A PRIMER ON THE BASICS OF NUCLEAR CRAZY
Well, your president seems to have gone even more ballistic these past few days, threatening North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen before.” He has now added “locked and loaded” to incite even more response from the “fat kid” (as per John McCain) in North Korea.
Since my readers like to be informed and educated, I thought you might like to know what the protocol is for launching a nuclear missile and school yourself on some of the vocabulary. This way, you’ll be smart when frenetic chaos ensues, lights go out, business comes to a halt and we are all neutralized. (This is sarcasm, much like the POTUS brand of “joking.”)
ICBM- Intercontinental Ballistic Missile A guided missile designed to deliver a nuclear weapon. Its minimum range is approximately 3,400 miles. Modern ICBMs may carry MIRVs (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles) Each of these carries a separate nuclear warhead, so a single missile to hit multiple targets. Heady stuff, huh?
Some ICBM trivia for you: Towards the end of WWII, Nazi Germany’s Wernher von Braun, designer of the V-2 rocket, led the development of first practical design for an ICBM, A9/10. It was intended to bomb New York and other American cities. After the war, the US government moved von Braun and other leading German scientists to the United States to work directly for the US Army. They developed the IRBMs, ICBMs, and launchers.
MISSLE SILO– A missile launch facility, also known as a launch facility (LF), or nuclear silo. It’s a vertical cylindrical structure constructed underground, for the storage and launching of ICBMs.
NUCLEAR FOOTBALL– Think mobile phone plus. Sometimes called the atomic football, the black box or the football, describes the briefcase that POTUS carries when he’s not near a fixed command center, i.e. The White House. The case has all the components needed to authorize a nuclear attack. POTUS could launch a single cruise missile or multiple ICBMs.
BISCUIT– A plastic card similar to a credit card, used to make a positive ID of the president. The biscuit contains the launch codes issued by the NSA. The president has to snap its cover and remove it in order to read the launch codes.
CARRIER– In this case, not a ship but a person–a uniformed, armed military officer of a O-4 pay grade or above (major in the Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps; lieutenant commander in the Navy or Coast Guard) who is always near the president when he is not near a fixed command center. He carries the football or satchel.
GOLD CODES– These are the launch codes embedded on the BISCUIT. The Vice President plus a separate nuclear football, also gets gold codes in case the president is, well, disabled. The codes are changed every day.
Here’s the scary part. To ensure extra security, the list of codes on the card includes codes with no meaning. The president has to memorize where the correct code is located. Let that sink in.
ATTACK OPTIONS -Pre-determined war plans developed under OPLAN 8010. AO s include major attack options (MAOs), selected attack options (SAOs), and limited attack options (LAOs). The decision and the Gold Codes are transmitted to the NMCC via a secure channel.
LFD- The US recently lost contact with 50 of our nuclear missiles. That’s 20% of our ICBM weaponry. The initials “LF” were the dreaded signal. It means “Launch Facility Down.”
EAM – Emergency Action Message When the boys in the bunker get a chime and the flashing acronym EAM, it could just be a glitch. If not, and this message reaches the capsule, one of two holy grail padlocks is opened. Inside are the launch authorization codes. If they match Trump’s codes on the BISCUIT, the nasty work begins.
ENABLE LAUNCH CODE- After the crew determines a match on the authorization code from the president, the code is input. It’s like releasing the safety on a handgun. It’s the real deal. When things go this far, it means the launch is real. The crew watches a red digital clock for the launch time.
LIP- Launch in Progress- I can’t say this any better so here’s a direct quote: “On the screen, each silo box flashes this red code-LIP.. Four explosive devices drive a piston that flings a 110-ton concrete-and-steel slab off the top of the silo. The lid sails through the security fence and skids for dozens of feet. Two umbilical cables detach, explosive bolts sending the ends away from the quickly rising missile. Winches automatically reel in the cables. Within seconds, the missile clears the silo tube, smoke billowing from four flaming rocket engines. An obscenely perfect smoke ring, shaped like the silo door, sails over the Montana landscape, away from the billowing exhaust.”
CES- COMMITTED EXECUTED SORTIE – When the ICBMs are airborne, the acronym CES shows up on the status screen. In about 20 minutes, the ICBM’s twin warheads will drop on their targets, lighting up 40 square miles within minutes and rendering that same area uninhabitable for 50 years.
Each ICBM tube handles a single firing. The electronics, ladders, wiring and the sump pump will be burned or melted. The misileers would hopefully return to the surface after launch, but they would emerge to face a different world.
The president is the only individual with the authority to order the use of nuclear weapons. But POTUS and the Secretary of Defense (James Mattis) jointly relay the order via the GOLD PHONE to use nuclear weapons to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Secretary of Defense is required to verify the order, but cannot legally veto it. However, Section 4 of the 25th Amendment of the Constitution details protocol for the vice president, together with a majority of cabinet heads or Congress, to declare the President disabled or unfit to execute the duties of the office.
As always, your thoughtful comments are welcome.