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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


In August 1953, seven Marshals of the Soviet Union, together with Chief of the General Staff V.D. Sokolovskiy, sent a memorandum to the CPSU Central Committee requesting it consider the possibility of creating ABM weapons. By 1955, proposals for a test-range missile defense prototype -- known as System "A" -- were prepared. A decision of the Council of Ministers on 17 August 1956 authorized work on antimissile defense and the creation of an experimental proving ground. By that time the location for a future proving ground had been found at Sary Shagan and the design was in progress. A nuclear test -- operation "K" -- was conducted in December 1956 at the Semipalatinsk Range, based on work conducted at KB-11 (now known as Arzamas-16) by Academician Yu.B. Khariton. This demonstrated that a fragmentation warhead of an antiballistic missile could be replaced with a nuclear warhead, significantly increasing an interceptor's kill radius and effectiveness.

The SKB-30 design bureau, headed by general designer Grigory Vasilyevich Kisunko developed the antimissile control system, precise guidance radar, command transmission station and other components. A group of design organizations: central-computer system - general designer academician Lebedev; early antimissile missiles - general designer P.D. Grushin; launchers - general designer I.I. Ivanov; antimissile guidance radar - general designer S.P. Rabinovich ; data transmission system - general designer F.P. Lipsman. Kisunko coordinated the activity of these organizations.

By 1961 the facilities at Sary Shagan needed for full-scale testing of system "A" were ready. By June 1961 Kisunko's team had completed the conceptual design of the A-35 ABM system designed to protect Moscow. The project called for a system to counter Titan-2 and Minuteman-2 single-warhead ballistic missiles. This system was to have a command post, eight radars forming a circular long-range detection field, and 32 firing complexes. In the fall of 1962, the conceptual design of the A-35 system was approved. A new conceptual design produced in 1964 reduced the number of firing complexes to 16, updated the functional principles of the system. The ABM-1 Galosh interceptor missile was paraded in Red Square in 1964, and characterized as an ABM interceptor. The missile has never been seen in public except in its launch container. An experimental model of the A-35 system -- the "Aldan" -- was created at the Sary Shagan range by 1967 for testing the system.

The components of the Moscow ABM- system included:

  • ABM-1 Galosh three-stage solid-fueled interceptor missile, which is about 20 meters long with a range of over 300 kilometers and a warhead with a yield of several megatons. This interceptor is no longer operational.
  • ABM-1B improved Galosh with a restartable liquid-fueled third stage for improved post-launch re-targeting was initially deployed in the mid 1970's. 32 are presently operational. The missile is launched from above-ground launchers.
  • Four Try Add mechanically steered battle-management missile guidance radars are deployed at each missile site.
  • The Dog House large phased array radar is deployed near Moscow at Naro-Fominsk, and functions much like the Perimeter Acquisition Radar of the U.S. Sentinel/Safeguard ABM system.
  • The Cat House phased array radar is similar to the Dog House and is deployed near Moscow and oriented toward China.
  • The Hen House fixed-array electronically scanned early warning radars provide attack warning but no missile guidance battlemanagement and are similar to U.S. BMEWS radars. 11 Are deployed at 6 sites: Olenegorsk, Skrudna, Angarsk, Nikolaeyev, Sary Shagan and one other location.

The early evidence suggested that the Moscow ABM system would have a force level of 128 launchers at 16 launch sites -- four sites in each quadrant. In early 1964, construction in the southeast quadrant was abandoned, and the number of launch sites dropped to 12.

In the late 1960's construction started on eight launch sites for this system in the vicinity of Moscow, with four of these sites actually becoming operational. Construction and installation work was begun at the system installations: at the command post, Dunay-3 (chief designer V.P. Sosulnikov) and the improved Dunay-3U (chief designer A.N. Musatov) sector radars, and firing complexes. A technical base was created for preparing and maintaining the antiballistic missiles. Maximum use was made of the ring roads, cable communications links, and part of the other structures of the S-25 [SA-1] air defense system, which helped reduce spending on the new ABM weapon system.

During late 1967 or early 1968 the Soviets appeared to have made further reductions in the construction of ballistic missile defenses at Moscow. Work had apparently ceased on two more sites in the northeastern and two in the southwestern environs of Moscow. Construction was not resumed at these sites, and the final force level for the completed system will be eight sites and a total complement of 64 launchers. All elements of the system were expected by US intelligence to be operational by mid-1970.

The cutbacks did not materially change the strategic role of the system, since even at originally indicated levels it could not have coped with a determined US attack. The Soviets may have felt a greater need for improved capabilities -- for example, against penetration aids and multiple warheads -- before filling in the Moscow system or extending ABM coverage into other parts of the Soviet Union.

As of mid-1968 work on elements of the Moscow ABM system was progressing. The forward early warning and tracking radars at Olenegorsk and Skrunda were believed to be operational. At Moscow, three of the present eight launch sites and the northwestern faces of the Dog House target acquisition and tracking radar were undergoing checkout for operational readiness later this year. Ground clearing and associated activities at Skrunda and Moscow raised the possibility that deployment of new ABM-related radars was under way.

By 1971, four of the eight Dunay sector radars and eight of the 16 firing complexes had been built.

On the whole the performance of the Galosh appeared similar to that of the American Nike-Zeus. The use of mechanically steered radars and high yield nuclear warheads substantially limits the effectiveness of this system, which could be easily saturated by even a small attack. The A-35 system was unable to counter missiles with multiple warheads, especially under conditions of use of penetration aids such light and heavy decoy targets and active jammers, a fact which became obvious to the Soviets 1971. A decision was made, supported by the military-industrial commission (VPK), to finish building the facilities already started [the second Dunay-3U radar and at five firing complexes]. All the rest of the work for the rest of the was halted. The system was accepted only into experimental operation and essentially returned to industry for modernization. In 1972, the system passed state tests and was adopted for service. The interceptors in this system were on exposed surfaced-based launchers which always had missiles on them, fueled with corrosive propellant components and loaded with a multi-megaton nuclear warhead.

In 1973 general designer G.V. Kisunko developed a plan for modernizing the system. In the summer of 1975 Kisunko was relieved of his position as general designer by the Minister of the Radio Industry, P.S. Pleshakov. Thereafter Chief designer I.D. Omelchenko supervised the modernization work, and by May 1977 the A-35M ABM system was presented for state testing. In 1978 the improved A-35M defense system was commissioned and put on combat duty.

The antiballistic missiles were fueled with propellant components and equipped with a warhead only at the technical base. Electrically weighted mock-ups were installed at the launch positions. Delivery of the ABM missiles from the technical base to the exposed, ground-based launch positions in a crisis situation was reduced significantly.

In the late 1970's two of these sites were de-activated, in anticipation of subsequent upgrades. Each site has 16 launchers with associated radars and battle-management computers.

ABM Launch Site

Closeup of Galosh ABM Site

Typical ABM Launch Site

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:46:58 ZULU