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Story Publication logo August 4, 2015

This is the Trigger that Could Launch a Nuclear War

Image by Daniel Sagalyn.

The Pentagon plans to replace the current nuclear arsenal, including 12 new nuclear armed submarines...

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Rarely have Americans seen the inner workings of the Navy submarines that sail the world under the sea, loaded with the most deadly weapons in existence: nuclear arms.

But PBS NewsHour, in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, was given a rare look at the Navy's plan to replace the current generation of nuclear-armed warships.

While reporting aboard the USS Pennsylvania, an Ohio-class submarine armed with up to 24 Trident D-5 nuclear missiles, we witnessed an abbreviated battle drill simulating the launch of one of those missiles.

It's a precise and efficient operation, and if exercised successfully, could initiate nuclear war.

A detail of the operation that caught our eye was a black joystick-looking device held by Weapons Officer Lt. A .J. Walker. This is the instrument that could ultimately launch the nuclear weapon.

In practice, it's a key part of the process. In reality, Pennsylvania's Commander John Cage says he hopes it's never used.

"Nobody on the boat wants [a launch] to happen, but it's important that we train for it, because if tasked, we are going to execute that mission."


Nuclear Threats


Nuclear Threats

Nuclear Threats

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