->''"I don't know what's scarier, losing nuclear weapons, or that [[LanguageEqualsThought it happens so often there's actually a TERM for it]]."''
-->-- '''Giles Prentice''', ''[[Film/BrokenArrow1996 Broken Arrow]]''

Nukes are very powerful things, capable of doing untold damage in the wrong hands. So of course, [[ChekhovsGun when a nuke shows up in fiction]], [[RuleOfDrama you can just bet]] it will end up in the wrong hands.

The trope name comes from a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_nuclear_incident_terminology US military code phrase]], meaning any situation involving the theft or seizure of a functioning nuclear weapon. The accidental loss of a nuclear weapon is also included in this trope, though the military uses a different code phrase for it (Broken Arrow).

See also [[ArtisticLicenseNuclearPhysics Artistic License - Nuclear Physics]] and ANuclearError.

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!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Anime & Manga ]]

* [[GrandTheftPrototype The theft of the Physalis Gundam]], a purpose-built tac-nuke platform HumongousMecha equipped with a functioning warhead by Zeon [[TheRemnant remnants]] kicks off the plot of ''{{Gundam 0083}}''.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comics]]

* ''Franchise/{{Batman}}: ComicBook/ADeathInTheFamily'' features a nuke falling into the [[SelfDemonstrating/TheJoker wrongest possible hands.]]
** The Riddler also got his hands on a nuclear weapon in one ''ComicBook/GreenArrow'' story and was holding Star City to ransom with it; incidentally, when push came to shove [[NotSoHarmlessVillain he really was going to use it]], seemingly even though it meant dying with everyone else. Unfortunately (or, rather, fortunately, for him and everyone else), one of the guys he was working with ([[MuggingTheMonster and bullying]]) turned out to be a KnightTemplar WellIntentionedExtremist who was [[UnwittingPawn actually using The Riddler]] to seal off the city from the rest of the world with some magical spell that cut off all electrical devices (bomb included) and had Star City be policed by an army of KnightTemplar demons...
* The second ''ComicBook/{{Whiteout}}'' graphic novel.
* A 1970s ''ComicBook/RichieRich'' story has this when he and his father are given a tour and shown a rack of 10 particularly powerful nuclear bombs, but Richie notices to his alarm that he only counts nine...

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]

* ''Film/JamesBond'':
** ''Film/{{Thunderball}}'' - one of the earlier examples. The original novel version might be ''the'' earliest example, making this the TropeMaker. It was remade in the 80's as the non-canon ''Film/NeverSayNeverAgain'', which is the same basic plot.
** ''Literature/{{Goldfinger}}'' (the [[Literature/JamesBond original novel by Ian Fleming]]) the warhead of a Corporal Intermediate Range Guided Missile is stolen (in exchange for a million dollar bribe) so Goldfinger can [[BulletholeDoor blast open the vault]] of Fort Knox. Supposedly it's one of the new [[YouFailNuclearPhysicsForever 'clean' warheads with little fallout]].
*** [[Film/{{Goldfinger}} In the film version]] it's inverted, the bomb is a purposely 'dirty' one and is meant to ''contaminate'' the gold as any that survives the blast would be radioactive for decades. Thus causing a massive financial panic making Goldfinger's own gold reserves multiply in value instantly, but also causing chaos and upheaval on behalf of the [[DirtyCommunists Chinese Communists]] who supplied the nuke.
** ''Film/{{Octopussy}}'' - although it's a rogue [[GeneralRipper Soviet General]] providing the bomb free of charge.
** ''Film/TheWorldIsNotEnough'': A nuclear weapon is stolen, but instead of being detonated, it's made into a dud. The other half of the plutonium is used to create an improvised bomb by forcing a nuclear submarine to have a meltdown..
* JohnWoo's ''[[Film/BrokenArrow1996 Broken Arrow]]'' - the title of the film is the term for a nuclear weapons accident which [[KansasCityShuffle they tried to portray it as to cover up the real plot]]. However [[RuleOfCool Broken Arrow does sound cooler]].
** The use is correct at first: Broken Arrow refers to an accidental event that involves the loss of nuclear weapons, warheads or components, but which does not create the risk of nuclear war. Like the jettisoning of a nuclear weapon or nuclear component from a crashing aircraft. Once it becomes clear that the accident was actually part of a plot by the BigBad to [[spoiler:steal the warheads and use them on US soil]], ''then'' it's an Empty Quiver.
* Used in ''AustinPowers International Man of Mystery'':
-->'''Dr. Evil:''' Shit. Oh hell, let's just do what we always do. Hijack some nuclear weapons and hold the world hostage. Yeah? Good! Gentlemen, it has come to my attention that a breakaway Russian Republic called [[{{Ruritania}} Kreplachistan]] will be transferring a nuclear warhead to the United Nations in a few days. Here's the plan. We get the warhead and we hold the world ransom for... ''[[RidiculousFutureInflation one million dollars]]''!
* ''Film/{{Outland}}''. Although not a plot point, the temporary disappearance of some nuclear detonators is used to highlight the apathy and incompetence of the company police on the space-mining colony.
-->'''Sgt. Montone:''' ''We're talking about '''nuclear detonators''' here. You don't just 'lose' them and then 'find' them again. You lose your comb and then find it, but not nuclear detonators.''
* ''{{Frantic}}'' (1988). The MacGuffin for which Creator/HarrisonFord's wife is kidnapped turns out to be [[spoiler:a krytron -- a small electronic switch used in ICBM separation or the detonators of nuclear devices.]]
* ''Film/GetSmart'', in the 2008 movie, when KAOS gets a nuke and threatens to blow up UsefulNotes/LosAngeles with it.
* ''Film/TheSoldier'' (1982). A RenegadeRussian KGB agent steals plutonium and uses it to make an atomic bomb to blackmail the United States by threatening to detonate it in the Saudi oilfields unless the US forces Israel off the West Bank. The HeroesRUs group takes over an ICBM (using plans and equipment prepared by the CIA in case the President went insane and ordered a nuclear strike -- a case of being literally CrazyPrepared) and get the KGB BigBad to back off by threatening to launch on Moscow.
* ''Film/{{Whiteout}}''. Murder is committed over the cargo of a Soviet plane downed during the UsefulNotes/ColdWar. [[spoiler:However what everyone assumes to be nuclear material actually turns out to be uncut diamonds.]]
* ''Film/ThePeacemaker'': A shipment of Russian warheads scheduled to be decommissioned is stolen and the [[MakeItLookLikeAnAccident theft is covered up]] by detonating one of them on-site.
* In ''Film/{{Stargate}}'', the nuke O'Neil brings along ends up in Ra's possession.
* ''Film/TheMouseThatRoared'' has a tiny European nation declare war on America, hoping to be quickly defeated and then have their economy boosted by America's post-war help. Except their invasion force manages to steal a nuclear weapon[[note]]which just happens to be a ''continent busting'' prototype[[/note]], forcing America to surrender.
* ''Film/GIJoeRetaliation'' opens with the Joes being sent to stop the theft of a nuclear warhead from Pakistan. The mission goes wrong and the warhead ends up in the hands of COBRA.
* The MadeForTVMovie ''Film/{{Royce}}'' has a top-secret elite group known as Black Hole being disbanded after the end of the UsefulNotes/ColdWar and the reduced need for their services. The titular character (played by Creator/JamesBelushi) is happy to retire, until he learns that the rest of the team are angry at losing their jobs and feel betrayed by their government after many years of service. They hatch a plot to intercept and steal a number of Ukrainian nuclear weapons in the process of being handed over to Russia. Royce decides to stop them.

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[[folder:Literature]]

* In ''Wednesday's Wrath'', MackBolan discovers a plan to rob White Sands of nuclear & chemical weapons during a range demonstration. A Dept of Defense strategist had become obsessed with an "unbeatable" war game he'd developed involving a similar scenario, and when his superiors told him to drop the matter decided to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
* ''PhoenixForce'' (an '80's action/adventure spin-off series of MackBolan, written by Gar Wilson) novel ''The Fury Bombs''.
* The first few ''Track'' novels by Jerry Ahern are based around a neo-Nazi plot to use a hundred stolen nuclear weapons to blackmail the world.
* From Creator/TomClancy's ''Literature/TheSumOfAllFears'':
** The novel featured an air-dropped Israeli nuclear weapon lost during the Yom Kippur War, later found in a Druze farmer's field in Syria, and refurbished with the help of an East German scientist. The movie doesn't get as detailed about it.
*** According to the movie, the weapons is US-made and secretly given to Israel, but the plane carrying it crashes. This is confirmed when Ryan asks a member of the cleanup crew if he can tell where the nuclear material came from. The man recognizes the signature pretty quickly and can even narrow it down to a specific reactor.
** And the whole crises is made worse because the CIA had been getting some disinformation from one of their spies in the USSR indicating that that they had "lost" some of their nukes: something Jack Ryan found hard to believe, because those aren't something that you just lose.
* ''The Golden Rendezvous'' by Creator/AlistairMacLean. The villains steal the latest mini-nuke from the United States, and plan to use it to destroy all evidence and witnesses after their robbery of a gold shipment. Though why they don't [[CutLexLuthorACheck just sell the nuke...]]
* Three nukes are the [[WeaponOfMassDestruction weapons of mass destruction]] that are claimed to have been stolen by terrorists in Creator/JohnRingo's ''[[Literature/PaladinOfShadows Unto the Breach]]'', to the US president, instead of the actual theft, due to the sensitive nature of the stolen material. Not really a subversion, though, as the reader is aware from the start about the ''real'' WMD that's been stolen, as the theft scene is at the very beginning of the book.
* The original Creator/IanFleming [[Literature/{{Thunderball}} novel]] on which ''Film/{{Thunderball}}'' is based is probably the ''first'' and [[TropeCodifier most definite]] example of the trope. It is, however, subverted in that the nuke in question is ''British'' (while the code is American), and the terrorists attempt to portray it as an accident, that is, a "Broken Arrow" situation, instead of "Empty Quiver".

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* ''Series/TwentyFour'' - Literally every other season. Though Season 8 was technically a dirty bomb. [[spoiler:The terrorists only successfully detonate it in Season 6 though]].
* ''Series/DoctorWho'', in both ''Battlefield'' and "World War Three".
* ''Series/TheProfessionals''. A white supremacist group steals enough plutonium to make an atomic bomb in "Stakeout".
* ''Series/TheManFromUNCLE'' reunion movie "The Fifteen Years Later Affair."
--> "You may consider your organization as having come of age, Mr. Kemp. THRUSH is now a nuclear power."
* A season 8 episode of ''Series/{{NCIS}}'' titled "Broken Arrow" dealt with a long lost hydrogen bomb that had been discovered by a major company, and the team had to prevent the company's head from selling the nuclear material to terrorists.
** ''Series/NCISLosAngeles'' had a nuke stolen in order to make billions, as even the possibility of a nuclear explosion would send the stock exchange into a nosedive, allowing the bad guys to cash in. Since the episode was called "Empty Quiver" it wasn't that hard to guess what was stolen.
** ''Series/{{JAG}}'' also had an episode entitled "Empty Quiver" where a nuclear missile disappeared during transfer to a submarine. Subverted when it was discovered that, through a series of minor missteps (including a short blackout due to transferring to ship's power), the missile was ejected into the harbor. JAG investigator Sturgis Turner notes that while it was an accident, it was very likely all of the sailors involved would never serve on any combat ship again.
* A less dramatic version was in an episode of the Australian series ''Series/PoliceRescue'' -- a motor accident involving a lab courier leads to a vial of radioactive material going missing. It turns out a kid has stolen it, and the protagonists are able to track him down in time to stop him breaking it open to see what's inside.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Tabletop Games]]
* One ''TabletopGame/{{Paranoia}}'' mission involves preventing [[LostSuperweapon an Old Reckoning antimatter bomb]] from falling prey to this trope.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Video Games ]]

* Every ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' game:
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'': FOXHOUND hijacks Metal Gear REX with the threat of firing its railgun-launched nuke if their ransom demands aren't met.
** ''MetalGearSolid2'': Dead Cell steal Arsenal Gear with the intent of detonating its experimental nuke in the air over Wall Street, destroying The Patriots' information network there.
** ''MetalGearSolid3'': American defector delivers a tactical nuke to a GRU Colonel. He test-fires it on his own troops at the end of the first act. There's also The Shagohod, but that's not stolen.
** ''MetalGearSolid4'': [[spoiler:Ocelot retrieves REX's forgotten railgun and its armed nuke to destroy The Patriots orbital command satellite]].
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid: Peace Walker'' [[spoiler: has the nuke 'legally' owned by the villains. It's then ''Kaz'' who steals it and attaches it to ZEKE to use as MSF's deterrent, and [[StartOfDarkness since we all know where Big Boss ended up...]]]]
* The ''ModernWarfare'' series thrives on this concept.
* ''GhostRecon: Advanced Warfighter'' involved the president's nuclear football being stolen. The sequel involved two nukes being stolen.
* ''VideoGame/WildArms2'' has a situation like this, where the leader of one country excavates an ancient nuke in order to intimidate the absurdly powerful terrorist organization that's currently running amok all over the planet. Three guesses as to who ends up swiping the nuke and whether or not it actually gets used.
* In ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerTiberiumWars'''s Nod campaign, Act III revolves around a combination of this, [[spoiler: an AlienInvasion]], and [[spoiler: [[DarkMessiah Kane]] living]]. Note that the theft is accomplished in two parts: first, hijacking the warheads by force [[spoiler: using the aforementioned alien invasion as cover]] and then pretending to team up with the local GDI garrison [[spoiler: against the aliens]] while secretly stealing the launch codes. And then [[VideogameCrueltyPotential you get to nuke (a GDI base near)]] [[ShinyNewAustralia Sydney]].
* ''VideoGame/MassEffect1'' has a minor mission where you track down a probe the Alliance sent out during the First Contact War, that had been equipped with a nuclear warhead. [[spoiler:It turns out to have been stolen by terrorists]].
** In the third game, there's also the [[spoiler: turian]] bomb on Tuchanka that Cerberus uncovers and tries to detonate.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'': In "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", Sideshow Bob steals a 10 megaton nuclear bomb and uses to hold Springfield hostage, forcing it to shut down all television broadcasts. [[spoiler: When he detonates it, it turns out the bomb had decayed beyond use due to Bob picking a nuke constructed during the 50's]]
* BatmanTheAnimatedSeries has the episode "Harleyquinade", where TheJoker gets his hands on a nuclear bomb from a Gotham Mob AuctionOfEvil, who in turn had stolen it from a goverment transport.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Real Life ]]

* [[http://www.genecurtis.com/LostNuclearBombs.htm This website]] has a list of nuclear bombs which are believed to have been lost at sea.
* In 1966, a B-52G collided with its KC-135 refueller off the southern coast of Spain, the KC-135 exploding and the B-52 breaking up. Of the four nuclear weapons being carried at the time by the bomber, three dropped on land near the fishing village of Palomares, Spain, and the remaining one fell in the Mediterranean Sea. All four devices were eventually recovered, though the conventional explosives of two of the three that fell on land detonated, contaminating the area with weapon grade plutonium.
* Note that all above examples are technically cases of a Broken Arrow, because the losses of nuclear devices were accidental. Empty Quiver denotes an intentional theft, and there is ''no'' confirmed cases of such an event wherever it might be.

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