CHAPTER 15Nuclear Command and Control

In Germany and Turkey they viewed scenes that were particularly distressing. On the runway stood a German (or Turkish) quick-reaction alert airplane loaded with nuclear weapons and with a foreign pilot in the cockpit. The airplane was ready to take off at the earliest warning, and the nuclear weapons were fully operational. The only evidence of U.S. control was a lonely 18-year-old sentry armed with a carbine and standing on the tarmac. When the sentry at the German airfield was asked how he intended to maintain control of the nuclear weapons should the pilot suddenly decide to scramble (either through personal caprice or through an order from the German command circumventing U.S. command), the sentry replied that he would shoot the pilot; Agnew directed him to shoot the bomb.

– Jerome Wiesner, reporting to President Kennedy on nuclear arms command and control after the Cuban crisis

15.1 Introduction

The catastrophic harm that could result from the unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon, or from the proliferation of nuclear technology, has led the US and other nuclear powers to spend colossal amounts of money protecting not just nuclear warheads but also the supporting infrastructure, industry and materials. Nuclear arms control is at the heart of international diplomacy: while North Korea now has the bomb, South Africa and Libya were persuaded to give it up, Iran's program has been stopped (by both diplomatic and cyber means) while Iraq ...

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