When security in your underground base has been breached and you are about to be overrun, what's the last line of defense? It's a device called a Fast-Rising B Plug. And wannabe Bond villains inspired by the new movie should take note.
We know about the Plug because Boeing has just received a $10 million contract to improve security at the 450 Minuteman III missile installations operated by the U.S. Air Force. According to their press release:
"The mission of the Fast Rising B-Plug Kit program is to design, qualify and field a robust security system. The system provides an active delay device that allows personnel in the Minuteman Launch Facility to rapidly secure the facility from any of multiple locations. "
But what is it? This handy photo tour of a Minuteman silo by Captain Swoop gives some idea. To get into the silo, you first need to open an "A Circuit" lock, which secures the 2,000-pound access hatch. This leads to a ladder going down a circular shaft into the silo. But inside the shaft is the B-Plug, a 14,000-pound chunk of steel blocking the way (arrowed in the cutaway diagram, right). It only withdraws once the correct codes have been dialed in.
Normally the B-plug is raised, and the silo is secure. But if a maintenance crew is inside, the B-Plug is lowered and — in theory — the bad guys could seize the opportunity and swarm in. This is why you need the fast-rising kit.
Instead of moving at the sluggish speed provided by the 1960's builders, the plug moves swiftly and "enables security forces to rapidly close an open missile silo in the case of an impending security breach."
It's only one of a range of new security measures being implemented, including more security cameras and "beefed up rapid response teams." The most concrete measure is — more concrete. Silo walls have been made thicker and stronger. The Minuteman III missile carries a warhead of around 400 kilotons; you wouldn't want falling into the wrong hands, and the security upgrades are more likely to be driven by the threat from terrorists than Russian commandos. There is something ironic about a system which was made to ensure national security itself becoming a potential security hazard.
So, when you're building your secret underground base to conquer the world from, don’t forget to specify that, as well as obvious defenses like a the shark-filled moat and piranha pool, it must have a Fast-Rising B-Plug — or you could be in all sorts of trouble.
[Illo: U.S. Air Force]