Some of America’s Nuclear Arsenal Is So Old It Still Runs on 8-Inch Floppies | Smart News | Smithsonian

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Some of America’s Nuclear Arsenal Is So Old It Still Runs on 8-Inch Floppies

The technology backing America's nuclear arsenal is showing its age

smithsonian.com

In underground silos across the U.S., a good portion of America's nuclear force is creaking with age. For CBS's 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl toured a missile silo that houses a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile. What she found was a flashback to 1960s-era technology, when computers filled the room and crucial information was stored on broad 8-inch floppy disks.

America's nuclear weapons stockpile went through a stupendous surge of growth starting in the late 1950s. From 1955 to 1965, the U.S. stockpile went from around 3,000 weapons to more than 30,000. Over the subsequent 49 years, America's nuclear arsenal never got bigger, and in the 1990s, after the U.S. and the Soviet Union agreed to get rid of their intermediate-range missiles, the stockpile dropped down to around 10,000 warheads.

Of those remaining warheads, though, many of them are old—very old. Many of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles rolled out in the late '60s are still hunkered down in underground silos across the country, says the Huffington Post. There've been repairs, updates and upgrades, but “of the 1,000 Minuteman missiles deployed in the 1960s, nearly half of them remain.”

The Minuteman missiles aren't the only aging part of America's nuclear arsenal. As the Washington Post reported in 2012, the Air Force's suite of nuclear bombs is aging, too, with a decent portion of that arsenal a holdover from the Cold War era.

H/T Motherboard

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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