Over the next few days, we’ll be breaking down the history of missile defense, from the political atmosphere that first brought it to the forefront and on through its development.
During the years that followed the end of World War II, the Western Democracies, lead by the United States, and the Soviet-lead Eastern Bloc were locked in a political, economical, ideological and sometimes military battle known as the Cold War. In the military arena, both main superpowers, were developing more advanced offensive weapon systems like the long-range bomber and the new intercontinental ballistic missile system as a mean to safeguard each country against the possibility of a preemptive strike by the other superpower.
A counterweight was needed to be found in order to defend the United States against this possibility. With the development of the nuclear bomb and later the thermonuclear bomb, the battlefield was changed for ever. All existing defensive systems were rendered obsolete the moment the bomb was delivered to Nagasaki. The awesome power of this new weapon altered the Pentagon’s defense strategy.
In the past, the United States mainland defenses were focused at an conventional invasion attempt. Now, with the realization that a massive nuclear attack could cripple most of the country in hours, the United States military planners began to construct a new defense posture. The new posture was centered around the means of stopping the enemy ability to produce a surprise nuclear strike. This means stopping the bombers and the offensive ballistic missiles. By the mid 1950s, after an extended period of research and the development, the U.S. was able to field a first generation antiaircraft missile system that was capable of delivering conventional or nuclear warheads at incoming bomber formations. At the same time, both the United States and the Soviet Union were moving ahead with the development of a series of offensive missile platforms that could deliver a bigger nuclear payload against ground targets located thousand of miles away. The need to defend the home land was more imperative now that at any time in the history of the United States. The development and fielding of workable defensive missile system was giving top priority by the U.S. government.
These missile systems were the ultimate in weapon development of the era. Massive amounts resources were invested in the research and development of these missile systems. This book will provide the reader with an overview of the fixed, land-based defensive missile systems developed by the United States during the years of the Cold War. The NIKE, BOMARC and Safe Guard programs will be discussed as well as the deterrence missile systems, the Atlas, Titan, Minuteman and Peacekeeper will also be discussed. The book end with a brief look at the future of the United States antiballistic missile defenses in the 21st century.
For more on the history of missile defense, including legislation, see the MDAA website
Check back tomorrow for more on missile defense history.
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