The incident is popularly known as the Black Brant scare and not something you would have anticipated happening just a few years after the Cold War ended.
• HOW IT STARTED
Norway and US scientists wanted to conduct a test off the northwestern coast of Norway. They admittedly notified the Russian federation of the tests they wanted to carry out but somehow, the message never got to the appropriate quarters (Russian Defense Agency) before the launch date.
On January 25, 1995, a team of Norwegian and US scientists launched a Black Brant XII rocket from the Andøya Rocket Range in the northwestern part of the country as planned.
Expectedly, Russian air defense systems picked up the projectile which was fired off an American submarine and mistook the research rocket as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile probably carrying a nuclear head.
While the fired projectile made it’s ascent into the atmosphere, it tended to appear they were headed for Russia on radar screens. When the upper stages of the rocket disembarked, horrified Russian radar and telemetric operators
came to the conclusion that they were being attacked either by an ICBM with multiple warheads or it could be an EMP attack.
The information was relayed across all Russian defense structures, prompting a wide panic and immediate resumption of battle stations across board after the President, Boris Yeltsin was informed.
Well, as is expected in times of nuclear attack, the country’s nuclear briefcase (Cheget) was opened and activated for the first time ever in the country’s history. At this point too, all of the country’s nuclear forces were already on trigger alert and absolute state of combat readiness, ready to launch ICBM’S on Boris Yeltsin’s command should the rocket land on Russian soil.
With the fate of the United States hanging in the balance, completely unaware of over 4,000 nuclear weapons waiting to annihilate the entire nation, Boris Yeltsin waited and didn’t immediately give the order to launch. This was mostly because he didn’t see the reason why the US would cause such provocation, especially since the Cold War has ended.
However, in those terrifying few minutes (about 10 minutes ) the Black Brant research rocket harmlessly passed Russia without any incident, leading the Russian military to declare the situation a false alarm. The black nuclear briefcase was also switched off and all nuclear forces of the federation were ordered to stand down.
It’s hard to even begin to imagine the unimaginable nuclear catastrophe this could have caused. This is the first time a country would have actually faced a nuclear annihilation and the reason why nuclear disarmament should be encouraged.