United States Air Force Major Frank Cross is in trouble with the “brass” again, after making an unauthorized humanitarian relief flight, dropping sacks of rice to starving Kurds. The press considers him a hero, requiring him by the President’s side during his election campaign and thus preventing the Pentagon from court-martialling him. Instead, they assign him to carry the “black bag”, the President’s high-tech briefcase containing the “go codes” and communications computer for launching America’s nuclear ICBM arsenal in case of a national emergency.
However, on his first day on the job in Chicago a team of mercenaries manages to steal the black bag. Cross, however, manages to fake his death and infiltrate the mercenaries. Thinking they have seen the last of him, they fly with a helicopter from the rooftops of Chicago into the night sky and onwards to their final target: United States Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Facility K-7. A disguised Cross slips into the missile silo as the team murders the silo personnel and takes over the launch control using the secret codes contained in the black bag.
They are led by ex-Marine Colonel Douglas Murphy, whose unit was sent to kill Saddam Hussein during an undercover operation in Iraq before Operation Desert Storm and was then exterminated by the President, who was Army Chief at the time, for political reasons. Driven by revenge, he launches a terrifying warning shot and sends a Peacekeeper nuclear missile that destroys Mount Rushmore, killing thousands. Only then does Murphy make his chilling demand: unless the President kills himself in front of a live television audience, Washington D.C. will be destroyed.
All attempts to stop one of the missiles from leaving the silo fail. Finally, the President gives in to Murphy’s demand, only to realise that Murphy lied to humiliate him, so that he then should helplessly watch Washington be destroyed as Murphy helplessly had to watch his unit be destroyed against his will by the President. At the first opportunity, however, Frank acts against the terrorists and, with the help of the last surviving member of the silo, Lt. Colonel Northrop, he is able to kill the mercenaries and prevent the destruction of Washington in the nick of time.