On This Day…

On the 26th September 1983 Lt Col Petrov prevented a nuclear attack and possibly a nuclear war

Lt Col Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov was the duty Soviet Air Defence Forces officer in the command centre for the Soviet early warning satellites when the bunker’s computers warned that 5 US intercontinental ballistic missiles were heading towards the Soviet Union.

It was a period of heightened tension during the Cold War when Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was still a key concept in US defence strategy. Fortunately Petrov assessed the warning as a computer malfunction believing that an attack would involve far more missiles. He did not report the ‘attack’ and so prevented a Soviet nuclear launch. The warning system had misinterpreted sunlight bouncing off high altitude clouds.