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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Pershing 2

An evolutionary improvement of the PERSHING la system, the PERSHING II was first deployed in December 1983. Through the use of a terminally guided reentry vehicle with a new warhead, new propulsion sections, and modified PERSHING la ground support equipment, the PERSHING II provided increased effectiveness covering longer ranges with reduced collateral damage over the PERSHING la.

The Pershing II missile 1800 km range would not have reached Moscow from planned deployment sites in West Germany. Warsaw Pact sources, however, attributed to this system a range of 2500 km, an accuracy of 30 meters, and an earth-penetrating warhead. With a range of 2,500 km the Soviets feared it would have been able to strike command and control targets in the Moscow area with little or no warning. The American figure of 1,800km was the publicly declared range for Pershing II, with a marginally shorter one for Gryphon. The figures claimed by the Soviets were the classified figures. The missile, however, was never tested beyond its declared range of 1,800km.

The Deputy Secretary of Defense authorized the Army to proceed with the advanced development of the PERSHING II on 7 March 1974, with the first PERSHING II missile advanced development firing taking place on 18 November 1977.

NATO Ministers formally approved the basing of the PERSHING II missile system in Western Europe in December 1979. The initial operational capability for the PERSHING II was achieved when the 56th Field Artillery Brigade received its equipment on 15 December 1983, and deployment of the first PERSHING II battalion was completed in Europe on 30 June 1984. And on 13 December 1985 the PERSHING II weapon system successfully achieved full operational capability in Europe.

The increased range and pinpoint accuracy of the PERSHING II were major factors influencing the Soviet Union's decision to seek the Treaty on Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces in which the United States and the USSR agreed to eliminate an entire class of nuclear missiles. The United States and the USSR signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF)Treaty on 8 December 1987, and the U.S. Senate ratified the INF Treaty on 27 May 1988.

In accordance with INF Treaty provisions all of the U.S. Army's tactical PERSHING II missile stages, launchers, trainers, and deployed reentry vehicles had to be eliminated by May 31, 1991. A total of 234 PERSHING II missiles were covered by the treaty. Army contractors completed the destruction of the last PERSHING II in May 1991.

The majority of PERSHING missile stages were burned (static fired) and then crushed, primarily at Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant, Texas, or at Pueblo Depot Activity, Colorado. Representatives from the Soviet Inspection Team and the U.S. On-Site Inspection Agency were present to witness the elimination process.

Each side also had permission to destroy 15 missiles and launchers by disabling, then permanently exhibiting them in museums and similar facilities. The 15 U.S. missiles and launchers were split between the Army's PERSHING II and the Air Force's GLCMs. A PERSHING II missile and launcher were put on display at the Field Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, Oklahoma; White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; the Eastern Test Range, Cape Canaveral, Florida; and the Alabama Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama. A missile only was exhibited also at Langley Air Force Base, Hampton, Virginia. The final two PERSHING II missiles and the last launcher were donated to the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum, which exchanged with the Soviet Union one PERSHING II for an SS-20 missile.

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Page last modified: 16-12-2016 19:18:37 ZULU