The U.S. Airforce Will Stop Using Floppy Disks for Nuclear Launch Coordination

The old technology helps to keep nuclear co-ordination safe from hackers.

In 2014, news broke that the U.S. military was using an incredibly old-fashioned method to coordinate nuclear attacks. 

In order to reduce the likelihood that communication on nuclear launches could be intercepted, they were using 8-inch floppy disks in a '70s computer to receive orders from the President.

Now, according to the U.S. military, this antiquated system has been replaced by a "highly-secure solid-state digital storage solution."

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An overdue update

Floppy disks, surprisingly, were being used in an ancient system named the Strategic Automated Command and Control System, or SACCS. It allowed emergency messages about nuclear action to be sent out to forces in the field by command centers.

Now, the U.S. military is using a different technology, instead of floppy disks to pass on messages. Though, for obvious reasons, they haven't gone into the specifics.

The fact that the SACCS is so old is precisely what makes it secure. It was created long before data was connected to millions on the Internet, and therefore, is unhackable.

"You can't hack something that doesn't have an IP address. It's a very unique system -- it is old and it is very good," Lt. Col. Jason Rossi told c4isrnet.com.

Updating an antiquated system

According to Engadget, in 2016, the Defense Department said that it was planning to replace the old IBM Series/1 SACCS computer and "update its data storage solutions, port expansion processors, portable terminals, and desktop terminals by the end of the fiscal year 2017."

While the Air Force hasn't confirmed whether this operation is complete, or the specifics of the "digital storage solution," Rossi said they have increased the speed and connectivity of SACCS.

“The biggest challenge is training. A lot of young folks aren’t exposed to this kind of system and it usually takes quite some time for everyone to get trained up and to be able to work with an older system like this,” Senior Airman Aaron Mentch, a technician who has worked on SACCS for roughly a year, told c4isrnet.com.

It seems that they don't do secure messaging systems quite like they used to. 

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