PDA

View Full Version : Satellites Prevented Nuclear War - Three Times



Drunk Vegan
2011-Sep-30, 02:49 AM
The next time someone questions the value of our space program, you might inform them that it's prevented us from nuking ourselves back into the stone age at least three times. Very interesting article from PBS about 4 close calls during the Cold War:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/nuclear-false-alarms.html


The Cuban missile crisis is the best-known example of narrowly avoiding nuclear war. However, there are at least four other less well-known incidents in which the superpowers geared up for nuclear annihilation. Those incidents differed from the Cuban missile crisis in a significant way: They occurred when either the U.S. or Soviet or Russian leaders had to respond to false alarms from nuclear warning systems that malfunctioned or misinterpreted benign events.

All four incidents were very brief, probably lasting less than 10 minutes each. Professional military officers managed most of them. Those officers had to decide whether or not to recommend launching a "retaliatory" strike before possibly losing their own nuclear first strikes. In three of the four incidents, the decision not to respond to the alarm was made when space-based early-warning sensors failed to show signs of massive nuclear attacks. The fourth incident was caused by an inadequate early-warning satellite system that was fooled into thinking that reflected sunlight was the flames from a handful of ICBMs.

Granted, one of the four incidents was caused by a satellite falsely reporting a missile launch, but the error was implausible enough that the Soviet officer in charge of the system refused to pass the alert on to his superiors.

Without these satellites in orbit to provide confirmation as to whether an attack is real or imaginary, it's possible we wouldn't be here today.

grapes
2011-Sep-30, 03:07 AM
Granted, one of the four incidents was caused by a satellite falsely reporting a missile launch, At least one was caused by a satellite. What in the world did cause the other three?

Drunk Vegan
2011-Sep-30, 03:16 AM
At least one was caused by a satellite. What in the world did cause the other three?

In one instance the military had inserted a training tape into early-warning computers which had a scenario for a nuclear attack, and the computer was "fooled" into thinking the attack was real; in another, a computer chip malfunction caused the early-warning system to report random numbers of missiles being launched. The third instance was a launch of a sounding rocket being launched to study aurorae was misinterpreted by Russian radar to be a launch designed to blind their radars with an airburst.

If you get a minute read the article, it's a fun (and disturbing) read.

Swift
2011-Sep-30, 01:05 PM
In one instance the military had inserted a training tape into early-warning computers which had a scenario for a nuclear attack, and the computer was "fooled" into thinking the attack was real
Wouldn't you rather play a nice game of chess? :razz:

Interesting read, thanks for the link.

Extravoice
2011-Sep-30, 01:25 PM
In one instance the...the computer was "fooled" into thinking the attack was real

"War Games"?



In another, a computer chip malfunction* caused...

"Fail Safe?"


The third instance was a launch of a sounding rocket being launched...

There has to be some movie with that plot.

*IIRC it was a capacitor that failed in "Fail Safe", but it has been years since I've read the book.

jlhredshift
2011-Sep-30, 01:54 PM
Also, if you remember, that when the military put up gamma ray detection sats, they had to figure out that the signals were coming from "up" rather than "down".

Extravoice
2011-Sep-30, 03:24 PM
Also, if you remember, that when the military put up gamma ray detection sats, they had to figure out that the signals were coming from "up" rather than "down".

I'm not sure if the Vela Incident (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vela_Incident) was ever sorted out with certainty.

jlhredshift
2011-Sep-30, 03:44 PM
There is also a mini-comet theory of Lou Frank that has not been totally put to rest yet.


Article Posted: December 09, 1997
At the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, December 8-12 1997, there were press reports of controversy concerning the claim by Lou Frank of the University of Iowa that he had discovered evidence of mini-comets striking the Earth in quantities approximately the million times greater than would be indicated by other lines of scientific evidence. Although there is almost no support in the scientific community for this mini-comet hypothesis, Frank continues to advocate it, and the press continues to keep the issue alive in the public consciousness. Following are four press releases from the AGU meeting dealing with this issue.

From NASA http://impact.arc.nasa.gov/news_detail.cfm?ID=77

BigDon
2011-Sep-30, 04:45 PM
"War Games"?




"Fail Safe?"



There has to be some movie with that plot.

*IIRC it was a capacitor that failed in "Fail Safe", but it has been years since I've read the book.

I'm not saying you're guilty of it but I just wanted to say I hate it when somebody sees a war movie and they think the script was all original work.

By which I mean I was telling the tale of my ex's grandfather. When the subject of his time in WWII would come up he would say, "Awww, I was only in the Army for nine months."

But it was the LAST nine months of the war in Europe. And in those nine months he was awarded the Bronze Star three times. In places like the Battle of Casino.

I didn't know that he had stonewalled even his own family about his service time. I remember when he started talking to me. It was Christmas Eve and my wife and daughters were sleeping down in his guest room and he and I were sipping scotch next to the fire place.I was telling him stories about working the flightdeck. I knew he didn't talk about his service time and never pressed him, but then I mentioned a serious close call when an A-6 injested a foot long hex bolt normally used to hold sections of the catapult track down.

A piece of engine about the size of a thermos was moving so fast it shreiked and shivered the air and passed through a group of personnel encluding myself, without hitting anybody. And even though nobody was hit we were all headachy and nauseated afterwards.

And Grandpa Bill said, "That's exactly what it feels like when a Tiger tank fires at you and misses by five or six feet."

And I knew to keep my big yap shut and let him talk. Obviously the man was remembering difficult times. A Tiger and a unit of dismounted SS grenadiers, (nothing like having quality enemies, no?)

No air, no arty, just a bazooka team and a .30cal machine gun. (Manned by 18 year old Grandpa Bill)

Tiger tanks would get godawful angry when you ambush their grenadiers and kill'em. Ruins the element of surprise with regard to the big gun as well. But since the effective range for a bazooka on a Tiger was 50 yards, in the butt, you have to kill the grenadiers first. As he would fire and displace this tank tried to kill him with its machine guns AND its main gun. The main gun fired on him four times before the bazooka team told the tank crew they had been duped.

That was his first Bronze Star.

But this isn't about that. :)

I was relating a less than award winning moment Bill told me of.

His unit was trying to navigate through heavily mined Italian farmland and, of course, the obvious first choices are pastures with cattle roaming in them. As they were afraid of being observed while crossing a road and then having artilery called down upon them, they picked their route from cover and made their move hustling through the open when Bill said something struck him as wrong from the beginning but he couldn't put his finger on it until they were well into the pasture, then it hit him.

The grass was long.

He said he stopped short and as he looked to his right he saw the fence between this pasture and the pasture next to it, (that had no grass) had a section knocked down.

And that was when one of the cows in the field with them exploded. And not just a little bit. Which stampeded the other cows in the minefield with them...

I was told I made that up because they have a scene like that in some movie. A cube dweller who worked for GAP inc. Who never served anybody but himself.

I may have been rude. :whistle:

kamaz
2011-Sep-30, 06:11 PM
There has to be some movie with that plot.


That would be By Dawn's Early Light, except that it involved an actual missile launched by a terrorist group in order to trigger an automated counter strike. (Yes, it worked.)

grapes
2011-Sep-30, 06:54 PM
I don't care if you made it up or Grandpa Bill made it up or Hollywood made it up, I like your version better.

Extravoice
2011-Sep-30, 07:15 PM
I'm not saying you're guilty of it but I just wanted to say I hate it when somebody sees a war movie and they think the script was all original work.

Movies...original work? You're a funny man, Don.
Original work in movies is a rarity.

BTW: Uncle Charlie (who recently passed away) was machine gunner in the infantry in WW II. He didn't speak much about it either. However he was once waking through the woods and commented that it was good to walk through the woods without having to wonder what was behind each tree.

That's all he had to say about that. And we didn't pry.

Solfe
2011-Sep-30, 07:53 PM
"But this is absolute madness, Ambassador! Why should you *build* such a thing?"

jlhredshift
2011-Oct-01, 06:06 PM
"But this is absolute madness, Ambassador! Why should you *build* such a thing?"

"500,000, 600,000, tops!!"