In addition to the Cuban missile crisis, four cases of false alarms of the Doomsday systems are known. Two of them are associated with the work of the Soviet missile attack warning system, two more - with the American early warning system.
Military analysts annually draw up dozens of scenarios for the development of the Third World War. In many cases, the conflict comes to a mutual exchange of nuclear strikes, but almost always the war begins with small local conflicts. But in reality, the world more often found itself on the brink of destruction for no reason, and the most common "accidents" are to blame.
To date, in addition to the Cuban missile crisis, four cases of false alarms of the Doomsday systems are known. Two of them are associated with the work of the Soviet missile attack warning system, two more - with the American early warning system. In addition, it was not done without the human factor.
One of the first examples of a random attack was the so-called Okinawa incident … Duty officer at the Okinawa missile base, William Bassett, during a daily routine exchange of messages with headquarters, received the order to attack the USSR, Korea and China. The base's total arsenal was 32 Mace B missiles, each carrying a 1.1 megaton nuclear warhead. All of them were aimed at Beijing, Pyongyang, Hanoi and Vladivostok.
It was this scatter of goals that alerted Bassett. In his opinion, such a blow could be dealt only to the USSR, but not to all at once. The second thing the officer paid attention to was the level of danger - on the American scale it was designated as DEFCON 2, while the instructions were clear - the blow is possible only with DEFCON 1. Given these factors, Bassett decided to ignore the order. But one of his colleagues was not so judicious and was intent on launching rockets. It got to the point that the wayward officer had to be stopped by threatening with weapons.
A similar system was in the United States. In February, the military planned a training alert, which was supposed to broadcast a completely harmless message on all television and radio channels. But, instead of a training program, the real one was broadcast. More than 5 thousand radio stations and 800 TV channels across the United States have called on the population to suspend all work, and wait for further messages from the authorities.
For almost 40 minutes the whole country was waiting for news of the beginning of the war, but no one was in a hurry to dispel their fears.
Early morning November 9, 1979 computers of the National Center North America's Joint Aerospace Defense Command located in a bunker in the bowels of Mount Cheyenne, the National Command Center at the Pentagon and the National Emergency Command Center at Fort Richey raised the alarm. The technology recorded that the Soviet Union launched a massive nuclear strike in order to destroy the control system and the US nuclear forces. Immediately, a meeting with senior military officials was launched at all three command posts. Launchers of Minuteman ICBMs received a launch preparation command. An alarm was declared throughout the air defense system, at least ten interceptors immediately took to the air. The plane of the presidential air command post was also taken into the air, albeit without the president himself on board.
But this time, the computers did not provide a clear and coherent picture of the attack, as they did last time. Instead, the screens displayed constantly changing numbers of missiles launched. Moreover, at different command posts, these numbers did not always coincide. Such strange testimony divided the officers into two camps. Some were convinced that such a failure was the effect of the latest Soviet weapons, masking a nuclear strike. Others believed that there was simply a failure and there was no need to escalate the situation.
Although many officers did not take the incident as seriously as the previous one, an emergency meeting was called again to assess the possibility that the attack was real. The raw data from satellites and radars were checked again. Again, no system has confirmed the fact of a missile attack.
The satellites in orbit observed the areas where the American missiles were based at such an angle that they were at the edge of the Earth's visible disk. This made it possible to detect launching rockets against the background of dark outer space and thus determine the fact of launching a working rocket engine by infrared radiation. This configuration was chosen to reduce the likelihood of satellite sensors being illuminated by sunlight reflected from clouds or snow.
Nevertheless, on this day, the satellite, the area where the American missiles are based and the Sun were located so that sunlight was strongly reflected from the clouds located at high altitudes. This was probably the first such case on the system adopted a year before. The satellite broadcast a message about the launch of several rockets from the mainland of the United States. But radar observation could not confirm this, since the missiles were still too far away. The Soviet military leadership did not give the command for a retaliatory nuclear strike, since it was believed that the US attack should be massive in order to disable Soviet command posts and destroy most of the country's nuclear potential, and the launch of only a few missiles did not fit into this theory …
But for the Russian radar, the trajectory of this flight turned out to be similar to the trajectory of the American Trident rocket launched from the submarine. The missile could be used for a high-altitude nuclear explosion, which would temporarily disable the Russian radars of the missile attack warning system. It was such a high-altitude explosion that was considered as one of the options for starting a massive nuclear attack by the Americans.
The launch of a conventional Norwegian missile has put the world at risk of a nuclear exchange between Russia and the United States. The next day, President Boris Yeltsin announced that it was the first time he had used his "nuclear briefcase" to make emergency contact with his military advisers and discuss the situation.