Policy Memos

Reducing the Risk of Accidental Launch: Time for a New Approach?

Policy Memo:


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Ten years ago, on January 25, 1995, a sounding rocket launched from a test site in Norway was detected by radars of the Russian early-warning network. The details of what followed have never been officially disclosed, but the detection seems to have generated an alarm that made its way all the way up the chain of command by the time the military identified the rocket as a benign target. The Russian military insisted the accident showed that the command and control system worked exactly as it was supposed to, stopping the alarm at the right time. For most of the world, however, the accident was one more demonstration of the dangers inherent to operations of nuclear forces and to the launch-on-warning posture in particular. [...]

About the author

Director, Russian Nuclear Forces Project
Russian Nuclear Forces Project, Geneva; UN Institute for Disarmament Research; Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University