Major Vic “Deak” Deakins (John Travolta) and Captain Riley Hale (Christian Slater) are pilots in the United States Air Force. After a sparring match, the pilots are assigned to a top secret evening exercise over Utah, flying a B-3 Stealth Bomber (a fictional iteration of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber) with two B83 nuclear bombs on board. After successfully evading Air Force radar during the exercise, Deakins begins a friendly conversation to distract and shoot Hale. A struggle ensues, ending when Deakins ejects Hale. He then releases the bombs from the plane without detonating them. When the Air Force base regains radar contact with the aircraft, Deakins reports, “Hale’s lost it. I’m punching out”, and ejects, leaving the plane to crash on the mountainside over the Utah canyons. A search and rescue team is sent to recover the warheads. They do not find the warheads in the plane’s payload bay remains and report a “Broken Arrow”, a situation wherein nuclear weapons are missing. The team later locates the warheads in a canyon but are killed while recovering them by mercenaries, including Sgt. Kelly (Howie Long), a corrupt member of the team. Deakins arrives moments later and plots his next move with Pritchett (Bob Gunton), the operation’s financier. The mercenaries plan to blackmail the government with the threat of detonating the warhead in a civilian area. Meanwhile, Hale survives the ejection and is found by Park Ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis) whom, after a brief stand-off, he convinces to help him track down Deakins and foil his plot. After recovering the weapons from a hijacked Humvee and escaping to a nearby copper mine, Hale attempts to disable them using a safety feature which would render them unusable, by intentionally entering the arming code incorrectly. Deakins, however, had anticipated this scenario, and Hale inadvertently arms the warhead. Unable to disarm the warhead, Hale decides to place the unarmed weapon deep in the abandoned mine to prevent them from being used elsewhere. Deakins arrives and secures the unarmed warhead, leaving Hale and Terry to die in the upcoming explosion. A NEST team helicopter chases Deakins’ team. Pritchett berates him for allowing the helicopter to give chase, and Deakins, fed up with his complaining, kills Pritchett by crushing his throat with a flashlight. Hale and Terry escape from the mine via an underground river just before the bomb detonates. The bomb’s EMP destroys the NEST team sent in to recover the warheads. Terry and Hale track Deakins to a motorboat to be used for transporting the remaining warhead. While trying to steal the boat, Terry is forced to hide on board while Deakins moves the warhead. Military forces rescue Hale. Hale deduces that Deakins intends to move the warhead on board a train and sets off in a helicopter to find the train and hunt down the remaining mercenaries. Aboard the train, Hale finds Terry, whom Deakins has unsuccessfully tried to threaten into arming the weapon. A gunfight ensues in which the helicopter that Hale was on with Colonel Wilkins (Delroy Lindo) is destroyed, and Wilkins and most of Deakins’ mercenaries are killed. With his own helicopter sabotaged by Hale and his plan falling apart, Deakins decides to detonate the nuke early. Kelly, realizing they will have no chance to get away in time, holds Deakins at gunpoint and demands he disarm the weapon. As the train passes over a viaduct, Hale leaps into the boxcar and kicks Kelly out to his death below. Terry detaches the rear section of the train (with the bomb) from the front, but gets into a shootout with the engineer, resulting in the engineer falling on the train brakes, causing the train to stop. However, the detached boxcars continue to coast at high speed. Deakins, still in possession of a device that can either disarm or detonate the bomb instantly, forces Hale to drop his gun and challenges him to a hand-to-hand fight. Hale uses his speed to match Deakins’ strength, ultimately defeating Deakins. Hale leaps out of the train at the last second with the weapon’s remote control and disarms it. As he does so, the detached boxcars slam into the halted front half of the train. The impact propels the warhead into Deakins, and the entire train derails and explodes, incinerating Deakins. Hale survives and finds a $20 bill fluttering on a twig in the debris – the same $20 bill Deakins had won from him earlier during their boxing practice – plus the nuclear warhead, damaged but intact. He then finds Terry and they formally introduce themselves to each other amidst the wreckage.
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