Monday, April 18, 2016

AGING ARSENAL - Who's at the Trigger

"Who's at the trigger when the President calls a nuclear strike" PBS NewsHour 4/13/2016


SUMMARY:  What would happen today if the President ever gave the order to unleash nuclear weapons?  Granted rare access to America's nuclear war fighters, veteran correspondent Jamie McIntyre on special assignment for the NewsHour profiles the people and the fleet that would carry out such a mission, then joins John Yang to discuss what he's learned about America's aging arsenal.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Over the past eight months, we have aired three stories about America's aging nuclear arsenal.

Tonight, we thought we'd share with you some of the more interesting things we learned along the way.

John Yang has that.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  Our past stories looked at the debate over rebuilding America's nuclear submarines, missiles and bombs, now that much of the current arsenal is reaching the end of its service life.

And, tonight, to continue our unprecedented look behind the scenes, we meet some of the men and women charged with this great responsibility.

Veteran defense correspondent Jamie McIntyre reported these stories for us, in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

MAN:  All stations, all stations, this is absentee, absentee.

JAMIE MCINTYRE:  If the President ever gives the order to unleash nuclear weapons, the men and women whose fingers are on the triggers would hear something like this.

MAN:  Yankee, mike.  Stand by, uniform.

JAMIE MCINTYRE:  It's the sound of an emergency action message.  It's only a drill, but in a real-life situation, the highly encrypted message sent to bombers, submarines and missile crews would tell them which war plan to execute and which targets to destroy.

The coded message echoes, because it's sent by many different radios around the world, to ensure that even if the nation were under nuclear attack, at least one of the messages would get through.

The “NewsHour” was granted rare access to America's nuclear war fighters over the past six months.  At Minot Air Force base in North Dakota, we spent the day with the airmen who load the B-52 bombers and the crews that fly them.

Chief Master Sergeant Lee Robins is the wing weapons manager.

  1.  How many ballistic missile submarines does the U.S. really need?
  2.  America's nuclear bomb gets a makeover
  3.  As Pentagon overhauls nuclear triad, critics advise caution

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