Monday, December 22, 2014

UFO attempts to launch Malmstrom ICBM...1974

Robert Hastings has posted on his website, as well as covered on The UFO Chronicles website, a story about a UFO attempting to start the launch sequence of a Minuteman II ICBM. The setting takes place at Malmstrom back in 1974 involving the old 564th Strategic Missile Squadron. 

The Incident

According to Hastings' source, who wishes to remain anonymous, this then young ICBM deputy commander launch officer was out on alert at Romeo in the 564th back in 1974.  The incident occurred between 2000 hrs and 2200 hrs. The time frame, as far as months go, is between January and July, but possibly narrowed down to March.  This based on who the source was crewed with as his commander.

During the night in question, there was no maintenance activity out in the flight area.  The LF, Romeo 29, reports OZ/IZ security alarm violations so the security alarm team is sent to strike the site.  Upon arriving at the site, the security team observes a large self-illuminated object hovering over the LF.  Supposedly, the light is so bright that the actual shape of the object could not be determined.

Back at the Launch Control Center, the crew begins to receive the following sequences of events from Romeo 29:  Launch Enable, which the crew inputs an Inhibit Command to counter the enable command, then the sortie drops into LF No-Go.  After an undetermined period of time, Romeo 29 "spontaneous" restarts. [assuming back to Strat Alert or Calibration mode]

Then the following condition's again occur:  Launch Enable, another crew inputted Launch Inhibit Command [which did not take], Launch Commanded, Launch in Process, and finally Missile Away.  This sequence of events gave the crew the impression that Romeo 29 had actually launched.

The crew then contacts the security team outside of Romeo 29 to see if the missile had indeed launched, but are told that no launch had taken place.  The UFO, still presumably hovering over the site, then leaves the going straight up at a high rate of speed.  The security team notices that F-106 interceptors are in the squadron area.

Hastings' source later finds out that NORAD weapons controllers [SAGE unit back at Malmstrom] had tracked the object on radar.  The controllers could see both the object and F-106s on their scopes.

Meanwhile, back at Romeo 29, its supposedly found that the ground electronics were "fried", destroyed as if due to a massive electrical surge.  Despite the damage to the ground electronics, the missile guidance system is left intact with no internal damage.

What's Possible for the Launch Sequence

Is this plausible?  First, as Hastings' source correctly determines, there are two components to this story:  the LF indications and the UFO report.

The conditions occurring at Romeo 29 are indeed possible.  We have a sequence of indications that mimic an actual launch sequence, but these are false indications as the missile never did launch.

The enable code is stored in the down stage portion of the ICBM, it is actually loaded by an Elecrtical-Mechanical maintenance team when the site is brought back up to alert status during missile guidance system placement.  The enable code is also located back in the LCC which the commander starts the activation, but the deputy commander actually manually inputs the "unlock codes" after both crew members have accessed the unlock codes via the jointly locked safe.  It actually would have taken an Emergency War Order message from SAC HQ which would have designated the valid enable values that were to have been inputted into the system.  Both crew members, by SAC policy, would independently verify the unlock code values prior to activating the enable command.

Now we go to the activation of the launch code.  The full launch code is contained in the Launch Control Panel (LCP) back at the LCC.  The LCP is located at the commanders console.  To send a valid launch command, both crew members must simultaneously turn their respective launch keys to send out the command.  Back at the LF, on board the missile guidance system, the launch code is broken up into two parts.  On half of the launch code is located on the computer hard disk and the other half is located in the permutation plug (P-plug).  The P-plug (looks like a hockey puck) is physically separate from the on board computer.  Once the launch command reaches the missile guidance system, the two half codes are merged into one and thus terminal countdown begins...Launch in Process.

To counter act this process, there is another code, the Inhibit Launch Command, that is also a command input by the crew.  If all goes as planned then the launch sequence can be successfully aborted.  If successful, the missile will return to strat alert, go into calibration mode or drop LF No-Go.  If I remember correctly once the missile's status is Launch in Process, any command sent to the missile guidance system will have a report sent back to the crew as "computer busy" meaning that any sent command or status inquiry may be virtually impossible to get any responses back. (Similar to a busy dial tone on a telephone)

Can one crew, from one LCC, successfully launch a missile?  The answer is no.  As a fail safe, it takes two launch crews, from two separate LCCs to successfully launch a Minuteman missile.  Or, one LCC crew and one airborne launch crew (ALCC) to do the task.

So now we go back to the conditions shown by Romeo 29.  All of the indications were false readings and status reports.  The indications would have looked real to the crew and the actions by the crew would have been textbook regardless for all that they knew, the missile was actually in a real launch sequence.  But in the end the reported status from the LF were false, as the missile never launched and could not have launched based on the process involved that I mentioned above.

There is a process that, in a way, mimics a launch sequence.  The implementation of Sensitive Command Network (SCN) test.  This test will generally give all of the light indications culminating with a Missile Away light on the commanders console.  So if the problem started with the Logic Coupler drawer at the LF this would effected the SCN thus giving the light sequence and false reports back to the LCC.

This does bring up questions for Hastings' source:

1.  Were other 564th LCCs involved in the input of the inhibit command?  Generally, the other 4 LCCs would have been doing the same.
2.  Was the Romeo's secondary LCC (Sierra?) involved in this incident as they would have also received the print outs from Romeo 29?
3.  Was was any input from the 564th's squadron command post, Tango?
4.  Was Romeo 29  Strat alert to begin with during this particular alert status?
5.  What were the weather conditions?  A thunderstorm could have easily set off the OZ with the vibrations from the thunder setting off the IZ.  This was not uncommon even when I was on alert back in the 1980s.

It would be helpful if any maintenance records could be accessed for this time period and a peek at the previous maintenance history of the site.  But I'm well aware that such things are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to access.

The UFO Angle of the Story

As far as the UFO sighting, we are told that the security team reported the observation, but to whom first...the flight security controller topside at Romeo or directly to the crew via radio?  As typical in these cases, we are left with no names, but merely secondary sources concerning the actual eye witnesses.  

Regarding the NORAD angle, once again we are left with second and third hand accounts that NORAD tracked the object.  There are no documents available to show that this is true. That does not mean the documentation does not exist, but at this point in time, we have no way to access them.  The only documentation that Hastings, or any other researcher has, is the NORAD information concerning a 1975 incident at Malmstrom.


In conclusion, we have an interesting story with little corroborating evidence.  It would be helpful if the anonymous source would have his former commander's input, if possible.  The fault sequences are plausible especially if the SCN were affected.  On our part, it would be further helpful if we had access to wing job control, wing security and wing command post logs.  The anonymous source's crew log for that alert cycle would be invaluable for this case.

As far the UFO story, we have very little to go with.  We are lacking any first hand accounts from the security responsive team and Romeo's FSC, thus we only have a secondary source who is currently "anonymous."  If the FSC relayed the report, then we have a tertiary source.  Again with little to go with.  We have no actual logs from wing security control for verification. The same can be said of the NORAD controllers.  Logs and other reports would be much helpful, but even with the NORAD segment of the story, we are left with second hand, hearsay, information. 

One component of the story is plausible, the other is left lacking at this point in time.

Oh...least I forget...did this really happen?

1 comment:

  1. I was at Tango-0 in the early 90s when one of my sorties had similar indications (except no missile away/MV400). It ended up being a bad DCU/MGS. After a series of Radio out and Cable out indications, and target change indications (erroneous because TVR/TOTR did not validate) it finally dropped LFDN, then came back and then went ASG. It was a dying Digital Control Unit in the MGS. By the way, it's called a Ground System Test (GST), not SCN test in Deuce.