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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


PRO Anti-Missile Defense
PKO Missile and Space Defense

All the existing Air Defense Systems, including Air Defense Force, Anti-missile Defense Force, the Moscow Anti-rocket Defense Force, the Early Warning against rocket attack system and the space echelon satellites, which monitor missile directions are all to be part of the new Aero-Space Defense Force, created in 2011.

Soviet scientists and engineers first tested ballistic missile interception possibilities back in 1945. However, active research and development works were launched in 1953. The Soviet military leadership was very concerned about the US reportedly developing ICBMs.

On February 1, 1956, two missile defense projects were presented, one of which, the Sistema A, was later approved by the government. On August 17, the government ordered the establishment of a missile defense training range near Lake Balkhash, in Kazakhstan. The site was named Sary Shagan and has been used since then by the Russian military.

Sistema A was controlled by a ground-based computing complex, which calculated the trajectory of a missile based on information gathered from three radio radars. The radars were located at a distance of 170 kilometers from each other, forming a triangle with a V-1000 intercepting missile launcher in the center. The first practical tests were a failure though. The computers lacked the power to accurately calculate the trajectory. The first successful test was conducted March 4, 1961.

In 1963-1964 the Soviet Troops of Defense (PVO) established two new commands: PRO and PKO (Protivo Kosmicheskoi Oborony). PRO, meaning anti-missile defense [Protivo Raketniya Oborony], was charged with detecting, intercepting, and destroying enemy ballistic rockets, while the PKO, meaning anti-space defense, was responsible for "destroying the enemy's cosmic means of fighting".

On March 30, 1967, the Soviet government established the Anti-Missile and Space Defense Forces. The new entity combined all the then-existing missile defense units. The new forces were aimed at protecting USSR’s crucial industrial and military areas from American intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Despite the fact that by the time the Cold War had already entered its de-escalation stage, nuclear deterrence was a matter of life and death for the Soviet Union. By 1967, the United States had obtained nearly 32,000 nuclear warheads, the record high in the history of the Moscow-Washington standoff. Moreover, the Minuteman II ICBM entered service with the US military and was capable of breaching any missile defense shield.

On Oct. 1, 1992, the PRO and PKO Directorate was restructured into the Command of the Rocket and Space Defense (RKO). Colonel General Smirnov became officially the commander of the RKO forces. In 1997, the RKO forces, along with the Space Forces became the part of the Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN).

Missile and space defenses had been effective arms of the Air Defense Forces since the mid-1960s. In 1989 the Soviet Union had the world's only operational antiballistic missile (ABM) and antisatellite (ASAT) systems.

The Soviet Union deployed its first ABM defense system around Moscow in 1964. It consisted of surface-to-air missiles that could be launched to destroy incoming ballistic missiles. The Soviet leaders have continually upgraded and developed the capabilities of this initial system. A major modernization of interceptor missiles began in the late 1970s, and by 1989 the Soviet Union had up to thirty-two improved SH-04 (Galosh) launchers in operation and a fundamentally new SH-08 (Gazelle) interceptor missile under development.

In 1989 the Radiotechnical Troops operated eleven ground-based radars and numerous satellites to provide strategic early warning of enemy missile launches. They also manned six large phased-array radars for ballistic missile detection. These radars could also serve as target acquisition and tracking radars to guide ABM launchers as part of a nationwide defense against ballistic missiles. In 1989 the Soviet Union was building three additional sites for phased-array radars.

The Soviet Union had an operational ASAT interceptor system that in wartime it would launch a satellite into the same orbit as an opponent's satellite. The ASAT satellite would then maneuver nearby and detonate a conventional fragmentation or a nuclear warhead to destroy its target. Thus, the interceptor system posed a threat to an adversary's command, control, and communications, navigation, reconnaissance, and intelligence gathering satellites in low-earth orbits, a capability that would be critical in wartime.



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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 12:13:38 ZULU