Missile Defense Milestones
1944 - 1997
Ballistic Missile Defense Organization
- 8 Sep 44
- The Missile Age began when the first German V-2 missile struck
- The Allies developed a plan to use timed anti-aircraft artillery
barrages to defend London against incoming V-2 missiles. The plan was never implemented
because of the damage that would have been caused when unexploded artillery shells fell
back on the city.
- At the end of World War II, U.S. leaders learned of Nazi plans for
an ICBM that would have been aimed at New York City had the war continued into 1946.
- 4 Jul 45
- A delegation of American officers, which went to Europe to
investigate the use of ballistic missiles during World War II, recommended that the U.S.
undertake a research and development program to develop defenses against these new weapons.
- Dec 45
- A report by the Scientific Advisory Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces
(forerunner of the U.S. Air Force) discussed the use of missiles and a form of energy
beam to defend against missile attacks.
- 4 Mar 46
- The Army Air Forces, precursor of the U.S. Air Force, initiated two
long term studies, Projects Thumper and Wizard, that were to explore the feasibility of
developing interceptor missiles that could destroy missiles moving as fast as 4,000 miles
per hour at an altitude as high as 500,000 feet.
- 29 May 46
- The Stilwell Board Report, which had been convened in November
1945 to determine what equipment U.S. ground forces would require following World War II,
recommended the development of defenses against ballistic missiles. The report stated:
"Guided missiles, winged or nonwinged, traveling at extreme altitudes and at velocities in excess of supersonic speed, are inevitable. Intercontinental ranges of over 3,000 miles and payload[s] sufficient to carry atomic explosive[s] are to be expected. Remotely controlled, and equipped with homing devices designed to be attracted to sound, metal, or heat, such missiles would be incapable of interception with any existing equipment such as fighter aircraft and antiaircraft fire. Guided interceptor missiles, dispatched in accordance with electronically computed data obtained from radar detection stations, will be required."
- Sep 53
- The prospect of ICMB developments prompted the seven marshals who had
led Soviet efforts in World War II to ask the Central Committee of the Communist Party of
the Soviet Union to investigate the possible development of an ABM system. In response to
this request, a feasibility study was conducted and the determination reached that missile
defenses were possible. This led the Soviets to initiate their ABM development program at
the end of 1953.
- Using an analog computer, Bell Telephone Laboratories completed 50,000
simulated intercepts of ballistic missile targets. These simulations indicated that it
was possible to hit a missile with another missile. Up to this point, a number of
scientists said that it was impossible to intercept missiles because of their high speed.
This, they said, would be like "hitting a bullet with another bullet."
- 16 Jan 58
- Secretary of Defense Neil H. McElroy assigned primary
responsibility for the ballistic missile defense mission to the U.S. Army, ordering the
Air Force to scale back its Project Wizard and make the radar and command and control
equipment from this project compatible with the Army's Nike Zeus ballistic missile defense
- 4 Mar 61
- According to one report, the Soviets completed the first
interception and destruction of a missile warhead. An official report described this
intercept as follows:
"The V-1000 antimissile was launched according to a computer command. The detonation of the antimissile's high-explosive fragmentation warhead was conducted at an altitude of 25 km according to a command from earth from a computer after which, based upon data from the film recorder, the ballistic missile warhead began to fall apart."
- 19 Jul 62
- During a test over the Pacific Ocean, a Nike Zeus missile fired
from the Army's Kwajalein test facility intercepted a dummy warhead from an Atlas ICBM.
Although the Zeus only came within two kilometers of the warhead, this was close enough
so that the nuclear warhead of a fully operational Zeus would have destroyed the ICBM
- 22 Dec 62
- A Zeus missile came within 200 meters of a reentry vehicle during
a simulated intercept over the Pacific Ocean.
- 10 Nov 66
- Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara informed the American
people that the Soviets were deploying their Galosh ballistic missile defense system.
- 23 Jun 67
- At the Glassboro summit, President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of
Defense Robert McNamara tried to convince Soviet Premier Alexsei N. Kosygin that the
Soviets should abandon their effort to deploy missile defenses, for the U.S. would merely
have to add more nuclear warheads to its ICBM force to overcome these defenses. This
elicited the following response from Kosygin: "Defense is moral; offense is immoral!"
- 18 Sep 67
- Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara announced President Lyndon
Johnson's decision to deploy the Sentinel ballistic missile defense system. This was to
be a two-tiered defensive system that employed two interceptors: the Spartan and the
Sprint, both of which were nuclear-tipped. The Spartan intercepted warheads and decoys
outside the atmosphere. The Sprint intercepted warheads within the atmosphere where air
resistance would strip away decoys and make it easier to find the attacking warheads.
The system itself was designed to protect the U.S. from the so-called "Nth country
threat," an attack by unsophisticated ICBMs such as those the People's Republic of China
- 6 Feb 69
- Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird halted the deployment of the
Sentinel system pending the completion of a review of U.S. strategic programs by the new
administration of President Richard Nixon.
- 14 Mar 69
- President Richard Nixon announced his decision to deploy a missile
defense system designed essentially to protect U.S. ICBM fields from attack by Soviet
missiles. This system retained the same missiles that were to be deployed as part of the
Johnson administration's Sentinel system. The re-oriented missile defense system was
renamed Safeguard. The overall plan for Safeguard included the option to expand the
system so that it could become a population defense against the "Nth country threat."
- 26 May 72
- U.S. President Richard Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid
Brezhnev signed the SALT I agreements which include the ABM Treaty. This treaty limited
the Soviets and the U.S. to the deployment of two ABM sites, each having 100 interceptors.
One site was to guard an ICBM field, the other would protect the national command
authorities at each nation's capital city. A 1974 protocol reduced the number of
permitted sites to one.
- In view of technical limitations and the restrictions on missile
defenses contained in the ABM Treaty, Congress ordered the Army to close down the
Safeguard system, scarcely four months after it had become operational. The Soviets
continued to maintain their own ABM system near Moscow. At the same time, Congress
directed the Army to re-orient its missile defense program from one designed to produce
a follow-on system to Safeguard to a program of R&D that was to serve as a hedge against
a possible Soviet breakout from the ABM Treaty. There were at least two major problems
with the Safeguard system. First, its large phased array radars were vulnerable to
destruction by Soviet missiles. Destruction of these radar systems would blind the
defensive system. Additionally, when the nuclear warheads on defending Spartan and Sprint
missiles were detonated, these explosions themselves would also blind the radar systems.
- The U.S. Army pushed the development of technologies that made
possible a revolution in missile defense interceptors. These interceptors could destroy
their targets by actually colliding with them. This eliminated the need for nuclear
warheads and thus solved one of the major problems with the earlier Safeguard missile
- 31 Jul 79
- Ronald Reagan, Republican presidential hopeful, visited the NORAD
Command Post under Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs. Here, Reagan saw a
demonstration of the command and control facilities the U.S. would use to alert U.S.
retaliatory forces and the American people in case of nuclear war. He was upset to learn
that there was nothing the U.S. could do to defend itself against missile attacks.
Shortly after this, he decided to make missile defenses a part of his national security
policy if he were elected president.
- 8 Jan 82
- A group of private advisors headed by Mr. Karl R. Bendetsen briefed
President Reagan in the Oval Office, recommending that he launch an emergency national
program to develop missile defenses. This effort should be patterned after the Manhattan
District Project that produced America's atomic bomb during World War II.
- 11 Feb 83
- After months of considering the strategic issues raised by
America's inability to field the MX missile as a response to the growing ability of the
Soviets to deliver an effective first strike against U.S. ICBMs, the Joint Chiefs
unanimously recommended to President Reagan that the U.S. begin to pursue a national
security strategy that would place increased emphasis on strategic defenses.
- 23 Mar 83
- President Ronald Reagan announced his decision to launch a major
new R&D program to see if it might be feasible to deploy effective missile defenses at
some point in the future.
- 25 Mar 83
- The policy announced in the 23 March speech was formalized in
National Security Decision Directive 85.
- 18 Apr 83
- President Reagan issued guidance calling for the completion of a
two-part study. One study would assess the state of missile defense technology and
recommend a technology program for the new missile defense program. The second part would
assess the strategic and policy implications of such a program. The first study became
known as the Defensive Technologies Study or the Fletcher Report, and the second study
became known as the Future Security Strategy Study (sometimes called the Hoffman Report).
- Oct 83
- The Future Security Strategy Study (FSSS) was completed. This study
consists of a series of papers that were completed by two groups: an interagency group
headed by Mr. Franklin C. Miller, assistant secretary of defense for strategic forces
policy, and a group of contractor personnel headed by Mr. Fred S. Hoffman of Pan
Heuristics Corporation. Mr. Miller served as the overall study director. Among the major
findings of these two groups were the idea that missile defenses could enhance deterrence
(Miller group) and the view that an anti-tactical ballistic missile system could serve as
a useful first step toward a national missile defense system (Hoffman group).
- Oct 83
- The first version of the Defensive Technologies Study or Fletcher
Report was completed. The final version did not appear until February 1984. This report
outlined two models for the new missile defense research program ordered by the President.
The favored program was to be technology constrained and called for a funding level of
$1.405 billion in 1984, $2.385 billion in 1985, $3.43 billion in 1986, $4.284 billion in
1987, $4.623 billion in 1988, and $4.766 in 1989. The alternative program was funded at
a lower level and referred to as the fiscally constrained program. The recommended
program was to consist of five basic research areas: Systems; Surveillance, Acquisition,
Tracking, and Kill Assessment; Directed Energy Weapons; Kinetic Energy Weapons; and
Supporting Technologies (Survivability, Lethality, Space Power, Space Logistics;
Communications, Computers, and Software). The technology constrained program became the
guide for the Strategic Defense Initiative. Comments in the Fletcher report adumbrated
both limited missile defenses and theater missile defenses. Specifically, the report
recognized the commonality between the terminal phase of a strategic missile defense
system and more limited defensive systems.
- 6 Jan 84
- Presidential National Security Decision Directive 119 established
the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) to explore the possibility of developing missile
defenses as an alternative means of deterring nuclear war. The technology plan developed
by the Fletcher committee was to be the general guide for initiating this program. This
directive also made the Secretary of Defense responsible for the new program. The emphasis
in the program was to be on non-nuclear developments, although research work on defensive
nuclear devices was to continue "as a hedge against a Soviet ABM breakout."
- 27 Mar 84
- Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger appointed Lt. Gen. James A.
Abrahamson, U.S. Air Force, as first Director, Strategic Defense Initiative Organization
- 24 Apr 84
- Secretary Weinberger signed the first charter for SDIO. This
charter was specifically designed to be general in nature to give the organization's first
director extensive leeway in managing the program. The charter also specified that the
Director, SDIO, would report directly to the Secretary of Defense.
- 10 Jun 84
- The core of the Army's new hit-to-kill interceptor technology was
successfully demonstrated in the homing overlay experiment. In this demonstration, a test
intercept vehicle was launched from Kwajalein Missile Range aboard a modified Minuteman
rocket. Also riding on the Minuteman was an infrared sensor package and an on-board
computer. The interceptor itself carried a computer and an infrared sensor package for
guidance; it was also equipped with a kill device that resembled the folded skeleton of
an umbrella with weights attached to its ribs. Once above the atmosphere, the sensor and
computer in the Minuteman located and tracked a re-entry vehicle that had been launched
from Vandenberg AFB by a second Minuteman missile. Then, the on-board computer of the
launch rocket passed tracking data to the computer on the intercept vehicle. At the
appropriate time, the interceptor package was launched and homed in on the target using
its own infrared sensor and on-board computer. Once free of the mother ship, the kill
vehicle deployed its umbrella structure, crashed into the target vehicle, and destroyed it.
This successful intercept followed partial successes in two other test flights.
- Apr-Nov 85
- The debate over the broad versus the narrow interpretation of the
ABM Treaty began. One critical event in this early phase of the debate was a 6 October
appearance on "Meet the Press" by National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane in which he
indicated that the Reagan administration would be following the broad interpretation of
the Treaty. Nevertheless, the administration continued to follow the narrow
- 6 Sep 85
- The Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser destroyed a Titan booster
rigged to simulate the conditions of a thrusting rocket booster.
- Dec 85
- The Inter-National Research Institute completed a study of the SDIO
organization and manpower situation. The study, which was commissioned by General
Abrahamson in August 1985, was directed by Brigadier General Al Esposito, USAF (Ret).
The Esposito study found that SDIO was "critically short of the people and skills required
to carry out the responsibilities" in its charter. To overcome these difficulties, SDIO
should reorganize and establish a Federally Funded Research Center to support the
organization. The recommended organization included "two key line positions, the Deputy
for Programs and Systems and the Deputy for Technology."
- Dec 85
- The SDIO Panel on Computing in Support of Battle Management submitted
its report (the Eastport Study). The panel had been appointed
"'to devise an appropriate computational/communication response to the SDI battle management computing problem and make recommendations for a research and technology development program to implement the response.'"
The report concluded that "computing resources and battle management software for a strategic defense system are within the capabilities of the hardware and software technologies that could be developed within the next several years." But this was a difficult task that constituted "the paramount strategic defense problem." The report noted that the "tradeoffs necessary to make the software task tractable are in the system architecture." The study stated that a "promising class of system architectures" was one that was "less dependent on tight coordination," for such an approach to the overall architecture offered "robustness, simplicity, and the ability to infer the performance of full-scale deployment by evaluating the performance of small parts of the system." The report also recommended the establishment of a non-centralized National Test Bed to provide the simulation support that would be necessary to solve the problems of battle management.
- 30 Jul 86
- General Abrahamson directed that SDIO be reorganized. The new
organizational structure featured two principal deputies: Brigadier General Malcolm
O'Neill became the Deputy for Programs and Systems, and Dr. Lou Marquet became the Deputy
for Technology. The reorganization was based upon the Esposito Study of SDIO's
organizational requirements (see Dec 85 entry above). This change in SDIO's organization
signalled the rising importance being assigned to system/architectural designs and was an
indication that SDIO was resolving some of the technical issues it faced when the program
- Aug 86
- SDIO and the military services signed a charter establishing the
National Test Bed, which was to operate under the overall guidance of SDIO, which funded
the project. The charter provided for the establishment of an NTB Joint Program Office
(JPO) under executive direction of the Air Force. Through the JPO, the services were
responsible for executing the NTB program.
- 11 Sep 86
- SDIO completed the Delta 180 experiment. During this experiment,
SDIO completed what was the first equivalent of a boost phase intercept of a target.
Additionally, this experiment involved a number of sophisticated sensor experiments,
including the collection of data from space on a booster vehicle launched from the White
Sands Missile Test Range in New Mexico.
- 11-12 Oct 86
- U.S. President Ronald Reagan and U.S.S.R. President Mikhail
Gorbachev held their second summit meeting at Reykjavik, Iceland. During this meeting,
Gorbachev pressed Reagan heavily to accept limitations on the SDI program as a
pre-condition for other agreements restricting offensive arms. Reagan refused to accept
Gorbachev's proposed restrictions on SDI.
- Nov 86
- The germination of the concept for Brilliant Pebbles occurred in
discussions between Lowell Wood and Greg Canavan. There were antecedents of this
interceptor concept in the interceptor program carried out by the U.S. Army in the
seventies and early eighties, but it was Wood specifically who became the leading champion
of "brilliant" technologies as the answer to problems posed by the costliness and
vulnerability of space-based missile defense systems. "Brilliant" technologies refers to
the use of powerful, miniaturized computers and miniaturized sensors to give the
capabilities previously possessed only by large, expensive satellites to much smaller,
- 4 Dec 86
- While attending a meeting of NATO's defense ministers in Brussels,
Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger announced the award of seven SDI contracts for the
first phase of a theater missile defense architectural study competition. Contracts of
$2 million were awarded to each of seven European and American prime contractor teams
which were to complete their work by July 1987. They would then compete for further
contracts based on the results of their phase one studies.
- May 87
- The SDIO staff moved into new facilities that had been constructed
for it under the Pentagon concourse where the old bus tunnels used to be. Prior to this
time, the bulk of the staff was housed in the Matomic Building in downtown Washington D.C.
- 11 May 87
- Judge Abraham D. Sofaer, State Department Legal Advisor, completed
his study of how the ABM Treaty affected the SDI program. The report was released on
13 May. Briefly, Sofaer concluded that the Treaty did not preclude testing of space-based
missile defense systems, including directed energy weapons.
- Jun/Jul 87
- The Defense Acquisition Board of the Office of the Secretary of
Defense conducted its first review of the SDI program. A second review was held in
September. As a result, the Phase I baseline architecture was approved and six specific
components of the SDI program were authorized to enter the demonstration and validation
stage of the acquisition process.
- 29 Jul 87
- The SDI Organization and the Army's Strategic Defense Command
announced the selection of five phase I contractor teams which were to be invited to
participate in the second phase of the SDI Theater Missile Defense Architecture Study.
Contracts were expected to be completed in September with each team having until July
1988 to refine its architectural concept. The value of each contract was to very from
$4.5 million to $7 million depending upon the exercise of contract options.
- Nov 87
- Lowell Wood briefed General James Abrahamson on the interceptor
concept that eventually became Brilliant Pebbles.
- 4 Nov 87
- A Patriot with the PAC-2 modifications successfully destroyed
another Patriot missile that was simulating the flight of an SS-23 missile.
- 19 Jan 88
- Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) delivered a speech to the Arms Control
Association calling for a reorientation of the SDI program. Nunn called for the new SDI
program to focus first on developing a "limited system for protecting against accidental
and unauthorized missile launches." A longer range goal of the program would be to
develop a more comprehensive defensive system.
- Spring 88
- The National Test Facility (NTF) was activated in temporary
facilities at Falcon Air Force Base near Colorado Springs. On 23 March 1988, the ground
was broken to begin construction of the permanent research building for the NTF, which was
also to be located at Falcon Air Force Base. Eighteen months after the ground breaking,
the building was completed.
- 30 Sep 88
- The SDI Organization was realigned. Among the major changes was
the addition of several new positions. A chief of staff was added to oversee the
activities of the SDIO staff. The addition of a chief engineer ensured the many
engineering tasks and analysis efforts would receive the top-level management attention
they required. Another major change was the creation of the Resource Management
Directorate by merging the Comptroller and Support Services Directorates, a move designed
to increase management efficiency. In another part of the change, the Programs and
Systems Deputate was redesignated the Systems Deputate. Within this last office, a major
goal of the reorganization was to achieve better integration and management of the six
SDS Phase I elements by placing them under the Phase I program office within the Systems
Deputate. A further change involved giving the Architectures and Analysis Directorate,
which was formerly the Follow-On Phase Architectures Directorate, additional strength so
that it could better address "alternative and innovative architectures."
- 1 Feb 89
- Lt. Gen. George L. Monahan, Jr., became the second director of the
Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, succeeding General Abrahamson who retired at
the end of January.
- 9 Feb 89
- General Abrahamson's end of tour report contained a strong
recommendation of the Brilliant Pebbles concept. Abrahamson stated that an entire
space-based architecture based on Brilliant Pebbles could be deployed in five years for a
cost of no more than $25 billion.
- 3 Mar 89
- President George H. W. Bush ordered a general review of U.S.
national defense strategy.
- 14 Jun 89
- Based upon his administration's review of U.S. security
requirements, President Bush concluded that the goals of the SDI program were generally
sound and that the program should continue in such a way as to offer the possibility of
a deployment decision in the next few years. Emphasis in this effort was to be directed
toward perfecting boost-phase kill technologies such as Brilliant Pebbles. In support of
these directions, Bush directed DOD to carry out an independent review of the SDI program
and to have this review finished in the fall of 1989.
- Summer 89
- Four major studies of the Brilliant Pebbles concept were carried
out, including a review by the JASONs. The general conclusion of these studies was that
Brilliant Pebbles was a promising, technically feasible concept that could provide the
solution to cost and vulnerability problems of the space-based elements of the Phase I
Strategic Defense System architecture.
- Dec 89
- At the request of Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, Ambassador
Henry F. Cooper agreed to carry out the independent review of the SDI program that
President Bush had called for as a result of his administration's review of national
- 15 Mar 90
- Ambassador Henry F. Cooper submitted the report of his independent
survey of the SDI program. Here, Cooper endorsed the concept of Brilliant Pebbles and
spelled out the concept that became the system for Global Protection Against Limited
- 30 Jun 90
- Lt. Gen. George L. Monahan, Jr., retired from the Air Force.
- 10 Jul 90
- President George Bush appointed Ambassador Henry F. Cooper to the
position of Director, Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.
- 2 Aug 90
- Iraq invaded Kuwait.
- 24 Oct 90
- The FY 1991 Appropriations Conference Committee Report, H. Rep.
101-938 called for the Secretary of Defense to establish a centrally managed Theater
Missile Defense (TMD) program funded at $218.249 million for FY 1991. The conference
committee report also required the Defense Department to accelerate R&D on theater and
tactical ballistic missile defense systems. While Congress recognized that it was too
early to determine the baseline for a tactical ballistic missile defense (TMD) system,
it asked the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan by 1 March 1991 for determining a TMD
baseline system and then developing and fielding this system. Once determined, this plan
was to be funded fully in DOD's Six Year Defense Program (1992-1997). Furthermore, the
plan was to take account of Air Force and Navy requirements and include participation of
- 9 Nov 90
- The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition assigned to SDIO the
responsibility for the Defense Department's centrally managed Theater Missile Defense
- 17 Jan 91
- U.S.-led coalition forces in the Middle East began military
operations against Iraqi forces.
- 18 Jan 91
- According to press reports, for the first time in history, an
anti-missile missile intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile under combat conditions.
A Patriot air defense missile destroyed an Iraqi Scud missile that was attacking a U.S.
air base in Saudi Arabia. The crew that fired the Patriot missile was led by First
Lieutenant Charles McMurtrey of Montgomery, Alabama. The Patriot was launched against
the Scud at 4:28 a.m. local time. A reporter for the Los Angeles Times wrote: "The age
of 'Star Wars' had arrived." After the end of the Gulf War, questions were raised about
whether or not this first "kill" actually occurred. This was part of a general public
debate about the operational effectiveness of the Patriot system that began soon after
hostilities ended and continued for about two years.
- 29 Jan 91
- In his State of the Union Address, President Bush formally
announced the shift in focus in the SDI program to the concept known as Global Protection
Against Limited Strikes. The president stated:
"I have directed that the Strategic Defense Initiative program be refocused on providing protection from limited ballistic missile strikes, whatever their source. Let us pursue an SDI program that can deal with any future threat to the United States, to our forces overseas and to our friends and allies."
- 25 Feb 91
- A Scud missile struck a barracks housing Army reservists, killing
28 soldiers. Later, a monument was constructed at the entrance to the headquarters of the
14th Quartermaster Detachment at Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in honor of 13 of the 28 people
- 30 Mar 91
- The Defense Department dispatched the Theater Missile Defense
Report to Congress. This report was submitted in response to directions contained in the
FY 1991 Appropriations Conference Committee Report (see 24 Oct 90 entry above). This
report informed Congress that the SDIO would be the centralized management office for the
theater and tactical missile defense programs and advised that SDIO would establish a
"managerial position as Deputy for TMD, equal in status to the Deputies for technology and
strategic programs." This new office was established as part of the reorganization
announced on 15 March by SDIO Director Ambassador Henry Cooper.
- 23 Apr 91
- General Donald Kutyna, USAF, commander of the U.S. Space Command,
told the Senate Armed Services Committee that U.S. control of space enhanced the
effectiveness of coalition forces during the Persian Gulf War. The U.S. must plan in the
future on having the means to control space by attacking the space assets of a possible
enemy. The general also pointed out that General Norman Schwarzkof, commander of the
coalition's forces, was able to move his troops without the movements being detected by
the Iraqis because of our control of air and the fact that Iraq had no space
- 28 Apr-6 May 91
- At 7:33 AM EST on 28 April, the space shuttle Discovery
blasted off from Cape Canaveral with several major SDIO experiments aboard. The launch,
originally scheduled for 26 February, had been delayed because of a number of difficulties
with the space shuttle. One of the more interesting facets of the experiments carried out
on this mission was the shuttle's execution of a maneuver known as the "Malarkey Milkshake."
This maneuver was part of an experiment that observed the firing of the shuttle's engines
against various backgrounds, e.g., against the earth, against black space, against the
earth's limb, etc. Planners for this experiment had expected to get a minimum of six
views of the shuttle's engines firing and hoped for as many as twelve; they actually
observed the firing engines seventeen times. The shuttle mission ended at 2:56 p.m. EDT
on 6 May when the Discovery landed at Cape Canaveral.
- 5 Dec 91
- President George Bush signed into law H.R. 2100, the "National
Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993." That portion of H.R. 2100
dealing with missile defenses was known as the Missile Defense Act of 1991. This act
required the Defense Department to "aggressively pursue the development of advanced
theater missile defense systems, with the objective of down selecting and deploying such
systems by the mid-1990s." Additionally, DOD was to "develop for deployment by the
earliest date allowed by the availability of appropriate technology or by fiscal year
1996 a cost-effective, operationally effective, and ABM Treaty-compliant antiballistic
missile system at a single site as the initial step toward deployment of an antiballistic
missile system." This system was to be "designed to protect the United States against
limited ballistic missile threats, including accidental or unauthorized launches or Third
- 8 Dec 91
- Three Soviet republics (Russia, Ukraine, and Byelorussia) formed
a commonwealth and declared Gorbachev's government "dead." This effectively marked the
demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
- 1 May 92
- Ambassador Henry Cooper concluded a memorandum of agreement with
the secretaries of the military services that established the organizational structures
and procedures for handling the acquisition of the GPALS system as DOD moved ahead with
deploying missile defenses in accordance with instructions contained in the Missile
Defense Act of 1991. Among the more important provisions of this MOA were that SDIO would
establish a General Manager's function, headed by a three-star general, that would be
responsible for working with the military services in the management of procurement
actions. The General Manager would work through GPALS program executive officers (PEO)
that each military service would appoint. The PEOs were to be of flag rank. Each PEO was
to have authority over all program managers within his or her service who were completing
SDI work in accordance with program management agreements worked out between SDIO and the
- 2 Jul 92
- Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney dispatched to Congress the
180-Day Report required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 1992
and 1993. This report outlined the Defense Department's acquisition strategy in support
of the deployment goals set by the Missile Defense Act of 1991. This strategy would allow
the U.S. to deploy a user operational evaluation system (UOES) to provide limited
protection of the U.S. by 1997. Where theater missile defenses were concerned, the basic
strategy was to upgrade existing defensive capabilities such as those possessed by the
Patriot and then to produce an advanced, new generation system with greater range and
effectiveness. The advanced system was to be the Theater High Altitude Area Defense
(THAAD), which was to have a contingency capability as early as 1996.
- 1 Oct 92
- House and Senate Conferees agreed to the provisions that were to
be included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1993. This law
amended the Missile Defense Act of 1991 by placing more emphasis on treaty compliance in
any National Missile Defense the U.S. might choose to deploy and by eliminating the target
date of 1996 for deployment of the initial NMD site. Finally, the requirement to deploy
advanced theater missile defenses by the mid-1990s was eliminated and replaced with a
requirement to develop advanced theater missile defense systems for deployment.
- Dec 92
- Program management responsibility for Brilliant Pebbles was
transferred to the Air Force. All changes associated with the transition were to be
completed by 30 September 1993.
- 10 Dec 92
- SDIO, U.S. Space Command, and the U.S. Air Force signed a
memorandum of agreement that started the process of transferring ownership of the
National Test Facility to the Air Force, with the final transfer coming at a later time
as agreed to by the three signatories to the agreement.
- 7 Jan 93
- Ambassador Henry F. Cooper, director SDIO, submitted a letter of
resignation to President George Bush, with the resignation to be effective 20 January.
- 20 Jan 93
- William Jefferson Clinton was sworn in as the forty-second
president of the United States.
- 13 May 93
- Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announced that the Strategic
Defense Initiative Organization was being redesignated the Ballistic Missile Defense
Organization to reflect the new focus in DOD's missile defense program and the new way in
which the program would be managed. The major change in management was that the
organization would no longer report directly to the secretary of defense, but rather to
the under secretary of defense for acquisition. Concerning the refocusing of the program,
Secretary Aspin noted that the end of the Cold war meant that the U.S. no longer faced the
threat of a massive Soviet attack such as that the SDI program had concentrated on. Now,
the U.S. faced theater ballistic missiles in the hands of Third World dictators; these
missiles could pose a threat to our forces and to the forces and peoples of our allies.
Additionally, in the future, the U.S. could "face hostile or irrational states that have
both nuclear warheads and ballistic missile technology that could reach the United
States. . . . That's why we've made theater ballistic missile defense our first priority
to cope with the new dangers of the post-Cold War era." The next priority was developing
defenses for the American people.
- 4 Aug 93
- Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announced that President Clinton has
nominated Major General Malcolm O'Neill, BMDO Acting Director, for the position of BMDO
Director with promotion to lieutenant general. General O'Neill's appointment had to be
approved by the Senate.
- 1 Sep 93
- Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announced the results of the
Bottom-Up Review which laid out America's national security plans for the five year period
between FY95 to FY99. Where the ballistic missile defense program was concerned, primary
emphasis was to be placed on Theater Missile Defense, which was to receive $12 billion.
National Missile Defense was to receive $3 billion, with the remaining $3 billion split
between Follow-On Technology and Research and Support.
- 19 Nov 93
- The U.S. Senate confirmed Major General Malcolm R. O'Neill for the
position of Director, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and approved his promotion
to lieutenant general. O'Neill was promoted on 22 November during a ceremony in the
offices of BMDO.
- 30 Nov 93
- The Army carried out a successful test of the Extended Range
Interceptor (ERINT) at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The ERINT collided
with the warhead of a STORM target vehicle. This warhead contained a cluster of 38
pressurized, water-filled containers designed to simulate toxic chemical submunitions.
- 11 Feb 94
- The Army System Acquisition Review Council selected the Extended
Range Interceptor (ERINT) over the Patriot multi-mode missile to be the missile in the
PAC-3 theater missile defense program.
- 15 Feb 94
- An Extended Range Interceptor (ERINT) hit a ballistic missile
target vehicle in a test conducted at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The target was a nose cone carrying a simulated chemical warhead.
- 11 May 94
- A Scud missile struck the North Yemen city of Sanaa at 1 a.m.
today causing fifty-three casualties. As many as twenty-five of these people may have
- 10 Feb 96
- Program Budget Decision 224 was issued. This PBD reflected the
results of a general OSD review of the BMD program. It called for a reduction of about
$2.4 billion in the FYDP for missile defenses with the bulk of the cuts ($2 billion)
coming in the program for the Theater High Altitude Area Defense system.
- Mar 96
- The Peoples' Republic of China (PRC) fired four M-9 missiles that
landed in the vicinity of Taiwan. These firings were part of military maneuvers designed
to influence Taiwanese elections, which the PRC feared might harden Taiwanese resistance
to re-union with mainland China.
- 9 Apr 96
- Dr. Paul Kaminski, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and
Technology, directed the BMDO Director to establish a Joint Program Office to manage the
deployment readiness program for national missile defense.
- 31 May 96
- LTG Malcolm R. O'Neill, BMDO Director, retired after thirty-four
years of military service.
- 26 Jun 96
- Secretary of Defense William Perry announced that Lt. Gen. Lester
G. Lyles, USAF, had been nominated to the Senate for the position of Director, Ballistic
Missile Defense Organization. At the time of his nomination, General Lyles was serving as
Commander of the Air Force Materiel Command's Space and Missile Systems Center at Los
Angeles Air Force Base, California. The General's appointment was confirmed by the
Senate on 2 August.
- 20 Aug 96
- The Israelis completed a successful test of the Arrow II
(Hetz-2) anti-ballistic missile. During this test the Arrow II missile destroyed a
target missile that was an Arrow I, modified so that its radar cross section and warhead
matched that of a Scud missile. The target missile was launched from a barge in the
Mediterranean Sea about four minutes before the launching of the Arrow II missile from an
Israeli air force base on the coast of Israel about ten kilometers away. Israel's Green
Pine fire control radar participated in this test and was apparently able to track the
- Nov 96
- The U.S. Army fielded an improved version of the Patriot PAC-2
system that included the class 2M radios of the Joint Tactical Information Distribution
System (JTIDS). This gave the Patriot system the ability to use Link 16, DOD's most
advanced common data link, which would allow the system to communicate with other missile
defense systems. The "configuration two" Patriot also had the capability of communicating
via Link 11, which would allow communication with the systems of NATO allies.
- 3 Dec 96
- The Defense Department hosted a special briefing for the press to
discuss the finding that data gathered by SDIO's Clementine space experiment indicated
the presence of a substantial amount of ice in the north polar region of the moon.
- 24 Jan 97
- A modified Standard Missile 2 Block IVA successfully intercepted
and destroyed a Lance missile target at the White Sands Missile Range. This was the first
successful intercept of a missile by the SM2. During the test, the interceptor
successfully transitioned from radar guidance to its infrared guidance system prior to
destroying the target with its blast fragmentation warhead. This successful test was one
of the prerequisites for moving the Navy's Theater Wide missile defense system into the
Engineering and Manufacturing Development stage of the defense acquisition process.
- 7 Feb 97
- BMDO and the U.S. Army's Space and Strategic Defense Command
carried out a test in which a Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) missile successfully
intercepted a theater ballistic target missile. The target missile was fired from Bigen
Island, Aur Atoll, toward the Kwajalein Atoll; the interceptor missile was fired from
Meck Island in the Kwajalein Atoll and intercepted the target missile over the Pacific
Ocean. A Patriot Guidance-Enhanced Missile was also fired at the target, but destroyed
itself because the PAC-2 missile had already destroyed the target missile. The target
missile had the characteristics of a variant of the Scud missile.
- 1 Apr 97
- BMDO established the Joint Program Office for the National Missile
Defense program after submitting to Congress the cost-benefit analysis report that was
required by the FY 1997 Defense Appropriations Conference Report. The JPO was to be
responsible for "the design, development and demonstration of an NMD system to defend
the United States from ballistic missile attack by 2003." After a 1999 system
demonstration, the JPO was to be in a position to deploy a national missile defense
system if the threat warranted such a deployment.
- 24 Jun 97
- BMDO's Joint Program Office, in conjunction with the U.S. Army's National Missile Defense Program Office and the Air Force's 30th Space Wing, successfully completed the first flight test (IFT-1A) of "a candidate infrared sensor designed for possible use with the National Missile Defense (NMD) program." This sensor was produced by Boeing North America and employed a very "sensitive infrared silicon-based focal plane arrray." Another sensor developed by Hughes Aircraft will be tested later. In the test of 24 June, a specially configured Minuteman II rocket, fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, lifted aloft a suite of test targets. This launch occurred twenty-one minutes before a payload launch vehicle sent the Boeing sensor package into space from Kwajalein Missile Range in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The sensor package then flew by and "looked at" the test objects, collecting an extensive amount of data on the objects. Following the test of the Huges sensor package that will occur later, both companies will integrate their sensors with hardware to develop a test exoatmospheric kill vehicles (EKV). These two EKVs will then be flown in actual intercept tests. Following these intercept tests, one of the EKV designs will be selected for an integrated NMD flight test in late 1999.
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