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Nuke missiles and 8 inch disks

Ho do they relate, you ask? Well, earlier this week, the
U.S. Air Force has announced to replace the rather old
control systems for the nuclear long range missiles that
consist of, frankly said, antiquary computer systems.

By that we speak of 8 inch diskettes which hold 80kBytes of data and the programs that are read from those disks. These run on IBM Series/1 systems that are part of the SACCS (Strategic Automated Command and Control System) that is in charge of the missile steering and steering of the airplanes that have nuclear bombs loaded.

Qume Data Trak 8 inch floppy disk drive with diskektte. Circa 1979, 1.2 MB.
Photo by Michael Holley, July 2007

The SACCS should have been refurbished in 2017 however some parts still are in it’s original state and thus unaltered. Lt Col. Jason Rossi from the U.S. Air Force has been cited: “What does not have an IP address, cannot be hacked either!”

Though he admitted that training today’s IT specialists on the old systems can become a challenge as none of these know how to operate the old operating system or the program (code) that comes along with it.

So it’s obvious that the system has to be upgraded to comply with modern standards and make it possible for today’s IT operators to operate the SACCS without complications. Otherwise fatal accidents could occur.

Qume D/T 8, 8 inch drive, 1.2 MB;
Tandon TM 100-2A 5.25 inch drive, 360 KB;
Sony MPF920, 3.5 inch drive, 1.4 MB

It’s also considered to engage modern storage systems on SSD to have the system run more reliable. If the system can be controlled from outside, however, is doubtful as every exposure to today’s internet as we know it is a possible risk factor for being hacked and being remotely controlled from persons which aren’t eligible to do so.

The IBM Series/1 system used in the U.S. Air Force SACCS in 2016

The doomsday clock again is set to 2 minutes before noon considering that the SACCS is in a rather “delicate” state at the moment. But help is on the way and the system will be upgraded to be ready for the future (if having a nuclear war arsenal that can blow away half of the world can be considered a “future” at all…)


October 27, 2019 Netspark - 1470 posts - Member since: May 9th, 2011 No Comments »

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