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  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 1980s  1983


A.Q. Khan is convicted in absentia for conducting nuclear espionage in the Netherlands. If Khan returns, he is to serve four years in prison. 

President Ronald Reagan delivers Star Wars speech, in which he calls upon the scientific community to devise a space-based defense system capable of protecting the United States from intercontinental ballistic missiles. He describes his plans for new anti-missile technology as "a new hope for our children in the 21st century."

The U.S. Air Force conducts first test flight of the Peacekeeper missile, a four-stage intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying up to ten independently targeted re-entry vehicles.

In an interview with the West German magazine Der Spiegel, the French defense minister announces that France has tested a neutron bomb and is able to start its production as soon as the president so decides.

Korean Air Lines Flight 007 is shot down by two Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 fighters. Click here for a complete description of the accident.

The United States allows companies to give technical assistance to South Africa at one of their power stations. 

Shortly after midnight on September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, was sitting in the commander's chair inside the secret bunker at Serpukhov-15. An early-warning alarm went off, indicating that a nuclear attack from the United States was on the way. Petrov followed his gut feeling that this was a false alarm, and went against protocol by not initiating a nuclear counter-attack.The false alarm was eventually determined to be due to an early-warning satellite mistaking the sun's reflection off of clouds for a missile launch.

As part of its "Double-Track" strategy, NATO begins to deploy American ground-based nuclear cruise missiles in the United Kingdom.

The Day After airs on the ABC television network to an audience of 100 million viewers. The movie portrays a fictional account of the United States after a nuclear war.

The deployment of Pershing II nuclear missiles begins in Germany. In response, the Soviets discontinue the arms control talks in Geneva, Switzerland.