What it actually takes to launch a nuclear strike

President Donald Trump has warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he has a “much bigger & more powerful” nuclear button on his desk at all times.

The image of the President with his finger on a “button” has been used to symbolize US speed and strength.

Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

But what does it take to actually launch a nuclear warhead?

Contrary to popular belief, the “nuclear football,” which is never more than an arm’s reach away from the President, does not contain a button.

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

The Presidential Emergency Satchel, as it is formally called, contains four things:

  • A black book of strike options

  • Authentication codes to confirm the President’s identity

  • A list of secure bunkers

  • Instructions for the Emergency Broadcast System

Military officers are required to work in pairs to confirm a nuclear launch, but there is no such check on the President’s actions.

Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

The President has constitutional authority to order nuclear action, but there are safeguards to ensure that any order is both legal and proportionally appropriate.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Should the President be incapacitated, there is also a “football” for the vice president.

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images