US defence dumps 8-inch floppy disks, finally

News by Doug Olenick

US Air Force's primary communications system used 8-inch floppy disks to send messages to American nuclear forces around the world

The US military is known for using equipment for decades, which for the most part makes sense as weapons tend to be robustly built, but surprisingly the US Air Force is just pulling from service a 40-year-old computer product.

The Air Force announced earlier this week it would stop using 8-inch floppy disks. These have been used as part of the Air Force’s primary communications system used to send messages to American nuclear forces around the world. The disks were invented in the early 1970s and put into use by the Air Force in the 1980s as part of the Strategic Automated Command and Control System.

The news site C4isrnet quoted an Air Force spokesman that even though the system was horribly out of date from a technical standpoint, it was almost bulletproof from a cybersecurity perspective.

"I joke with people and say it’s the Air Force’s oldest IT system. But it’s the age that provides that security," Col. Jason Rossi, commander of the Air Force’s 595th Strategic Communications Squadron told C4isrnet. "You can’t hack something that doesn’t have an IP address. It’s a very unique system — it is old and it is very good."

The technology’s age finally doomed it as the younger generation of military IT support staffers simply did not have the knowledge to maintain the system. The disks are being replaced by a solid state storage system.

Perhaps airplanes and machine guns are easier to keep functioning.

The B-52 Stratofortress bomber entered service with the US Air Force in 1955 with the version still in service first taking flight in 1961 and which is expected to continue to remain operating for several more decades. Even older is the Browning M2 .50 cal. machine gun which entered service in 1923 and is still widely used by all the armed services.

The original version of this article was published on SC Media US.

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