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Updated Edition of The Able Archer 83 Sourcebook

November 5, 2015

rightThumb_ablearcherThirty-two years ago, a NATO nuclear release exercise named Able Archer 83 “may have inadvertently placed our relations with the Soviet Union on a hair trigger,” according to an above-Top Secret President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board report released last month to the National Security Archive after a twelve-year fight.  The release sparked extensive media coverage including a front-page story in The Washington Post.  To mark this anniversary, the Archive has launched a new edition of its Able Archer Sourcebook, the largest collection of declassified documents on the 1983 War Scare, now available at

The more-than-thousand page Sourcebook includes:

The cover page of the PFIAB report, previously classified as "TOP SECRET UMBRA GAMMA WNINTEL NOFORN NOCONTRACT ORCON".

The cover page of the PFIAB report, previously classified as “TOP SECRET UMBRA GAMMA WNINTEL NOFORN NOCONTRACT ORCON”.

*Archive analysis of the hundred-page PFIAB report, the only government study written with access to all US intelligence files on US/NATO actions and the Soviet response in the fall of 1983.

*STASI, KGB, and other Warsaw Pact documents describing the creation, implementation, and end of Operation RYaN (RYaN is the Russian acronym for “nuclear missile attack”), launched to detect Western preparations for a preemptive first strike against the Soviet Union.

*After-action reports of Able Archer 83 that reveal indicators that could have spooked the Soviets, such as a 170-flight, radio-silent air lift of 19,000 US soldiers to Europe, “new nuclear weapons release procedures,” and bombers taxiing out of hangars carrying “realistic-looking dummy warheads.”

*British records describing “an unprecedented Soviet reaction to Able Archer 83 and other reports of alleged concern about a surprise NATO attack,” which led senior British ministers and intelligence chiefs to “urgently consider how to approach the Americans on the question of possible Soviet misapprehensions about a surprise NATO attack.”

*And documents utilized by “Deutschland 83,” a hit 2015 AMC Sundance/RTL production portraying the 1983 Able Archer War Scare in East and West Germany.  One declassified map visually displays the exercises that comprised Autumn Forge 83 — the umbrella European-wide NATO exercise that was capped by Able Archer 83’s simulated nuclear war against the Warsaw Pact.  The names of each of the episodes of “Deutschland 83” – including “Quantum Jump,” “Atlantic Lion,” “Northern Wedding,” and Bold Guard” – appear on the map; they were actual NATO exercises conducted during Autumn Forge 1983, which contributed to the War Scare.

Autumn Forge war games map.

A map of Autumn Forge 83 war games. Able Archer 83 was the simulated nuclear climax to a conventional war. Note that the names of the exercises have been used as titles to each episode of the television show Deutschland 1983.

To read the documents and analysis of the 1983 War Scare by the National Security Archive’s Nate Jones, who obtained most of these materials, visit the Able Archer Sourcebook.

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