Nuclear War caused by Terrorism
As long as the US and Russia maintain LoW capability and a de facto LoW policy, the possibility remains of a false warning triggering a retaliatory nuclear attack and an accidental nuclear war. The possible causes of a false warning are no longer restricted to failures of hardware, software or human judgment. Deliberate acts of individual or state-sponsored terrorism must now be factored into this most dangerous equation.
Such acts could include spoofing radar or satellite sensors of early warning systems to make it appear than an attack is in progress, when in fact no attack has occurred. This could also be accomplished by the penetration of nuclear command and control computer networks and subsequent introduction of false data into the systems. Viruses and software could also be downloaded into early warning system computers which would mimic a full-scale nuclear attack.
There could easily not be enough time to properly identify the real problem, given that there are only 12 to 30 minutes allowed for the entire evaluation and decision making process to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike. (This is one reason why RLOAD has been suggested as a temporary “solution” to this threat.)
Launch-on-Warning policy could thus cause the launch of a retaliatory nuclear strike based on a terrorist-generated false warning when in fact no attack had occurred.
Also, if terrorists obtained permission codes required to launch nuclear weapons and then obtained access to the command and control systems, or took physical control of a nuclear weapon (e.g. a road-mobile Russia SS-25), they would be able to launch the weapon(s). Removing nuclear weapons from high-alert status would at least least prevent the quick-launch of these weapons under such circumstances.