The United States' land based nuclear arsenal officially know as the "Strategic Automated Command and Control System" is still using 8 inch floppy disks to launch missiles.
If you take an elevator down 60 feet to a concrete control capsule inside one of the 450 six story ICBM silos buried around the Midwest, you will find young Air Force missilers preforming a 24/7/365 mission rotating in 24 hour shifts. Each on-duty team of two missilers practice receiving codes via telephone and then plugging them into a IBM Series/1 computer and other legacy equipment to electronically authenticate and transmit Emergency Action Messages within their silo. Each individual silo is capable of launching dozens of nuclear tipped ICBMs back to back.
"But even in this digital age—during which society prides and even defines itself on using the latest, fastest, most advanced technology—there are many reasons to be careful about what we wish for when it comes to modernizing the nuclear command and control system. More technological capability will not necessarily create a more secure world." [ READ MORE ]
This system, first put into practice during the 1960's, hasn't been significantly upgraded until now. The reason it hasn't needed to upgraded is primarily due to it's elegant simplicity of its original design and absolute isolation intended to prevent accidents. Connecting these nodes to a central network would make it cheaper and easier to operate but would also create security risks that make it vulnerable to hacks. It is precisely the system's simplicity combined with human redundancy measures that minimizes mistakes keeping it safe and it's integrity secure. Upgrading even some of the system's components could create cracks in the system that might allow hostile states or terrorist groups to trigger a nuclear missile launch under false pretenses.
Of course other parts of the U.S. nuclear arsenal such as submarine and air bomber delivery systems have modern state of the art technologies that launch and direct nuclear ordinance, each having distinctive fail safes built in that prevent wrongful deployment. The replacement system for the land based SACCS has been in development for a while and once it is deployed in late 2017, it will be state of the art. The hardware and software will be original and specific to the new system. It will be designed with the highest level of complexity, making it incapable of communicating with standard languages, protocols and networks to withstand a constant barrage of electronic attacks.
So when you are wringing your hands at the miserable experience of upgrading your legacy electronic systems, just remember that life on Earth doesn't hang in the balance of your teams performance.
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