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U.S. military to stop using floppy disks to operate nuclear weapons systems

WATCH: The U.S. nuclear weapons system still runs on a 1970s-era computing system that uses eight-inch floppy disks, according to a newly released report from the Government Accountability Office.

The U.S. military has finally put an end to the 1970s-era system that’s been running their nuclear weapons.

The reality of the system was first revealed on a 60 Minutes segment in 2014.

During a tour of the nuclear control centre, the public discovered the computers that would launch a nuclear strike at the president’s orders were controlled by eight-inch floppy disks.

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But the time has come for an update to the Strategic Automated Command and Control System (SACCS), which C4isrnet says is the communication infrastructure that sends emergency action messages for nuclear command centres.

Lt. Col. Jason Rossi, 595th Strategic Communications Squadron commander, told the technology news publication they began upgrades to a  “highly-secure solid state digital storage solution” in June.

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“I joke with people and say it’s the Air Force’s oldest IT system, but it’s the age that provides that security,” Rossi explained. “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.”

North Korea, U.S. nuclear talks break down in Sweden
North Korea, U.S. nuclear talks break down in Sweden

The command centre is based out of Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Rossi has the huge job of making sure the SACCS runs smoothly.

In 2016, the Government Accountability Office reported that the department’s system — responsible for intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft — “runs on an IBM Series-1 Computer — a 1970s computing system — and uses eight-inch floppy disks.”

“This system remains in use because, in short, it still works,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson told the AFP news agency.

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“However, to address obsolescence concerns, the floppy drives are scheduled to be replaced with secure digital devices by the end of 2017.”

The report went on to say that they would be fully replaced by the end of 2020.

SACCS’s hardware may be decades old, but it’s regularly refreshed and repaired by Air Force programmers educated out of Offutt’s Rapid Agile Development Lab.

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meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca