USAF Replaces Bulky Tape Cartridges


Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Jan 31, 2009
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Dont' tell anyone, but the Fail-Safe code is CAP811...


USAF Replaces Bulky Tape Cartridges For Loading Launch Codes Into ICBMs
October 3, 2017

“The DTU loads the Missile Guidance Set, which is the brain of the Minuteman III, with sensitive cryptographic data and other information the missile needs in order to function,” U.S. Air Force Captain Kevin Drumm, the codes operations chief at the 91st Operation Support Squadron, explained to the service’s reporters. “The DTU has increased productivity and shortened the time required to conduct coding operations.”

Shortening the time is putting it mildly. Before the upgraded units arrived, the 91st was using a system called the Launch Facility Load Cartridge to program tape memory cartridges with all the necessary data. According to Drumm, it would take 45 minutes to build the data set, which personnel would then spend another 30 minutes loading into a single missile.

On top of that, the cartridge programming equipment was so old that it could only fit enough information for one missile on a single tape cartridge tape unit, which weighed approximately 45 pounds each. The information for each missile is unique for security purposes, so the wing’s code team would need to run through the process 50 times and lug all of the cassettes out to the dispersed launch facilities.

Instead, the new system can build a missile’s full mission data package in 30 minutes and load it into the weapon in less than 10 minutes. Each Data Transfer Unit can hold the information for 12 missiles and weighs just 20 pounds. The Air Force did not say whether the new system is still tape based, which remains a popular high-density data storage format.

All of this saves valuable time and effort during the annual change of codes across the Air Force’s ICBM arsenal, nicknamed Operation Olympic Step, as well as whenever the service might need to update other parts of the missile’s software. U.S. Air Force General Robin Rand, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees all of the service’s strategic nuclear elements, specifically highlighted the long work hours for missileers supporting the ICBM mission during a panel discussion at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference in September 2017.


Well-Known Member
Feb 22, 2017
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Probably when the tape breaks or gets stuck it makes the silo blow up.


Ok, so that's a C4. Use your imagination.


Well-Known Member
Mar 14, 2009
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A business would have changed the system at least half a dozen times by now to use better, faster and more labor efficient technologies. The military doesn't work that way. Labor is "cheap" to them since they have the people assigned to do that job. It is a gross oversimplification, but when you improve something in the military to make it less labor intense then you have to find something else for the people to do in that freed up time.