Sunday, January 29, 2006

With Apologies to Bill

Any of you who've ever had that pleasure of living or working near a large military base... you've heard these stories before... at least you have... if you know the right bars, and keep your ears open...

Seems several years ago one of our Titan II launch facilities had a serious Code Brown.

An unidentified object was coming at them. No friend or foe alert... no radio contact. At these facilities, until proven otherwise the assumption is that an unidentified object, is an fact a missile coming to destroy the launch capabilities of the base. These matters are not handled lightly at all.

Calls made.. orders recieved... Launch sequence begun.

The orders were clear. You have been authorized to launch.. but you must visually ID the object first. Now think about that. We told these boys to launch. It was up to them to make the call. If the boys responsible for that ID get it wrong... they just started WWIII.

No pressure.

So here they are.. scanning the sky... hopin' like hell they aren't gonna see a missile dropping out of the sky...

When they see a beat up US jet... limping down for a controlled crash... I mean landing.


Disaster averted...

The Reverse Sequence is begun to disarm the missile and return in to normal settings... Now one thing about this sequence. The last step is a big magnetic knob with three positions. To one side is the launch sequence... straight up is standby... and the other side is "Fire".

Well... as that ol' boy turned that knob to the straight position... well... catastrophic failure. The switch arced. The missile launched.

Somebody get the President a phone and a change of underwear. Apparently we just blew up the world.

Well... except the first step to disarming the missile actually wipes the flight path clean. So the big Titan II shot skyward until it realized it didn't know where it was going.... so it did what it was programmed to do... it fell.

At somepoint... while watching that nuke fall towards them... I just know somebody at that base said,"Its ok... they are programmed not to go off when they hit like this."

And I reckon someone else probably pointed out that those magnetic switches are made not to arc too.

But she hit the ground... and she went thump.. not boom... and we all slept right through it... and I guess until today.... you didn't realize how close the world came to ending.

Just so ya know... this isn't the only story I've ever heard like this... In fact.. given the number of missiles around the world... and the standards of soviet engineering and work ethic... I'd say its a damned miracle we're alive at all.

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