Russia's nuclear sledgehammers


63 Responses to “Russia's nuclear sledgehammers”

  1. knappa says:

    Then why lock them in the first place?

    • Kimmo says:

      Why lock your front door, when a burglar can just break a window?

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      Two threads of explanation:

      1. Official Policy(tm) requires a Secure Solution, but didn’t actually provide the necessary resources for it to work. Peons on the ground proceeded to improvise in a manner that violates absolutely everything except the letter of the Secure Solution.(this one is the empirically plausible one)

      2. Tamper evidence and built-in delay. Can you smash your way into a safe? Sure, no problem. Can you un-smash the safe thereafter? No. Can you smash a safe quickly and quietly before your submarine colleagues notice that you are attempting to use a sledgehammer to fire ze missiles? Probably not. Thus, the safe can still be opened if jammed; but it is substantially more difficult for any unauthorized party to covertly access the system without alerting the entire ship.

  2. soylent_plaid says:

    But if your safes can be opened just by smashing the lock with a hammer, then… oh nevermind.   It’s not like they’re storing something *important*.

    • jwkrk says:

      Reminds me of a story Richard Feynman wrote about when he was working at Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project.  Being an amateur safe cracker, he found that many of the safes used to keep nuclear secrets (at the time, the Biggest Secret Ever) still had the factory default (mostly Army generals’ safes) or easily guessed combinations (like 27-18-28, the first 6 digits of ‘e’, the natural logarithm base) for the physicists.  

      He’d open them and put notes inside.  Nuclear hilarity ensued…

      • SoItBegins says:

         And, the Army’s solution to that was to send around a questionnaire. It said:

        > Have you seen Richard Feynman around your office?

        If the recipients responded yes, they got a note saying,

        > Change the combination to your safe.

        Which kind of misses the point…

  3. Ahh.. but it’s too much *trouble* to walk waaay over there …. so the idea is to inconvenience lazy evil people enough that they don’t launch the missles.

  4. SomeGuyNamedMark says:

    The US would have a 5 million dollar special remote lock control system with its own computer system and specially trained operators.

    • AirPillo says:

      Are we thinking about the same US? The nuclear launch authorization code for strategic air command was “000000000000″ until 1977. We basically didn’t even bother to change the default password until then.

      • Dan Hibiki says:

         it’s genius really, who would believe a spy that reported the most important password was essentially “password”? He’d be laughed out of the KGB.

      • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

        Probably one of the earlier recorded instances of conflict between users and the IT department over password policies…

        Congress: “WTF? No passwords on your nuclear missiles? I wouldn’t trust you with a hotmail account!”

        SAC: “Having to remember passwords is objectively Soft on Communism.”

        Congress: “Passwords. Now.”

        SAC: “Fine, our super secure passwords are 12 characters long. Happy now, pricks?”

      • SomeGuyNamedMark says:

        You’re right, I should’ve said 50 million

      • asuffield says:

        That wasn’t about “not bothering”, it was about complying with the letter of the rules while firmly opposing their intent. The military did not want to have an authorization code, so they said “yes Mr President, we have installed an authorization code device” and used an insecure code.

  5. Atvaark says:

    Just keep the sledgehammer in a locked safe.

  6. Pag says:

    Any safe can be picked, so the safe is just the last line of defense to protect the codes (and the system launching the missiles). The sledgehammer is just there to make it possible to get to the code faster than having to find a locksmith. It doesn’t really change how fast an attacker could get to the code — after all, somebody intent on getting it could bring their own sledgehammer.

  7. Anyone else read this and think it was the hammer itself that was an atomic weapon? I seem to recall something about a nuclear shoulder fired device back in the day…

  8. Frank Diekman says:

    (Nathan Explosion voice):  “Nuclear Sledgehammers”, good song title.

  9. Kimmo says:

    What kind of handle is that on it?

    Kinda looks like steel reo.

  10. Thomas Shaddack says:


    Also, reminds me of the “00000000″ code of the American “Permissive Action Link”.

  11. ElRonbo says:

    The idea is that someone can’t access the codes, copy them, and put them back with no one knowing – you have to smash the safe open. 

  12. Thomas Shaddack says:

    In Soviet Russia, atom splits YOU!

  13. Note that the U.S. Minuteman launch control centres kept the codes in a small metal box with two padlocks on it.  

    Not as formidable as a safe, but a missile couldn’t launch unless it received launch orders from two separate capsules (or a single capsule with code hardware from two capsules, blah blah).

  14. Wreckrob8 says:

    I hope the sledgehammer is kept close to the hard hat, ear defenders, goggles, steel toe caps and gloves with the proper health and safety regulations properly displayed. We wouldn’t want someone to have an accident now, would we?

  15. Bevatron Repairman says:

    I could totally see Michael Madsen going to town on John Spencer with this in a Quentin Tarantino remake of Wargames.  TURN THE KEY, SIR!  *smash*  SIR!  Turn the key.  *oof*

  16. awjt says:

    I wonder if that’s a Russian finger… a White Russian finger [in the pic.]

  17. Zadaz says:

    Ah, I get it. The safe is just a tamper-proof envelope. Neat!

  18. Vaughn Marlowe says:

    I’m reminded of the Yank Air Force officer who visited a Soviet fighter base and found it in great disarray with no seeming order — planes, equipment, and personnel scattered every damn whichaway. “This is a forward combat base,” the Russian C.O. explained. “This is what it will look like ten minutes into a shooting war.” 

  19. CommieNeko says:

    “Will be getting that bay door open even if everyone on Bear Creek is hare lipped getting …”

  20. Dan Hibiki says:

    inscribed in small print on the sledge: Кто проводит этот молот, если он будет достоин, должен обладать силой атомный

  21. Ian Wood says:

    Just checking in–has anyone made the Yakov Joke? Ah, yes. Good. Carry on.

  22. pjcamp says:

    Oh man! That is totally not what I thought when I read “nuclear sledgehammer.”

  23. futnuh says:

    I dig that knurl.

  24. Palomino says:

    That has got to be the coolest name for an RPG Weapon! 

  25. Tore Sinding Bekkedal says:

    It reminds me of the US practice of setting the launch codes to all zeros, which continued for many years. The personnel were simply not comfortable with the requirement for operating command and control.

  26. AlexG55 says:

    I imagine that the safe was built strongly enough that forcing your way in with a hammer would take a while and make a lot of noise, which would presumably bring someone to stop you if you weren’t supposed to be getting in there.

  27. David Lavictoire says:

    You guys made me snopes that 00000000 launch code thing. 

  28. RayCornwall says:

    Soviet Nuclear Sledgehammers is my new favorite potential punk band name.

  29. Bilsko says:

    Sounds a lot like what we used to do with our own nuclear devices here in the US:

  30. Uwe von Kempen says:

    I don’t think, that’s sooo easy to fire a missile. You must have the correct depth, open the hatches, power on the controls, charge the batteries, increase pressures, etc..
    The correct codes are only a single step in a very long sequence. I guess it takes far more than half an hour of meticulous work of many people, if there is no preparation before.

    Btw, can it be that this hammer is used more generally? If some other lock has to be opened, when the owner looses the keys somewhere? For example, if the key for the toilet-paper cabinet is broken, then use the “universal picklock”, which is also suitable for the safe with launch-codes.

  31. Ryan Lenethen says:

    Probably works better than the sickle would anyway…

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