The SAM Upgrade Blues

in arms control negotiations,
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SAM Upgrade  


some corrections to their SA-2 model; we questioned some of the characteristics ascribed to the Mark-11 reentry vehicle carried by the Minuteman ICBM force. But we could not shake the basic validity of Sandia's study. Moreover, we were impressed with the importance of a detailed understanding of U.S. weapons when assessing the capabilities of foreign weapon systems to counter them. For example, the Mark-11 RV has an extremely small radar cross-section that poses an almost impossible target for air defense radars. What we had failed to realize was that the nose shield which provides this low cross-section burns off at about 90 thousand feet so that the reentry vehicle then "blooms" as a target. The effect of this characteristic-along with others-was to make incoming RVs far easier targets for SAM systems than we had previously realized. If nothing else, the intelligence community was forced to abandon its consideration of foreign weapons systems largely in vacuo and to accommodate its analysis to the need to answer very specific questions arising from the net technical assessment of U.S. and opposing weaponry.
     Sandia's work was followed by a study by the General Research Corporation for the DDR&E and a hurried look at the problem by the Strategic Military Panel of the President's Scientific Advisory Committee.
     After a substantial amount of agonizing over these studies, and in response to the expressed concern of the DDR&E and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), it was decided within OSI that we ourselves would investigate the ABM capabilities of the SA-2 system. The report was a departure from previous studies of Soviet advanced weapons developments produced by the CIA. It concerned itself with the potential capabilities of a system-with suitable modifications-to perform a role for which it was not designed and in which it might at best be only marginally effective. We knew from unassailable evidence that the SA-2 system had been designed and developed for defense against aerodynamic targets-not ballistic missiles. All available intelligence information indicated that its deployment and operational doctrine were dictated solely by consideration of its air defense role. Furthermore, our assessment was based upon a greater knowledge of the SA-2 system than almost any other Soviet weapon system; it had been derived from years of collecting information on the system, including the acquisition of actual hardware. It might also be noted that the study was undertaken to the absolute horror of a number of the Agency's best and most respectable air defense analysts.
     In performing the study, we required that all the elements of the system be employed in very nearly the same way that they were used in an air defense role, but allowed the introduction of operational doctrine and procedures specifically tailored for an ABM role. We assumed the interceptors to be armed with nuclear warheads-a sine qua non for ABM capabilities. This approach later became known as the "mini-mod system" when many more imaginative modifications to the system were introduced in response to the identification of its specific shortcomings when used for missile defense.
     The study was completed and published in December 1969. It generally confirmed the basic results of the Sandia analysis: the nature of the ballistic missile defense problem and the characteristics of the existing U.S. missile threat allowed the SA-2 system-under restricted circumstances-to defend portions of the USSR against a part of the U.S. Minuteman force. To provide
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:41 AM
Last Updated: Oct 25, 2007 01:29 PM