at the ridiculousness of it. It's lines like this that get the people back in the US riled up:

Defense Secretary James Mattis went within feet of the curbstone separating North and South Korea, where grim-faced North Korean troops stared across at him. It's known as one of the scariest spots on the planet.

That whole story is hyperbolic (and irresponsible reporting, imho). I went to the border at that exact place. It's part of a civilian tourist trip that runs almost every day. It wasn't exactly as the reporter made it seem, like he'd been helicoptered into an active conflict zone.

The DMZ is sad, confusing, and very absurd. But it's probably one of the safest places on Earth. You are infinitely more likely to be shot in any major United States city than at the DMZ. I'll concede that landmines are not a normal worry in US cities, but they don't tend to go off in the DMZ, either. The last time one went off was in 2015 (wounding two).

This time, admittedly, Trump is involved. But that doesn't change things too much except for making people feel more nervous. For this, I'm afraid that I have only a long-term remedy. You need to read Eric Schlosser's Command and Control. This book changed my views on nuclear weapons and greatly improved my understanding of the ways that a nuclear war could start. I don't feel comforted necessarily, but hearing about the ways that generals dealt with say, an alcoholic, depressed, borderline suicidal Nixon during the Watergate scandal made me feel a whole lot better about Trump being POTUS.

Finally, China. They are ascendant, gaining power, and working to make the region stable. They will not tolerate NK's bullshit rising to the level that the US might strike them. They'd just invade first. It wouldn't lead to massive, open conflict with the USA or South Korea. China is a player of the long game, and they will withdraw their support from the NK regime if necessary.

Hope that this helps! Please don't worry about this. Worry about more immediate problems in your own community.

u/Skadwick · 8 pointsr/Atlanta

Reading my first 'techo thriller' - a non-fiction booked called Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.

If I'd have heard of the genre independently of this book I'd likely not find it appealing, but I am really really enjoying it. Absolutely blowing through it for how dense of a book it is. Also, if I could sum up the contents of this book so far I'd say 'shit is fucked'

u/Phallic_Moron · 7 pointsr/Austin

For supplemental reading, check out Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, The Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Nuclear Safety. By Eric Schlosser. A Pulitzer finalist.

There is also a documentary on Netflix(?) about the Damascus Accident, where a liquid fueled ICBM exploded inside the silo.

u/nickiter · 7 pointsr/videos

I'm currently reading Command and Control by Eric Schlosser, which weaves together a story about a nearly catastrophic accident at a missile site and the broader history of the command and control systems that governed the US nuclear arsenal.

Contrary to the widely held belief that nuclear missiles are highly "fail-safe" and stable in adverse conditions, most of the nuclear arsenal was (and perhaps still is) quite dangerous. Armed, ready-to-detonate bombs have been dropped by accident multiple times... Missiles have caught fire in their silos, threatening to fling a cloud of plutonium across hundreds of miles of American heartland... Warheads have been in the custody of an American force so tiny that they'd have no hope of protecting against a host country's decision to seize a weapon...

The list goes on. It is terrifying. I've long been deeply skeptical of putting too much power in the hands of an unaccountable government, and this book has solidified that fear so much.

The standard by which the US government evaluated choices with regard to nuclear weapon is hideous. Generals and Presidents talked regularly of options which would result in hundreds of millions of deaths, including pre-emptive strikes against the USSR during a period without any hostilities at all.

u/Sesquipedaliac · 7 pointsr/Warthunder

From my understanding of how the implosion-type device that was Fat Man worked, the explosives that would drive the uranium into the plutonium core (which would cause the reaction) might go off. Since damage would have occurred when it was hit, the timing would be off on these detonations, preventing a full nuclear reaction.

For the record, there was also a concern that lightning strikes would cause the electronics on early nuclear devices to go haywire and detonate. It's a bit of a wonder that there weren't more nuclear accidents between 1940-1970.

(Source: Command and Control, by Eric Schlosser)

u/f10101 · 6 pointsr/spacex

Great book on the topic, that exposes a lot of the madness that led to and surrounded the incident. There's also a film of the same name.

u/DaSilence · 6 pointsr/ProtectAndServe

>Did you even go to college?

Yep. A couple of times, in fact.

>have you ever read a book?

Just finished this one. Excellent read. I highly suggest it.

>I dont expect someone like you to be an expert at philosophy, let alone be threatened by a concept so much that the only people who believe in it MUST be juveniles.

No, I just know enough about the philosophy to see the absurdity of it. I also know enough about human nature to know it's yet another in a long line of mildly interesting intellectual exercises that have no bearing in practicality because of the very nature of humanity.

>If you could entertain a future of private law enforcement, you might be out of a job.

It's more likely that I end up being assigned to a manned mission to Mars that your absurd AnCap ideas actually be tried in any actual civilization.

u/fingerrockets · 5 pointsr/news

Read Command and Control it's far from the first time Airmen were getting high while working around nukes.

u/tugs_cub · 5 pointsr/ChapoTrapHouse

anybody who is tired of not being worried about accidental nuclear annihilation should check out this book

u/spidermonk · 5 pointsr/worldnews

Also I wouldn't be super confident about that - reading this book shows that the security and safety of nuclear weapons has historically been pretty slap dash.

u/floodcontrol · 4 pointsr/worldnews

Not strictly about that topic but check out Command and Control, it covers the development of U.S. nuclear and nuclear safety policy from inception to present.

Does support some of what CommandoDude is saying, MAD was a U.S. invention. Doesn't cover the Russian aspect of it unfortunately.

u/BurtGummer938 · 3 pointsr/dataisbeautiful

This is an entertaining book on the history of nuclear weapon incidents.

They also go over the Damascus incident, where a Titan Missile silo in Arkansas exploded in an accident. Apparently they made a film about it.

u/Theia123 · 3 pointsr/thenetherlands

Niet alleen daar, fouten zijn vrij vaak voorkomend. Lees dit boek:

u/somnambulist80 · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

> Now, Fat Man and Little Boy? Those were different stories. Apparently they were just kept under heavy guard before being loaded onto the planes, and actually arming them was as easy as pulling a pin (imagine a big hand grenade), setting the burst altitude, and dropping them out of the plane.

That lack of security control on nuclear weapons was allowed to persist for a shockingly long time. Some in SAC considered the lack of control a positive, arguing that the weapons wouldn't be rendered useless in the case of a decapitation attack.

Eric Schlosser's Command and Control is a great and easily accessible history on nuclear weapon safety.

u/mikeflys1 · 3 pointsr/suggestmeabook

Command & Control if you never want to sleep again. Its more related to the controls systems/procedures than overall development though.

u/VirulentVoid · 2 pointsr/videos

Yeah, they were completely unprepared for the fallout. The men observing the explosion from a nearby bunker ended up trapped there for quite some time and soaked up a ton of radiation before they could be rescued via helicopter. At some point, the fallout began to drift over nearby military installations on the other islands and they witnessed fallout coming down like snow all around them. Men on ships offshore were forced to try and take shelter inside the ships with the vents closed to avoid exposure, but had to open the vents anyways due to the insane heat and humidity.

Can't recall if I read all this in Command and Control or 15 Minutes. Either way, I recommend both books. 15 minutes is less extensive, but it provides a good sense of drama. Not that nuclear weapons don't inspire enough on their own.

u/AlphaLima · 2 pointsr/space

There is a good book on this, Command and Control really good.

Tldr:we've come very very close to nuking ourselves more than most of the public knows.

u/willsueforfood · 2 pointsr/todayilearned

The best book I've read about nuclear safety protocols, the reasons behind them, and the historical lapses is Command and Control.

I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the subject:

u/ninklo · 2 pointsr/explainlikeimfive

Just finished reading Command and Control, so want to say that it almost happened several times with the US too:

  • One time the US BMEWS detected a Soviet first strike with 99.9% accuracy, and the SAC had only 15 minutes to respond or risk obliteration (at that time second-strike capabilities weren't quite so well established so knocking out the entire American leadership in one shot may have been a viable strategy to winning a nuclear war). Only after finding out that Khrushchev was giving a speech at the UN in New York did the SAC calm down since the Soviets were unlikely to kill their own leader, and when everyone was still alive 20 minutes later it was obvious it was a false alarm. Later it was found that the BMEWS had detected the moon rising as a missile strike. Who knows what might have happened had Khrushchev been in the USSR on that day?
  • Another time all communication to the BMEWS was knocked out from SAC headquarters, east to west. The probability of such a thing happening randomly throughout the entire extent of the BMEWS was considered highly unlikely, especially since there were redundancies in the phone system, and they were also unable to contact Thule. It was thought that a missile strike had started against the BMEWS. The only evidence otherwise was a bomber flying 24/7 over Thule whose sole purpose was simply to provide visual confirmation that Thule still existed, and sure enough this bomber finally played its role by confirming over radio that yes, Thule was still there and hadn't been obliterated in a first strike. Later it turns out that fucking AT&T had said it installed redundant phone connections, but hadn't actually done so, and one of the phone switch stations failed. Corporate greed inadvertently brought us close to a nuclear war (imagine if the bomber's radio system happened to fail for any reason?).
  • Twice SAC headquarters showed tons of incoming missiles and destruction of American cities displayed on its status board, in a highly realistic attack that fully confirmed SAC's every prediction of what a Soviet attack would look like, but communication with radar stations revealed that they failed to detect anything, and the American cities were clearly still there. Turns out to have been practice simulation tapes that were mistakenly loaded by a technician, so no wonder they confirmed SAC expectations of what a Soviet attack would look like. Only after the second time this happened did they decide to build a separate place solely for simulation war games.
  • Multiple times SAC computers received messages telling them that there were 202 missiles or 22 missiles, etc, heading towards the US. Once again radar stations detected nothing so it was a false alarm. The cause? A defective CPU chip that randomly replaced 0's with 2's, and a sort of ping message from computers simply confirming that they were still transmitting information, except the ping message was something like "0000 missiles detected". The CPU was replaced and the message rewritten to have no mention of missiles whatsoever.

    Of course things like this probably also happened on the Soviet side that the general population doesn't know about. But this is just to show that we fuck up too, and our early warning systems have in fact malfunctioned several times in the past.
u/Daduckything · 2 pointsr/todayilearned

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

Very good read there. It's utterly amazing that someone (a country) did not blow themselves off the map during this time period.

Fun fact for the night - there's still a 7600lb nuclear bomb "lost" off the coast of Savannah, Georgia !

u/mrfudface · 2 pointsr/todayilearned

I recommend a very good book if someone is interested in Nuclear Weapons and their incidents. Here you go

u/nucular_mastermind · 2 pointsr/todayilearned

If anyone is interested in the insane mechanics of nuclear warfare and warhead safety (it's just dumb luck someone hasn't blown themselves up so far, almost happened several times), there is this book called "Command and Control" - a chilling read.

u/Incorrect_Oymoron · 2 pointsr/todayilearned

Especially with nukes, the idea was that launch codes and arming/disarming systems are an unnecessary waste of time if ww3 were to happen.

Edit: Citation (

u/octave1 · 2 pointsr/europe

Anyone interested in nukes should read Command and Control, pretty amazing.

u/MaginTheBranded · 2 pointsr/CatastrophicFailure

A study after the fact found that some of our most used bombs were subject to “accidental” detonation. I forget the bomb but I think it was mounted on a rotary rack on a B-52. If you want to know more read this wonderful book Command and Control.

u/ryan_illman · 2 pointsr/preppers

More than once. Eric Schlosser wrote a book about it that was turned into a PBS documentary:

u/MadgeWilkins · 1 pointr/CasualConversation

I read a ton. Last few good books I read were The Martian, The Glass Castle, Flowers For Algernon. Reading this at the moment, it's awesome!

u/McNuggies · 1 pointr/syriancivilwar

Yeah, in fact the US has dropped nukes accidentally in its own country. However the way the nukes work/worked they didn't go off. I read a very interesting book recently on America's nuclear program including the details on what activates a nuke called "Command and Control". Definitely recommend picking it up to help understand the USAF and it's role in nuclear and conventional warfare.

u/squinkys · 1 pointr/videos

hahahahaha right? If you're interested in what happened in Arkansas, or any of the large number of "Broken Arrow" events, check out "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety" by Eric Schlosser. It's a supremely well written account.

u/natu80 · 1 pointr/worldnews

I am not sure where you have got this from that Russia and China would just up and attack if the US did not have nukes. China is encircled by 400 US military bases. Russia is almost equally surrounded. The US has almost 1000 military bases across the world and a military spending that is larger then the rest of the world combined.

The only reason we are not at war, is that people both in Russia and in the US who have been under order to fire nukes have decided to refuse.

This is a book that partly deals with that:

u/CorinthWest · 1 pointr/coldwar

Eric Schlosser's Command and Control is a great read too.

u/TheDigitalOne · 1 pointr/worldnews

Oh man, it's even worse than that in the real world - especially during the 70's to late 80's, I recommend reading Command and Control by Eric Schlosser if the state of our nuclear stockpiles interests anyone.

It was just released a couple of months ago, very eye opening.

u/GetOffMyLawn_ · 1 pointr/history

I would suggest reading "Command and Control" which covers a great deal of nuclear weapons history and in particular who was in control of what weaponry. There was a PBS documentary made based on the book but the doc concentrated mostly on the one missile that blew up in Arkansas. The book goes into a lot more detail about other weapons and (mis)management of them.

u/erdle · 1 pointr/gifs

Can't go off... check out the book "Command and Control"... now also a documentary that I believe is on Netflix.

u/Choralone · 1 pointr/todayilearned

For anyone who finds this type of stuff interesting.... I highly recommend the book Command and Control by Eric Schlosser.

It's a wonderfully written look into all kinds of aspects of the nuclear program, and covers all kinds of things like this.

u/tryptronica · 1 pointr/AskLibertarians

For a scary look at how close we've come to accidental nuclear detonations, check out the book [Command and Control] ( by Eric Schlosser or the [documentary] ( based on it. These systems or similar ones still exist and the chance of an accident is non-zero. The fact that nothing serious has happened yet is due to the incredible safety system built into these machines or dumb luck, depending on how you look at it.

u/nivvydaskrl · 1 pointr/politics

According to what I remember from the book Command and Control, missile silos usually have a very small staff, and among the installation commander's responsibilities is turning one of two keys which initiates the missile launch sequence.

However, I may be misremembering, and the above book is specifically about Titan missiles in the 70's or 80's; modern procedures in Minuteman installations may be different.

u/uber_caffeinated · 1 pointr/Anarcho_Capitalism

Yes they are. Cities are wiped out by an A-Bomb. A H-Bomb wipes out an entire metropolitan area. Humans have not had the ability to destroy entire geographical regions for '100k years' by any stretch of the imagination. MAD entails that a single misinterpreted signal will result in each side escalating their ICBM launches, resulting in a world-wide apocalypse.

For verification of the above, see:

u/Bakanogami · 1 pointr/explainlikeimfive

First of all, I'm going to highly recommend Command and Control by Eric Schlosser. It came out recently, is explicitly about nuclear weapon safety, and is a fantastic read.

There are...a lot of different things that can go wrong with nuclear weapons. No system is perfect, and any tiny imperfection is amplified by the number of weapons in service. If there's a one in a million chance of a nuke accidentally detonating during its service life, it sounds pretty safe, but if there's 10,000 of them, there's only a one in a thousand chance of there being an accidental nuclear explosion, and statistically you start getting closer and closer to being able to say with certainty that there will be an accidental nuclear explosion at some point.

The hair trigger is indeed what makes these things extra dangerous, and IIRC we've started to shift somewhat to a somewhat more relaxed doctrine? Not certain, though. The problem, especially during the cold war, is that the time between detection of a nuclear strike and the missiles impacting is extremely short. Thirty minutes would be a generous time frame, and that could go down to fifteen or even less if launched from a submarine or neighboring country.

That short timeframe means that every nuke we think we'd need has to be ready to go 24/7, able to launch within those 15-30 minutes. And while constant readiness sounds easy enough, that means you're constantly handling a lot of hazardous equipment with Nuclear weapons on the top of it.

At that timeframe, you don't necessarily have time to load the bombs onto planes. You either have to keep the planes loaded on the runway, or even better, up in the air with the bombs on board. We kept nuclear bombers flying 24/7 for years. And with that many bombers constantly landing/taking off in B-52s (which were designed for speed/altitude, and not for airframe durability), some planes are going to crash. There were numerous instances of loaded bombers crashing, planes breaking up midair, etc. Bombs had their high explosives go off. One time a bomb stayed intact as a plane was breaking up and acted like it had been dropped for real. It only didn't go off because of a single analog safety that could have very easily have been shorted out.

Missiles have their own set of problems. Rocket fuel is volatile by definition, and ICBMs have the problem that they have to constantly be ready to go, meaning you can't use cryogenic fuels like liquid hydrogen and oxygen. You have to use much more "exciting" stuff that's incredibly poisonous, eats through most protective gear, burns with just about anything, and will explode if it touches the stuff in the tank beside it. And then you store it in lightweight missiles with paper-thin walls.

One of the central stories Command and Control explores is an incident at Damascus, Arkansas. A mechanic drops a wrench, it tears open a hole in the side of the missile resulting in a massive fuel leak. The complex is evacuated, and a few hours later a spark makes all the fuel and oxidizer blow up the silo, shooting the warhead hundreds of feet in the air in a massive fireball.

We like to think that our bombs are really safe, that they can't go off accidentally, but there have been plenty of past designs studied and shown to be unsafe, where something like a crashing plane, bullet impact, lightning strike, or even a solid drop could cause it to go off.

And that's before considering mistaken or accidental launches. There have been multiple instances in both the USA, USSR, and modern Russia of nuclear launches being detected. In the early 90's Russia actually opened their nuclear football and presented it to Yeltzin.

Then there's terrorism. We've made tens of thousands of bombs. The more there are, the easier it is for one to go missing and fall into the hands of terrorists. That's why the breakup of the USSR was scary. That's why it's scary when a smaller, more unstable nation like Pakistan or North Korea develops nukes. It's one additional failure point for Nuclear security.

The only totally safe number is zero. In any event, even after extensive arms reduction, we still have thousands of nukes, which is way more than is needed to destroy any possible enemy.

(seriously, read Command and Control. Best book I read this year.)

u/markth_wi · 1 pointr/news

It's Deja Vu all over again and if you think it's better elsewhere may I recommend a little light reading.

u/nschider_001 · 1 pointr/casualiama

Have you read "Command and Control" by Eric Schlosser?

u/RAndrewOhge · 1 pointr/Nukes

Turkey’s Nukes: A Sum of All Fears - By Jonathan Marshall - Jul 20, 2016 (

Exclusive: The post-coup chaos in Turkey is a reminder about the risk of leaving nuclear weapons in unstable regions where they serve no clear strategic purpose but present a clear and present danger, explains Jonathan Marshall.

The national security priesthood in Washington has always used claims of superior wisdom and insider knowledge to silence dissent about nuclear policy.

But not even they can explain any longer why U.S. nuclear bombs are being stored in politically unstable Turkey as it grows increasingly Islamist and anti-American.

The Incirlik air base in southeast Turkey — from which U.S. pilots launch bombing raids on ISIS forces in Syria — is home to about 50 B-61 hydrogen bombs.

That makes it NATO’s largest nuclear storage facility, with about a quarter of all theater nuclear weapons in the alliance’s stockpiles.

The U.S. hydrogen bomb explosion codenamed Bravo on March 1, 1954.

Each bomb has a yield of up to 170 kilotons, nearly a dozen times more powerful than the weapon that leveled Hiroshima.

The bombs are stored in underground vaults within aircraft shelters that in turn are protected by a base security perimeter.

But Eric Schlosser, author of a 2014 book ( on the perils of nuclear accidents, observed recently, “With a few hours and the right tools and training, you could open one of NATO’s nuclear-weapons storage vaults, remove a weapon, and bypass the [protective switches] inside it. Within seconds, you could place an explosive device on top of a storage vault, destroy the weapon, and release a lethal radioactive cloud.”

In addition, the security of the bombs is premised on them being defended by loyal NATO forces. In the case of Incirlik, that loyalty proved uncertain at best. Power to the base was cut after mutinous troops used a tanker plane from the base to refuel F-16s that menaced Ankara and Istanbul.

After the coup, the Turkish commander of Incirlik was arrested for complicity and marched off in handcuffs.

One can easily imagine a clique of Islamist officers in a future coup seizing the nukes as a bargaining chip with Ankara and Washington — or, worse yet, to support radical insurgents in the region.

Getting Attention

After years of inattention to NATO’s nuclear deployment policy, the recent failed coup in Turkey is finally setting off alarm bells.

Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Monterey Institute for International Affairs, asked rhetorically, “Does it seem like a good idea to station American nuclear weapons at an air base commanded by someone who may have just helped bomb his own country’s parliament?”

Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert with the Federation of American Scientists,declared that “the security situation in Turkey and in the base area no longer meet the safety requirements that the United States should have for storage of nuclear weapons. You only get so many warnings before something goes terribly wrong. It’s time to withdraw the weapons.”

Most tellingly, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis wrote — being careful not to publicly confirm any classified information — that if NATO really does house tactical nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base, “this poses a very dangerous problem, and Washington will need Ankara’s full cooperation to ensure that all U.S. military equipment and forces are fully protected.” []

The questioning should go beyond the obvious security risks of loose nukes falling into unfriendly hands, however.

No one has ever explained what enemy the hydrogen bombs stored in Turkey might be used against, a quarter century after the fall of the Soviet Union.

No doubt there are plenty of neocons in Washington who would delight in dropping them on Iran, as advocated by Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson, but one hopes that most Americans do not share his fondness for gambling outside of casinos.

Nor has anyone explained how the bombs might be used if an appropriate enemy were found, since NATO has no nuclear-certified aircraft stationed in Turkey.

But in Washington and in Brussels, the inability to answer such basic questions is rarely cause to rethink old policies.

After all, how many priests give up their incantations just because the chants don’t work?

Although Turkey offers an egregious case of nuclear risks, questions about nuclear weapons deployment should go well beyond that country. Security is also notoriously lax at NATO bases in Belgium and the Netherlands where nuclear weapons are stored.

As Schlosser recalls, “In 2010, peace activists climbed over a fence at the Kleine Brogel Airbase, in Belgium, cut through a second fence, entered a hardened shelter containing nuclear-weapon vaults, placed anti-nuclear stickers on the walls, wandered the base for an hour, and posted a video of the intrusion on YouTube. The video showed that the Belgian soldier who finally confronted them was carrying an unloaded rifle.”

Brandishing Nuclear Bombs

As I have argued before, the threat of terrorism is only one of several reasons to rethink the presence of theater nuclear weapons on NATO soil.

Those weapons actually decrease the security of Western Europe by raising the risks of catastrophic escalation in the case of an inadvertent conflict with Russia. The weapons are also utterly unnecessary for deterrence, given the nuclear arsenals available to the United States, Great Britain and France.

Despite these risks, influential voices in the alliance are calling for more brandishing of nuclear weapons, not less.

A recent article in NATO Review declared, “The forces involved in the nuclear mission should be exercised openly and regularly, without undermining their specific nature. Such exercises should involve not only nuclear-weapon states, but other non-nuclear allies.”

Last December, Poland’s deputy defense minister proposed putting U.S. nuclear weapons on Polish soil.

That proposal came a year after Polish F-16 jets took part in a NATO nuclear exercise.

And the Obama administration, for now at least, remains bent on upgrading its hydrogen bombs and building a new class of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, both of which would be deployed in Europe.

Yet the observation of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier remains as true today as when he said it in 2009: “From the military point of view, those (theater) weapons are absolutely senseless today.”

The question he asked then is the one that all thinking people should be asking in the wake of Turkey’s recent debacle: “Isn’t it time to include substrategic and tactical nuclear weapons in the nuclear disarmament process, in order to [eliminate] once and for all the leftovers of the Cold War on the territory of Russia and Europe?” []

u/InTheory_ · 0 pointsr/changemyview

I personally believe it was wrong to do so. The effects of radiation and fallout is not fundamentally different than using chemical or biological weapons -- which would be considered war crimes.

The argument that "it saves the lives of our troops" falls flat when dealing with chemical or biological weapons. It is wrong no matter how many lives it saves. Why are atomic weapons held to a different standard when they produce byproducts that do the same thing?

However, if any argument could be made for their use, the best one is that, in this case, ignoring the destructive capabilities of today's thermonuclear weapons, the kilotons unleashed by the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombs were actually comparable with other bombing campaigns of WWII. They are on the high side for sure, but not orders of magnitude higher as we often imagine. It just happened all at once, as opposed to raids lasting many consecutive days. Just look up the bombings of, say, Tokyo or Hamburg.

Additionally, if you believe atomic weapons are a historical inevitability (that given enough time, someone will eventually develop them), then whoever builds it first has a HUGE advantage on the world stage. Their use isn't simply for Japan's sake, but to serve as a deterrent to future nations. To suggest not building them would be to argue that a nation should nobly accept their demise on world stage. A case can be made for that on moral grounds, but it's an argument that won't be made without significant resistance.

War is horrible no matter how it's fought.

If you're interested in nuclear history, read Command and Control by Eric Schossler, or listen to the most recent podcast of Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. They don't really deal with the morality of the Japan bombings, but the more you know about the subject, the less sleep you'll get.

u/CharlieKillsRats · -1 pointsr/explainlikeimfive

>Shooting down a missile is extremely easy.

WTF? This is one of the most complicated scientific and practical issues mankind has ever encounter, it makes the moon landing look like cooking mac and cheese. We simply are not capable of doing it, short range land to land is possible with particular situations but still lots of issues and unpredictability... no one has really got past that yet.

Sidewinders and Air-to-air missile are completely unrelated and different types of animals. You don't have any idea what you're talking about I'd just stop if I were you, seriously, you completely have no idea. All "missiles" aren't "missiles", they are as different as a pistol to an artillery shell.

Bombers/fighters are the primary method of delivery of explosive payloads, nuclear or otherwise. ICBMs are...troublesome.

I highly recommend a book for you, Command and Control by Eric Schlosser might let you know how far off you are...

u/Disincarnated · -2 pointsr/todayilearned

Move the goal post further, maybe you'll eventually not look like a fool. First it was "No, the source doesnt support it." Then it was "maybe, but I dont trust the source" now its "give me more sources."

Sorry but pandering to you is the least of things I'd like to do today. If you doubt the book, why not read it for yourself. The entire book is well sourced, cited, and researched. Over 100 pages of citations in the book, I'm sure you can find the exact amount of evidence that will sate you there.