The Peacekeeper missile was America's newest intercontinental ballistic missile. With the end of the Cold War, the US begun to revise its strategic policy. As a result, on 19 September 2005 the Air Force pulled the final Peacekeeper missile from alert status. Work on the deactivation began in October 2002, following an agreement signed by President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to reduce both nations' nuclear weapons stockpiles.
The US initially agreed to eliminate the multiple re-entry vehicle Peacekeeper ICBMs by the year 2003 as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II. Peacekeeper deactivation was to occur over a 36-month period beginning in FY03 with missiles remaining on alert and fully mission capable throughout the deactivation period. The Defense Department analyzed the role of the Peacekeeper against projected threats in the post-Cold War environment and judged that its retirement would not have an adverse effect on the sufficiency of US nuclear forces. DoD plans to retain the booster stages for potential future uses such as space launch or target vehicles.
Deactivation of the Peacekeeper was keyed to corresponding Russian actions to deactivate their remaining SS-18s. Though START II was never ratified by the United States, subsequent diplomatic agreements limited the number of warheads in each national arsenal even further, and the Moscow Treaty of May 2002 set limits well below START II. In June 2002, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 in order to develop a National Missile Defense System. In response, Russia announced that it would no longer be bound by the START II agreements.
During a summit meeting with President Putin in November 2001, President Bush announced that the United States would reduce its "operationally deployed" strategic nuclear warheads to a level between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads during the next decade. The United States and Russia signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, known as the Treaty of Moscow, on 24 May 2002. Under this Treaty the parties will to reduce their strategic offensive nuclear weapons to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by the end of 2012. Under the Treaty of Moscow the Bush Administration has stated that it would eliminate the 50 Peacekeeper missiles when reducing US forces to around 3,800 warheads.
The deactivation process officially began 01 October 2002. The process to deactivate the Peacekeeper will occur over three years, but until the final Peacekeeper is pulled from its silo, the remaining missiles will continue to stay on "tip-top alert." Peacekeeper warheads, with their advanced safety features, will be installed on Minuteman III ICBMs as part of the Safety Enhanced Re-entry Vehicle program, allowing the Air Force to upgrade its Minuteman fleet.
The Peacekeeper (designated LGM-118A) is a four-stage intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying up to ten independently-targetable reentry vehicles with greater accuracy than any other ballistic missile. Its design combines advanced technology in fuels, guidance, nozzle design, and motor construction with protection against the hostile nuclear environment associated with land-based systems. The Peacekeeper is much larger than Minuteman, over 70 feet long and weighing 198,000 pounds. It is a four stage missile like the Minuteman III, with the first three stages being solid propellant and the fourth stage bu hypergolicly fueled with hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. Although capable of carrying eleven Mark 21 RVs, treaty limits mandated deploying the Peacekeeper with only ten RVs. The entire missile is encased in a canister in the silo to protect it against damage and to permit "cold launch". The Minuteman II and III ignite their first stage engines while in the LF, but the Peacekeeper is ejected by pressurized gas some fifty feet into the air before first stage ignition.
The Peacekeeper is a three-stage rocket ICBM system consisting of three major sections: the boost system, the post-boost vehicle system and the re-entry system.
The boost system consists of three rocket stages that launch the missile into space. These rocket stages are mounted atop one another and fire successively. Three of the four stages exhausted their solid propellants through a single adjustable nozzle which guided the missile along its flight path. Motorcases made of kevlar epoxy material held the solid propellants. The fourth stage post-boost vehicle employed a liquid bi- propellant rocket propulsion system to provide velocity and attitude correction for missile guidance. The post-boost vehicle also employed a self-contained inertial navigation system that allowed the missile to operate independent of ground reference or commands during flight.
The 28-foot first-stage solid-fuel rocket motor weighed approximately 108,000 pounds and is capable of boosting the missile to about 75,000 feet. The 18-foot long second-stage motor propelled the missile to an altitude of about 190,000 feet and weighed 60,000 pounds. The rocket motor in the eight-foot third stage weighed 17,000 pounds and supplied the thrust to boost the missile to about 700,000 feet. The 2,300 pound post-boost fourth stage vehicle was designed to maneuver the missile into position for the multiple reentry vehicles to deploy in their respective ballistic trajectories.
Following the burnout and separation of the boost system's third rocket stage, the post-boost vehicle system, in space, maneuvers the missile as its re-entry vehicles are deployed in sequence.
The post-boost vehicle system is made up of a maneuvering rocket, and a guidance and control system. The vehicle rides atop the boost system, weighs about 3,000 pounds (1,363 kilograms) and is 4 feet (1.21 meters) long.
The top section of the Peacekeeper is the re-entry system. It consists of the deployment module, up to 10 cone-shaped re-entry vehicles and a protective shroud. The shroud protects the re-entry vehicles during ascent. It is topped with a nose cap, containing a rocket motor to separate it from the deployment module.
The deployment module provides structural support for the re-entry vehicles and carries the electronics needed to activate and deploy them. The vehicles are covered with material to protect them during re-entry through the atmosphere to their targets and are mechanically attached to the deployment module. The attachments are unlatched by gas pressure from an explosive cartridge broken by small, exploding bolts, which free the re-entry vehicles, allowing them to separate from the deployment module with minimum disturbance. Each deployed re-entry vehicle follows a ballistic path to its target.
The Peacekeeper was the first U.S. ICBM to use cold launch technology. The missile was placed inside a canister and loaded into the launch facility. When launched, high-pressure steam ejected the canister from the launch silo to an altitude of 150 to 300 feet, and once the missile has cleared the silo, the first stage ignited and sent the missile on its course. This technique allowed SAC to launch the Peacekeeper from Minuteman silos despite the fact that the Peacekeeper was three times larger than the Minuteman III.
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