Nuclear code making equipment put on museum display.

I-7 launch facility, assigned to 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB. Photo by James Ulvog.

Apparently there has been a massive overhaul in the technology behind codes used to launch nuclear weapons. Changes are significant enough the equipment used to generate codes and manufacture the physical documents have been put on display at the National Cryptologic Museum.

The Wall Street Journal reported back on 10/14/22 U.S. Has Made “Dramatic Change” in Technology Used for Nuclear Code System/Revamped spy museum gives public access to one of the nation’s most secretive subject.

Equipment was used from 1980s until 2019.

There have been technology changes, type and nature unspecified, significant enough that looking at the equipment nothing be learned which would compromise systems. The extent of changes are vaguely alluded in the article:

“Yet the acknowledgment of the recent technology refresh surprised several nuclear and security experts, who said they had no prior indication the code-generating equipment had been overhauled.”

One private sector analyst indicated there has been sufficiently dramatic improvement in technology that nothing will be compromised by showing these.

Now on public display are a DEC Alpha, which generated the codes used by a president to transmit nuclear launch orders. These codes are reportedly included on a piece embedded plastic about the size of a credit card. This is always carried by the president and is referred to as the “biscuit.” Article contains reference to the biscuit being broken open in event of actual need to validate the order for launch is from the president.

Article repeats stories in print elsewhere about how presidents have lost control of the biscuit. When President Reagan was shot the FBI grabbed all his clothes at the hospital which means they took possession of the biscuit. President Jimmy Carter sent his biscuit to the drycleaner. President Bill Clinton lost his biscuit.

President Reagan losing control of his biscuit while on a emergency room table after having been shot? That’s understandable. President Carter, who was in the nuke business while in the Navy? That’s a bit hard to understand. President Clinton losing something so trivial and unimportant as the codes to defend America? Yeah, makes perfect sense, considering.

I-7 launch facility, assigned to 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB. Photo by James Ulvog.

Also on display is the MP37 machine which manufactured the sealed cards which reportedly held the launch codes held by everyone who would release weapons. These documents are called the “Sealed Authenticator System” documents.

Somewhere in print I recall these being referred to as “cookies” although the article also referred to them as biscuits.

Sure would be fun to see those machines and the full display. I’m not likely taking any trips to Maryland anytime in the forseeable future.

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