Chapter 13. Nuclear 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

Introduction

The catastrophic harm that could result from the unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon, or from the proliferation of nuclear technology to unsuitable states or substate groups, has led the U.S. and other nuclear powers to spend colossal amounts of money protecting not just nuclear warheads but also the supporting infrastructure, industry and materials. The growing concern about global warming makes nuclear protection all the more critical: how do we build new nuclear power stations without greatly increasing the risk that bad people get hold of weapons ...

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