America’s Abandoned $6-Billion Missile Pyramid
This story originally appeared on May 31, 2014. The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, nestled along North Dakota’s remote northern border, is one of America’s most fascinating examples of military waste. It’s a pyramid-shaped missile silo that was part of the Safeguard program, an elaborate missile-defense system meant to... Read more
This Is How the World Could Have Ended
This story first appeared on Jan. 14, 2014. This is a plan for the end of the world, dated 1970. The arrows are armies and the red vertical symbols are nuclear bombs, all part of a part of Cold War contingency plan crafted by the Soviet Union and its... Read more
How the Soviet Navy Would Have Fought World War III
Over the course of the Cold War, the balance of forces between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Soviet Union changed dramatically. At different points, a war would have played out in far different ways in the major theaters, including Central Europe, the Arctic, the North Atlantic, the... Read more
Take Another Look at This Incredibly Detailed Soviet Map of Washington, D.C.
This story originally appeared on Aug. 21, 2016. This detailed map of Washington, D.C. was compiled by a secret Soviet map-making program during the Cold War. Wired published an amazing 6,000-word article on the topic, which you should read in full here. “The maps were part of one of the... Read more
In 1983, American Provocations — and Soviet Fear — Drove the World Closer to Nuclear War
In 1983, the United States and the Soviet Union came dangerously close to nuclear war. That was the conclusion of a highly classified report issued in 1990 by the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, or PFIAB. The board, which conducts oversight of the U.S. intelligence community for the White... Read more
The B-58 Hustler Was a Beautiful Mistake
On Nov. 11, 1956, the first B-58 Hustler took flight. It would never see combat. An exotic, beautiful bomber designed for high-speed nuclear strike missions, a changes in Soviet tactics and a development method which dramatically hiked costs conspired to doom the Hustler — intended as a replacement for... Read more
So You Want to Be a Soviet Navy Political Officer
The term “Soviet political officer” aboard a warship during the Cold War conjures up images of an iron-willed dogmatist — in the style of The Hunt for Red October — at odds with the military officers entrusted with running a ship at sea. In reality, the job wasn’t that... Read more
Sí, la CIA voló aviones espía U-2 desde portaaviones
El 1 de mayo de 1960, la Unión Soviética derribó un avión espía U-2 de la CIA y capturó al piloto, Francis Gary Powers. El incidente supuso una crisis internacional para la agencia de inteligencia estadounidense. La cumbre que estaba previsto que mantuvieran el presidente Dwight Eisenhower y el... Read more
You Needed Grit to Dive On a Target in an A-4 Skyhawk
Modern jet fighters continue to grow ever more complicated and more fantastically expensive. But some of the most influential aircraft in history succeeded instead because they could do their job pretty well at a very reasonable cost. Such was the case of the agile A-4 Skyhawk, a small but... Read more
The Soviets Built a High-Flying Jet to Shoot Down Balloons
During the Cold War, the United States sent hundreds of high-altitude surveillance balloons on meandering intelligence-collection missions over the Soviet Union — a practice which continued after the Soviet shootdown of American U-2 pilot Gary Powers in 1960. Difficult to detect and largely out of reach at altitudes of... Read more

Robert Beckhusen

Managing Editor

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