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Update Complete: U.S. Nuclear Weapons No Longer Need Floppy Disks

The New York Times: The Defense Department has transitioned away from a 1970s-era nuclear command and control system that relied on eight-inch floppy disks. The “modernizing” effort was quietly completed in June. “The system, called Strategic Automated Command and Control System, or SACCS, “is still in use today but no longer uses floppy disks,” David Faggard, a spokesman for the Air Force Global Strike Command, which manages the Air Force portion of the arsenal, said in an email. “Air Force Global Strike Command is committed to modernizing for the future.” The update is part of a broader overhaul of the United States’ atomic weapons that began under President Barack Obama and has continued under President Trump. The move away from floppy disks was completed in June but was not widely reported at the time. It was reported last week by C4ISRNET, a website that covers military technology. “The Air Force completed a replacement of the aging SACCS floppy drives with a highly secure solid-state digital storage solution in June,” Justin Oakes, a spokesman for the Eighth Air Force, said in an email. “This replacement effort exponentially increased message storage capacity and operator response times for critical nuclear command and control message receipt and processing.”

The role of floppy disks in the command and control operations of the nation’s nuclear arsenal was highlighted in a 2016 report from the United States Government Accountability Office. It said the disks were used in a system that “coordinates the operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces.” The report said that the Strategic Automated Command and Control System ran on an IBM Series/1 computer — a piece of hardware that dates to the 1970s — and used eight-inch floppy disks to manage weapons like intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft. The report warned that the Pentagon was one of the several government agencies whose computer systems relied on “outdated software languages and hardware parts that are unsupported,” some of which were “at least 50 years old.”

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