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US nuclear weapons system finally ditches floppy disks

It turns out using the technology dating back to the 1970s makes the system more secure.

One of the key components of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal has finally done away with what is now a relic of computing. This past June, it stopped using 8-inch floppy disks.

The disks were used at the Strategic Automated Command and Control System (SACCS), according to the website C4ISRNET which covers military technology. SACCS is one of several systems the U.S. military uses to send emergency action messages to coordinate America's nuclear forces

According to Lt. Col. Jason Rossi, with the 595th Strategic Communications Squadron, the disks are being replaced with a "highly secure solid state digital storage solution."

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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The computer that SACCS runs on reportedly dates back to the 1970s but there were plans to upgrade it as recently as 2017. While some might take pause with the fact that such old technology is being used as part of America's nuclear solution, Rossi points out that there are advantages -- mainly security.

"You can't hack something that doesn't have an IP address. It's a very unique system," Rossi said.

Such old technology creates another challenge -- attrition. Both military and civilian personnel are needed to keep SACCS going. As older members who are familiar with the technology move on, they are replaced with a younger generation used to components that are simpler to operate and repair. Some of them don't have the necessary experience or training, so the work of repairing the dated electronics is often handed to civilians.

“A lot of young folks aren’t exposed to this kind of system and it usually takes quite some time for everyone to get trained up and to be able to work with an older system like this,” Senior Airman Aaron Mentch told C4ISRNET.