Causes of False Missile Alerts: The Sun, the Moon as well as a 46-Cent Chip

As emotional as well as disruptive as the false alert was, the item was not the most dangerous episode of its kind because the item did not reach the military’s chain of command or decision-makers in government, he said.

Here is usually a look at a few cases when the item did:


The command post for North American Aerospace Defense Command operations in 1982. In 1960, Norad was sent to its maximum alert level because of a “moonrise over Norway.”

Oct. 5, 1960: The moon tricks a radar

A false alarm came when an early warning radar in Greenland reported to North American Air Defense Command headquarters that will the item had detected dozens of inbound Soviet missiles.

The report thrust Norad to its maximum alert level, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, nevertheless officials later determined that will the radar had been fooled by the “moonrise over Norway.”

Nov. 9, 1979: A ‘war game’ tape causes six minutes of worry

Computers at Norad indicated that will the United States was under attack by missiles launched by a Soviet submarine.

Ten jet interceptors coming from three bases inside the United States as well as Canada were scrambled, as well as missile bases went on “low‐level alert,” The fresh York Times reported.

When satellite data had not confirmed an attack after six minutes, officials decided that will no immediate action was necessary, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists as well as The Times.

Investigations later discovered that will a “war game” tape had been loaded into the Norad computer as part of a test. A technician mistakenly inserted the item into the computer.

“The tape simulated a missile attack on North America, as well as by mechanical error, that will information was transmitted into the highly sensitive early warning system, which read the item as a ‘live launch’ therefore initiated a sequence of events to determine whether the United States was actually under attack,” The Times reported.

June 3, 1980: 2,0 missiles that will never came

Less than a year later, computers Just as before issued a warning about a nuclear attack.

Bomber as well as tanker crews were ordered to their stations, the National Emergency Airborne Command Post taxied into position as well as the Federal Aviation Administration prepared to order every airborne commercial airliner to land, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists as well as The fresh Yorker.

President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, got a call informing him that will 2,0 missiles were heading toward the United States.

Then Mr. Brzezinski got another call: the item had been a false alarm. An investigation later found that will a defective computer chip — costing 46 cents — was to blame.

Sept. 26, 1983: Similar problems on the some other side

Stanislav Petrov, a 44-year-old lieutenant colonel inside the Soviet Air Defense Forces, was the duty officer at a secret command center outside Moscow when the alarms went off.

Computers warned that will 5 missiles had been launched coming from an American base.

“For 15 seconds, we were in a state of shock,” he later recalled in an interview with The Washington Post.

Colonel Petrov, according to his obituary inside the Times, was a pivotal cog inside the decision-doing chain. His superiors at the warning-system headquarters reported to the general staff of the military, which could consult with the Soviet leader, Yuri V. Andropov, on whether to launch a retaliatory attack.

Electronic maps as well as screens were flashing as he tried to absorb streams of information. His training as well as intuition told him a first strike by the United States could come in an overwhelming onslaught, not “only 5 missiles,” he told The Post.

After 5 nerve-racking minutes, he decided the reports were probably a false alarm.

as well as they were.

The satellite had mistaken the sun’s reflection off the tops of clouds for a missile launch.


An airborne command post known as Nightwatch coming from which the president could control United States forces during a nuclear war. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan quipped in a live microphone that will “we begin bombing in 5 minutes.”

United States Air Force

Aug. 11, 1984: A joke by the president prompts an alert

Preparing for his regular Saturday afternoon radio broadcast, President Ronald Reagan quipped in a live microphone that will he had “signed legislation that will will outlaw Russia forever” as well as that will “we begin bombing in 5 minutes.”

Months later, The Times reported that will two days after President Reagan’s joke, a low-level Soviet military official ordered an alert of troops inside the Far East.

The alert was said to have been canceled about 30 minutes later by a higher authority.

American intelligence officials contended the alert was “a nonevent.”

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