The US strategic defense initiative was set up as a defense response program to threats that had been posed by the nuclear arming of the Soviet Union during the Reagan administration in the United States. Beginning as a missile defense system for possible attacks from submarines, the defense program was also referred to as Star Wars. The US defense anticipated a war of this caliber and therefore prepared themselves for such an occurrence. This paper is an overview of the system and how it worked, as well as its evolution throughout the years of its existence.
The World War 2 ended with many pacts that ensured that once allies were attacked, there was a duty towards the other members of such a treaty to attack the nations that had been on the offensive. This was known as the Mutual Assured Destruction plan, where if one of the ally countries in a treaty went down, every other ally went down with it. However, this didnt sit well with the US government of the time, where their future was handed over to the fragile interaction of non-ally nations. As a result, the US Strategic Defense Initiative was launched. The view was that in the case that the nuclear threat in the Soviet Union was to become substantially dangerous, the US would adequately neutralize this threat to avoid the destruction of man other nations (Freedman, 2015).
Much criticism was offered for this project because of its lack of faith in the mutual assured destruction agreement and its ability to reignite another arms race one of the main reasons for the cause of the Word War 2. However, the Reagan administration dismissed these claims are impossible to achieve because there was yet insufficient technology to ensure that the scale of war dubbed Star Wars that they were accused of trying to create was still a technological impossibility. However, considering the situation as it was then, the Cold War had the capability of having countries initiating war from overhead quarters such as airborne missiles. This is what they were trying to avoid.
Inception of the Project
The beginnings of the idea to create this counteractive mechanism begun in a lecture room b physicist Edward Teller who was an advocate of protecting oneself (as a country) from nuclear attacks by using nuclear weapons. Furthermore, President Reagan was introduced to the operations in NORAD shortly after his assumption of office where the defense system was introduced to him. At the time, technology allowed for the countrys defenses to track down the origins of an attack down to the person who had perpetrated it, but was unable to prevent any other result from happening by counteracting the attack before it reached its target. The president saw this as putting the nation in a situation where they would be sitting ducks in the event of any attacks on Americans. Coupled with the views of his Secretary of State George Schultz, the terms of the Mutual Assured Destruction were termed as a suicide pact and set aside for the introduction of this idea (Graham, 1995).
Innovations in the scientific field in view of the nuclear neutralization of weapons led to the famous Star Wars speech that Reagan gave, asking members of the scientific community to engage their talents in ensuring that the threat posed by nuclear weapons can also be equally neutralized.
Concerns that caused the projects growth
Before the Word War 2, the Germans had already developed technology on how to ensure that they had ground-to-air missiles that would respond to air attacks. This technology was not complete and by the time the war had begun, there wasnt the production of enough weapons to offer a significant response to the threat that had been posed. After their defeat in 1945, the Soviet Union adopted this technology and begun to develop weapons that could enable ground to air strikes quite easily. The following years saw the development of weapons that could destroy cities and a subsidized cost of producing such weapons. The result was that the Soviets became quite a dangerous armed society capable of annihilating cities if they wanted to. The response by the US government, considering the costs involved, was to react by having their own innovations in the area. This saw the development of systems such as the SM-65 Atlas system, S-25 Berkut system, among others (Global Security, 2012).
These technologies were however susceptible to surface to air missiles counterattacks and therefore became impossible to use. Because of their predictability, defense systems were able to project the trajectory of the missile and have adequate time to prepare a counterattack before it reaches its destination. This led to the evolution to the Anti-Ballistic Missiles (ABM) system. ABMs made use of internal radar system that used to throw off radar systems used by the defense. This is because radar was the most often used type of threat detection and by messing up with its operation, they would be able to amply throw off the enemy by causing them to use multiple weapons to neutralize the ABM or wait till the point of re-entry into the atmosphere to know which one to shoot down. At the point of re-entry, it would be too late to stop the attack (Hafelmaster, 1983).
These ABM systems led to the defense system that is found in the Electromagnetic Pulse system. This was a system that was aimed at disabling electronic signals within an object for a given radius. In effect, it would destroy the electric system of a missile and therefore render it useless and without control of the attacking country. However, the effect was that launching an EMP would disable electrical system for even those who are defending so that if one EMP was launched, the defense would now become a sitting duck. The result was that there was the development of MIRV system. In this system, one war head carried multiple missiles that were dispersed once the target was close. The effect was threat the country with the outdated technology had to launch many ABMs to counter a single attack from a warhead.
These factors caused the countries to rush into a constant chase of the best weapons in order to outdo the other. None wanted to remain behind and have to counter the other with outdated technology.
Directed Energy Programs as weapons
Directed energy weapons are weapons that use directed energy to incapacitate or destroy enemy equipment, personnel and facilities. These were developed by the defense department in this period in order to try and counter enemy installations by firing these deadly amounts of energy toward them. The X-ray laser is one such weapon. In this particular weapon, satellites would be used to create excessive amounts of X-ray energy that would be focused remotely by the offensive parties and directed towards the enemy installation. This technology would prove to be quite helpful if it took off because overhead satellites could also be used to disperse multiple warheads that had been launched overhead simultaneously, this was better than the surface to air response that could be employed in countering air attacks.
The success of this project however, is yet to be confirmed. During the time of its testing in the Cabra event, there was a catastrophic failure of the project because of the blowing of the fuse. The power from the nuclear power that was used to power the laser blew up the whole project and therefore, results could not be confirmed. Recent strides have been made in the area of developing these weapons, but they are yet to be declared ready-to-use, and safe from accidents that could cost life to those using the facility (Robinson, 2015).
Chemical laser was also another weapon under this category. It was used with some limited success in a number of simulation attacks such as the attack of a missile just before launch. The program had some success with regards to implementing the defense objectives. The program was able to successfully eradicate some missile threats before its closure. However, because of the mixed results that the project often got, it was impossible to determine if it was a viable and effective defense system.
Other innovations in this area included the Neural Particle Beam. This technology was sent out on a rocket to space where there was a neural beam onboard. When the rocket was recovered, the neural beam was seen to be still operational. Furthermore, it had not affected people as the beam was being released and this was thus seen as an effective defense system (Nunz, 2002). Other projects included the Hypervelocity gun and Laser and mirror experiments.
Space based programs were also part of this project. Some of the innovations in this area were in the area of the Space-based Interceptor. This was a pilot project for which the technology was able to aim for the cooler parts of the missile as opposed to the hot pats of the missile using infrared technology. As a result, the interceptor would be able to neutralize the threat by detecting cool parts of the attackers weapon and hit to destroy it. This was what eventually became the Brilliant Pebbles.
Brilliant Pebbles was a form of non-nuclear response to war heads which targeted overhead weapons. Made of tungsten, they were hurled at the projectile of the warhead to aim for the cooler parts of the weapon and make sure that they neutralize it. A sensor system was developed for this particular weapon in order to enable it reach its targets effectively. It was a sort of destructive approach where enemy war heads could easily be destroyed without necessarily having to use anything substantial from the defensive arsenal.
Sensor programs were also part of this initiative and they formed part of the final part of this program. There had been many projects where the US government tried to improve methods of detecting threats so that threats could be averted from afar. BSTS was one such method where the defense systems were able to detect missile launch in order to alert the systems of defense mechanisms. Because of the shift to missile defense systems, the program was shifted to the Air Force for its active use. The Space Surveillance and Tracking System was the other system that was developed in order to notice missile launches from outer space. It was used in conjunction with the BSTS. However, both projects lost favor and were replaced with the Brilliant Eyes program.
The Brilliant Eyes program was able to monitor missile activities from space, just like the SSTS system, only that it was downscaled so that the satellite could only orbit closer to the earth. It use has now been limited. The countermeasures that have been developed by the US government have been exhausted by this program, because it was the beginning of the exploits and innovations in this area. Countermeasures varied from employing tactics such as decoys, multiple targets and maneuvers that were expedient in ensuring that the defense system, which was at times less than perfect would suffice to protect the country on the defensive. Countermeasures were also explored in this aspect because of the need to have a stronger tactic than the opponent in war, because if the enemy should attack on an equal scale with the person on the defense, then the defense would be destroyed. As such, it is necessary to ensure that the defensive party always has tactics that will ensure that they can outdo the enemy at any costs, thus employing decoys among other countermeasures. Indeed, the goal of these is to ensure that the enemy can be spent before the resources of the country on the offensive is overwhelmed (Berger, 2004).
Parties from the Soviet Union were not too pleased concerning the strides that the US was making in view of the Strategic Defense Initiative. Therefore at the height of the Cold War, propaganda was spread to Western Europe co...
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