Risk Of "Accidental" Nuclear War Growing, UN Research Group Says

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Patrick Turner via DefenseOne.com,

The warning comes as the Pentagon begins an extensive review of its nuclear arsenal.

On Sept., 26, 1983, shortly after midnight, the Soviet Oko nuclear early warning system detected five missiles launched from the United States and headed toward Moscow. Stanislav Petrov, a young lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Force, was the duty in the Serpukhov-15 bunker that housed the Oko command center. Petrov was the man in charge of alerting the soviets about a nuclear attack, which would trigger a retaliatory strike. He determined that the Oko had likely malfunctioned and the alarm was false. The Americans would not start World War III with a quintet of missiles (risking total annihilation.) It was a daring judgment call. He was, of course, right. As the U.S. prepares to undertake a new nuclear posture review to determine the future direction of the nation’s nuclear weapons, a report from a United Nations research institute warns that the risks of a catastrophic error — like the one that took place that early morning in 1983 — are growing, not shrinking. Next time, there may be no Lt. Col. Petrov in place to avoid a catastrophe.

On Monday, the U.S. Defense Department commenced a new, massive study into its nuclear weapons arsenal, looking at how weapons are kept, how the U.S. would use them in war and whether they present an intimidating enough threat to other countries not to attack us. The review was mandated by President Trump in a Jan 27, memo.

The Pentagon is scheduled to complete the review by the end of the year, an essential step as the military seeks to modernize different aspects of its nuclear deterrent. But a new report from the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, or UNIDR, argues that as the modern battlefield becomes more technologically complex, crowded with more sensors, satellites, drones, and interconnected networks, the risks of another nuclear accident are on the rise.

“A greater reliance on automated systems can lead to misplaced confidence while introducing new points of vulnerability,” says the report. Those new points of vulnerability include so-called “hidden interactions.” That means a sensor or computer program misinterpreting some bit of data and possibly presenting false information in a way that could cause an accident.

The 1987 incident provides a good case in point. Oko satellites mistook a very unusual sunspot on top of a high altitude cloud as a missile strike, hence the false alarm.

Take those satellites, combine them with sensors on drones and data from other sources as well, including new, perhaps unproven technologies to detect missile launches and the picture becomes much more crowded and murky.

“The complex interactions and tightly coupled systems linked to nuclear arsenals (like those for early warning, and launch command and control) have made ‘accidental war more likely’” the report’s authors say.

Add to that the fact that the number of states that have access to nuclear weapons is increasing, and the number of platforms that they might be able to use to deliver those weapons is also going up. Consider the controversial U.S. plans for a long-range standoff weapon, or LRSO, basically a big nuclear cruise missile that can be fired off a fighter jet.  Reports have surfaced that the U.S. is even considering nuclear-armed drones (that would be remotely operated by human pilots and the degree of seriousness in the considerations is up to debate).

Those might sound like awesome capabilities but they increase the chances of a nuclear accident or retaliatory strike, according to the authors of the report, because such weapons essentially turn every jet and drone into a potential nuclear threat in the eyes of an adversary.

“The spread of other systems, such as cruise missiles and drones, and their increasingly frequent use in military conflicts can also add to the complexity of the situation, as can the development of capabilities to detect missiles,” writes Russian arms expert Pavel Podvig in the report.

Rising tensions and eroding trust between the U.S. and Russia don’t bode well stability. “The intensity of interactions between the United States and Russian militaries, although lower than during the height of the Cold War, does not show signs of decreasing,” he notes.

The digital interlinks that will emerge between nuclear weapons and other systems are another threat factor. “The myth that nuclear facilities and platforms are air-gapped — meaning they are not connected to the Internet — is gradually decreasing as nuclear establishments are increasingly informed about cyber threats,” write information security researchers Patricia Lewis and Beyza Unal in the report.

They identify several potential cyber vulnerabilities in nuclear command and control systems — not in nuclear weapons themselves — but in the technologies around them and the methods that operators use to control those weapons or make decisions about using them. The key targets that the researchers identify include: communications between command-and-control centers, targeting information from ground stations, and “robotic autonomous systems within the strategic infrastructure.”

The U.S. and other nations may have closed those portholes, or partially closed them, or not at all. The lack of transparency about the nuclear exercise makes it impossible to know and increases risk.  “Academic and policy analysis on nuclear weapons facilities and nuclear command and control systems is still in its infancy, due to the secrecy surrounding nuclear weapons systems and the underinvestment in research into potential problems until recently,” they write.

But, again, those are just potential vulnerabilities. The U.S. is currently modernizing the communications network it would use in the event of a nuclear conflict, the Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network, or MEECN, to improve efficiency. That sounds great, however, every new system, center, or device that’s connected to the MEECN is a potential vulnerability.

Today, it’s impossible for an adversary to hack into the current the ICBM arsenal. But that may not be the case forever. Military researchers anticipate that future ICBMs, as well as bombers, will exhibit “some level of connectivity to the rest of the war-fighting system,” Werner J.A. Dahm, the chair of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board told Defense One last December.

Importantly, an adversary does not even have to exploit a cyber vulnerability either in nuclear weapons or the communications lines or data gathering sensors around them in order to create a cyber nuclear crisis. They just have to convince the adversary that they have that ability. “Loss of trust in technology has further implications for attribution and strategic calculus in crisis decision-making and may increase the risk of misperception,"  write Lewis and Unal.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
G-R-U-N-T's picture

Yeah, and they'll probably start it, idiots!

NidStyles's picture

This is them basically saying comply with Globalism, or we will kill you with your own nukes.



Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

I completely trust the U.N.  Don't you?

nmewn's picture

Thats where I'm at.

The last thing we want to do is "network" our nukes over cyber space. There's a lot to be said for not being able to launch nukes from a smart phone. 

Donald Trump's picture
Donald Trump (not verified) New_Meat Apr 20, 2017 7:57 PM

Nuclear war..pff.. just MSM propaganda to deflect from neo-con Trump having a hard time to pass some shitty bills like RyanCare 2.0 and lousy budget. Forget about tax cuts.

And by the way, an image speaks a 1000 words... and those words are: BULL SHIT

Kim Jong-Un Trolled Trump: Satellite Images Expected to Show North Korea Readying a Nuke Found a Game of Volleyball Instead


Manthong's picture


When the sirens go off I will be on the roof looking towards the city.

Essential accoutrements…




-Jack Daniels Black

-AC/DC on Boom Box  (Highway To Hell)

Auto-darkening welding helmet

What else could a guy want?

Manthong's picture

Gee, maybe nobody out there in the ZH-Sphere appreciates the massive amounts of low-wit sarc I try to contribute.


Manthong's picture

Oops.. partial dupe....

Gee, maybe nobody out there in the ZH-Sphere appreciates the massive amounts of low wit sarc I try to contribute.

Oscar Wilde said that “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.” .

To that I plead guilty.

Also… if I was Hillary, I would fold up into my quantum lower female chasm like a Schrodinger feline who does not apprecate she is there unless she is observed and adored as a savior.


Manthong's picture

..methinks this might be beyond some folks.

detached.amusement's picture

lol @ saying this 3:57am eastern

nmewn's picture

There's a lot to be said in certain cases for...shut down to the outside world...only one way in.

Here's a good one...

"It was nearly 2 o’clock in the morning on Oct. 23, 2010, when an Air Force lieutenant called from his base in Wyoming to report the nightmare scenario unfolding before him. Fifty intercontinental ballistic missiles — each tipped with a nuclear warhead 20 times more powerful than the bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima — had suddenly lost contact with the computers at the base’s launch center.

“I… we… have no idea what’s happening right now,” the officer sputtered as he tried to explain the situation to support staff at a remote command center. Another officer barked orders behind him, interrupting the call. “Holy shit!” the lieutenant exclaimed. “I will have to call you back!”

The Air Force could tell that the weapons were still in their underground silos, but there was no way to know whether the missiles had been hijacked. A renegade missile crew, someone splicing into underground cables, or hackers exploiting radio signal receivers attached to the ICBMs could have set them on a countdown to launch. Even worse, without contact with the missiles, it was impossible to halt an unauthorized launch attempt.

Fortunately, the missiles were undisturbed. Altogether, they were knocked offline for a total of about 45 minutes, and the entire situation was resolved in a matter of hours. But for a chaotic stretch during the blackout, nobody knew what was wrong or how to fix it."


But there was nothing really "wrong", no hackers.

Technology can be a wonderful thing but they can't even keep hackers out of the personal information of "their employees" or build a .gov health care website...lol...sooo...I mean, I kinda like the idea of one guy watching the other guy with both having  9mm's strapped to their waists, it seems...normal  ;-)


cougar_w's picture

It would be really easy to launch US nukes over a smartphone.

Grab your phone. Open the twitter app. Create a new account called "realKimJungUn. Tweet something like, "@realDonaldTrump Your daughter is a skanky whore who will trample under the boots of zealous Korean patriots. lol."

Missles away.

nmewn's picture


I know where we're at in the pecking order of the world as a country and not to go all Luddite-Grandpa on it but...stand alone, hard wired, analog has worked so far. There's something to be said for that...considering the gravity of what we're talking about.

Andre's picture

Windows 10 and BitDefender for the win!

I mean what could go wrong?

Manthong's picture

Maybe the world will finally be able to revert to a balance of nature like the Eloi and Morlocks.

And gee.. all of us smart guys have all of the codes... they are 50 charactes long with symbols and if you want a launch, how much is it worth?

Just kidding, but somebody out there has the real codes.

BandGap's picture

How the fuck does someone "research " this? What a fucking joke. Countries have nukes, let's all play nice.

boattrash's picture

"Accidental Nuclear War" is the equivalent of an accidental butt-fucking. Not likely that it was accidental...

milking institute's picture

Well shit,thank god for UN research groups! we would all be in the dark....

Winston Churchill's picture

Yeah, like nobody noticed zato creeping up to the Russian borders.Must have a magic cloak or sumthink.

Of course them being there is the root cause of an "accidental" nuke war. A flock of geese could trip

that wire and with no thinking time available, cause a retalitory strike lauch before it could be sorted out,

and already detonating by that time.

IridiumRebel's picture

Sorry bruh! I tripped and accidentally nuked your eastern seaboard!

Sonny Brakes's picture

To whom do I send the bill if this nuclear accident happens to happen? I understand, and maybe mistakenly so, that some certain select groups in past wars have been entitled to compensation. If I'm not mistaken, the Haitians were still compensating France up until recently for their fight for liberation, which occurred hundreds of years ago. It's a serious question.

serotonindumptruck's picture

Mutually Assured Destruction was once part of modern game theory.

Now the neocons have become involved and are growing impatient in their efforts to achieve global domination through empty threats and intimidation.

The rest of the world has called the bluff of the USSA.

Now the neocons will use the Samson Option as an open threat to the entire planet. 

besnook's picture

yea, like a persian suitcase suicide bomb going off in a trump tower with the proof in the form of his pristine passport found among his body bits

Money Boo Boo's picture

there are no accidents, just asshole Neoliberals and American merchants of death

Falconsixone's picture

So the JewN has no fuck power. Get rid of it.

They'll never kill the cash cows. They're to fucking greedy. They can fight conventional wars and make bucks as long as morons believe their bs. Fuck the JewN and their make work, fear, hypocrisy and starvation. 

cougar_w's picture

The more and diverse sensors you have, the more ways you have to validate an observation ("we are under attack"). It's just like getting more opinions. This is stabilizing. I'm glad to hear it.

If we have a nuclear event, it most surely will not be an accident. Nor will it be the NorKs "setting the US running dogs on fire." It will most likely be some harassed leader who decides to divert attention away from his shitty planning and failed policy by unleashing nuclear war on a hated neighbor.

So yeah, not an accident at all. Just human nature when under pressure.

The next nuclear war is probably already in motion. Some wannabe some where is already losing his shit and thinking about how to pull off a distraction.

Able Ape's picture

It took about 15 billion years for the earth to get where it is; I don't think it's too much to ask if we take a minute or two before deciding to blow it up...

sinbad2's picture

Accident give me a break, the US is more desperate for war than a junkie 2 days without a fix.

Bill of Rights's picture

You mean like tripping over ones foot accident? Or cleaning a loaded gun accident?

rejected's picture

The only winning move is not to play.

Goldilocks's picture

What spooked the USS Donald Cook so much in the Black Sea?
Voltaire Network | 8 November 2014

Russian Fighter Jet Disables US Missle Destroyer Using Electronic Warfare Weapon
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s4sKAMgYsU (8:07)
Ya OughtaLearn - Nov 16, 2014

BetterRalph's picture

Instead, arrest a lot of officials, for such "planned treason."

Dragon HAwk's picture

Somewhere Mr Murphy has his hands on a trigger.

Posa's picture

The situation is far more dangerous now than during the Cold War ... back then the USSR had early warning satellites... those monitors have long since fallen from the sky... all the Russian have is radar... Meanwhile the US/EU outspends Russia 20-1 every year... fact is, the only way Russia survives a military confrontation is to unload their whole nuclear arsenal in a sneak attack ... Putin has stated that if war is inevitable, the best action is premptive strike... At this point, war now seems inevitable... you fill in the blanks.

I love your wife's picture

Are those dipshit "scientists" going to set the doomsday clock to 23:59:59?  No.  Not unless coal sales jump.

Malus's picture

If the UN says it true, it must be (or just wishful thinking)....

francis scott falseflag's picture


The risk of intentional nuclear war still outpaces the risk of accidental nuclear war.


Surprise. Surprise. 

francis scott falseflag's picture


How will the survivors know whether to score a "False Flag" nuclear war 

as 'accidental' or 'intentional'?

DuneCreature's picture

~~~~{{{{{{{{~~( .. Big Boys And Their Nuke Toys .. )~~}}}}}}}}~~~~

This nuclear war everyone keeps chattering about is already in progress. ........ Mostly countries nuke themselves but occasionally they try out their smaller nuclear weapons on enemy 'test subjects' or not enemy 'test subjects'.

Nuclear weapons do have a shelf life and you know how boys are around toys that go boom.

If you stick a nuke down in a hole under a big building you get interesting effects when you light the fuse.


Note the crane in this photo. .... That crane is sitting on a thin veneer of reinforced concrete (12 -24 inches) on top of undisturbed granite bedrock.


Now, note this photo. ........ That is a huge hole blown and 'melted' (turned to plasma) into the same granite bedrock the crane was sitting on.



Nuclear war has been on going since 1944. ...... It just hasn't been to your neighborhood (Unless you live in Yemen or Ukraine) since 09/11/2001.

Live Hard, Nukes Can Be Useful For High Rise Building Demolition, Die Free

~ DC v5.0

francis scott falseflag's picture

What a pant load you're turning out to be, Doon.

Made me take that avatar of the falling man and

now your not interested in what went on up on the roof


You better return that degree in investagative journalism

to Columbia, be fore they ask for it back.

I guess we're still friends; I have a lot of friends who never

change their Depends.  :o/ 

DuneCreature's picture

So tell me all about the roof, fsff.

Are you an art student?

My pant load probably feels better than your twisted up pair of panties from the other morning. Did you ever get them pulled out of your personal crevasses? That was a hummer of a temper tantrum you displayed here on the PGR thread.

So what do we need to know about the roof, francis?

Live Hard, The Story Never Really Ends, It Just Gets More High Resolution, Die Free

~ DC v5.0

francis scott falseflag's picture


Oh, now it would be forced. It was natural before.

You'll get it right sooner or later.

I see the mullet is back. Better for up arrows?

esum's picture

UN = unnecessary

whatisthat's picture

I would observe this post is more likely propaganda than substance regarding U.S. nuclear strike capability.  I would offer there is a basic IT principle to utilize non-addressible program code and storage areas  to ensure risk mitigation and assurance of IT systems.