FANDOM


Nuclear bomb

On 9 November 1979, a computer error at NORAD headquarters led to alarm and full preparation for a nonexistent large-scale Soviet attack. NORAD notified national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski that the Soviet Union had launched 250 ballistic missiles with a trajectory for the United States, stating that a decision to retaliate would need to be made by the president within 3 to 7 minutes. NORAD computers then placed the number of incoming missiles at 2,200. Strategic Air Command was notified, nuclear bombers prepared for takeoff, and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) crews were presumably placed on alert. Within six to seven minutes of the initial response, satellite and radar systems were able to confirm that the attack was a false alarm. It was found that a training scenario was inadvertently loaded into an operational computer. Commenting on the incident, U.S. State Department adviser Marshall Shulman stated that "false alerts of this kind are not a rare occurrence. There is a complacency about handling them that disturbs me." In the months following the incident there were 3 more false alarms at NORAD, 2 of them caused by faulty computer chips. What if no one noticed that it was a false alarm?