An Accidental Launch Protection System

  • Ivo H. Daalder
Part of the Studies in International Security book series (SIS)

Abstract

In an eloquent September 1967 speech, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara defended mutual deterrence based on the possession of assured destruction capabilities by both the United States and the Soviet Union. He warned that the deployment of ABM systems designed to defend against a Soviet attack could, as a result of an action-reaction phenomenon, lead to a destabilizing arms race. McNamara closed by announcing that the United States would deploy the Sentinel ABM system, a light-area defence to protect the United States against a Chinese missile attack. Such a defence, McNamara argued, could also ‘add protection to our population from the improbable but possible accidental launch of an intercontinental missile’.1

Keywords

Europe Radar Assure Defend Poss 

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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    The speech is reprinted in Robert S. McNamara, The Essence of Security: Reflections in Office (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), Ch. 4. The quotation appears on p. 165.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sam Nunn, ‘Arms Control in the Last Year of the Reagan Administration’, Arms Control Today, 18, 2 (1988), pp. 6–7.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    However, Senator Nunn’s proposal was not new. As early as 1984, Martin Anderson, then a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, proposed a similar mission for strategic defences. In January 1985, moreover, a White House statement on SDI argued that defences ‘could provide insurance against either accidental ballistic missile launches or launches by some irrational leader in possession of a nuclear armed missile’. The following August, Kenneth Adelman, the Director of ACDA, similarly argued in favour of a system to defend against accidental missile launches. See Martin Anderson, ‘For a Limited Missile Defense’, New York Times, 29 October 1984; The President’s Strategic Defense Initiative (Washington, D.C.: The White House, January 1985), p. 4;Google Scholar
  4. Kenneth Adelman, ‘SDI: Setting the Record Straight’, reprinted in Zbigniew Brzezinski (ed.), Promise or Peril: The Strategic Defense Initiative (Washington, D.C.: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1986), p. 204.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    See, for example, Peter Zimmerman, ‘What Should a Prudent Man Do?’ (unpublished paper, March 1988).Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    A spate of articles in support of Nunn’s idea was written by SDI proponents throughout 1988. See, for example, Gregory Fossedal, ‘Nunn’s Sensible Shield’, New York Times, 28 January 1988;Google Scholar
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    See US Congress, House, Department of Defense Appropriations for FY1989, Part 7, Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, 100th Congress, 2nd Session, 25 February 1988, p. 107;Google Scholar
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    Robert Everett (chairman), Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force Subgroup on Strategic Air Defense (SDI Milestone Panel) (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Under-Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, May 1988), pp. 4–5. The Panel’s report is reprinted in US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, Hearings before the Strategic Defense Initiative Panel of the Committee on Armed Services, 100th Congress, 2nd Session, April-October 1988, pp. 273–84.Google Scholar
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    The Panel’s report, dated 9 September 1988, is reprinted as a Special Supplement to Defense Daily, 1 November 1988.Google Scholar
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    Cited in US Congress, Senate, Restructuring the Strategic Defense Initiative [SDI] Program, Hearing before the Senate and House Committees on Armed Services, 100th Congress, 2nd Session, 6 October 1988, p. 17.Google Scholar
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    US Congress, Senate, Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriations for FY1989, Part 6, pp. 147–237; and US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, pp. 1–264.Google Scholar
  19. 11.
    See the debate on this amendment in Congressional RecordSenate, 13 May 1988, pp. S5699–S5712. Despite Nunn’s opposition to the amendment, in 1990 he still favoured ALPS deployment if it proved to be both technically feasible and economically viable. See Michael R. Gordon, ‘Nunn Says US Should Negotiate Deeper Cuts on Troops in Europe’, New York Times, 1 January 1990, p. 12.Google Scholar
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    Amy F. Woolf, Accidental Launch Protection System (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, 5 January 1989), p. 4;Google Scholar
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    See Warren Strobel, ‘Administration Protective about Defense Plans’, Washington Times, 1 May 1989, p. 3;Google Scholar
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  25. 15.
    The submarines of immediate concern would include the Soviet Yankee, Delta and Typhoon classes. A Yankee carries 16 SS-N-6 missiles with up to 2 MRVs each, for a total of 32 RVs; a Delta III carries 16 SS-N-18s with up to 7 MIRVs each, for a total of 112 RVs; a Delta IV carries 16 SS-N-23s with 10 MIRVs each, for a total of 160 RVs; and a Typhoon carries 20 SS-N-20s also with 10 MIRVs each, for a total of 200 RVs. The 10 December 1987 communiqué issued by the United States and the Soviet Union following the Washington summit specified the number of RVs for each type of ballistic missile. This lowered the SS-N-23 number from 10 MIRV to 4, thus potentially reducing the number of RVs carried on a Delta IV from 160 to 64. Data are from IISS, The Military Balance, 1989–90 (London: Brassey’s for the IISS, 1989), pp. 33, 212; and US Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1989 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1989), p. 47.Google Scholar
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    See testimonies of Dean Hofferth and William Loomis in US Congress, Senate, Department of Defense Authorizations for Appropriations for FY1989, Part 6, pp. 147–92; and testimonies of Dean Hofferth, William Loomis and James Wright in US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, pp. 80–198.Google Scholar
  27. 17.
    A third option, developed by the Rockwell Corporation, involved 100 AERIE platforms deployed at one site. The system would launch one AERIE platform at each incoming missile. An AERIE platform, which would be similar to a small aeroplane or cruise missile, would have onboard sensors and a number of small interceptors. It would glide to an altitude of 25–30 km, wait for the attacking warheads to re-enter the atmosphere, and then shoot its interceptors to ensure their destruction. See testimony of James Wright in US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, pp. 168ff. This proposal was never seriously considered for the ALPS mission because it was technically unproven and its defensive capability was too small to defend the continental US (only a 300 km defensive footprint for the entire system). Moreover, Rockwell’s proposal clearly violated the ABM Treaty. Since the system would be both air-based and considered to be either a MIRVed interceptor or a rapidly reloadable launcher, the design would have violated both Article V and Agreed Statement E of the ABM Treaty.Google Scholar
  28. 18.
    See Warren Strobel, ‘Limited SDI, Just for Area, Being Weighed by Pentagon’, Washington Times, 17 June 1989, p. 1;Google Scholar
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    Cf. the testimony of Robert Everett, Chairman of the DSB’s Strategic Defense Milestone Panel as well as the Panel’s Report, in US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, pp. 279 and 285–6; and the recommendations of the White House Science Council’s Special Panel on SDI, reprinted in Defense Daily, 1 November 1988, p. S3.Google Scholar
  31. 20.
    Full details of the proposed architectures can be found in US Congress, Senate, Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriation for FY1989, Part 6, pp. 147–93; and US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, pp. 88–167. See also US Congress, OTA, A Treaty-Compliant Accidental Launch Protection System, Staff Paper of the International Security and Commerce Program (Washington, D.C.: OTA, 18 April 1988), pp. 4–10; and Woolf, Accidental Launch Protection System, pp. 8–10.Google Scholar
  32. 21.
    A larger, three-stage booster system could increase the interceptor’s velocity to 25 000 ft/sec (thus enlarging the defensive coverage or footprint of the system), but ALPS design assumptions are all based on the slower missile. See testimony of William Loomis, US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, p. 92. See also OTA, A Treaty-Compliant ALPS, pp. 4–7.Google Scholar
  33. 22.
    See testimony of Hofferth in US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, pp. 128–35 and 149–53.Google Scholar
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    OTA, A Treaty-Compliant ALPS, p. 14.Google Scholar
  35. 24.
    According to the US Department of Defense, the probability of two SS- 18 mod4 warheads destroying a single US silo is between 65 and 80 per cent. See US Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1988 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1988), p. 46. Assuming that the higher percentile is correct, the overall probability of kill of a single SS-18 RV is about 0.55. The probability of a single US missile surviving a Soviet attack on 1000 silos using 5000 of these warheads is accordingly: (1–0.55)5 = 0.018. Thus 18 of the 1000 US silos would survive such an attack. A modernized version of the Soviet missile, the SS-18 mod5, which is presently being deployed, is reported to have double the accuracy of the SS-18mod4 (see US Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1989, p. 45). Assuming that the Soviet Union were to deploy 2000 of these warheads, an attack on 1000 US ICBMs would still leave 40 surviving missiles. An attack with 3000 SS-18 mod5 warheads would, however, destroy all but eight of the US ICBMs.Google Scholar
  36. 25.
    See, for example, Brent Scowcroft and R. James Woolsey, ‘Defense and Arms Control’, in Gerald R. Ford and James E. Carter (co-chairmen), American Agenda; A Report to the Forty-First President of the United States (Washington, D.C.: American Agenda Inc., November 1988), p. 5.Google Scholar
  37. 26.
    US Congress, CBO, Strategic Defenses: Alternative Missions and their Costs (Washington, D.C.: CBO, July 1989), pp. 55–9. For detailed calculations of mobile ICBM survival rates, see the analysis in Ch. 3 below.Google Scholar
  38. 27.
    See Julian Davidson, ‘Light Area Defense Option’.Google Scholar
  39. 28.
    Cf. Charles Glaser, ‘Do We Want the Missile Defenses That We Can Build?’, reprinted in Steven Miller and Stephen Van Evera (eds), TheStar Wars’ Controversy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 107–8.Google Scholar
  40. 29.
    Anthony Fainberg, ‘Limited Missile Defenses — What Can They Protect?’, Arms Control Today, 19, 3 (1989), p. 19.Google Scholar
  41. 30.
    President Bush has argued that, because of the threat posed by missile proliferation ‘in the 1990s, strategic defense makes much more sense than ever before’ (cited in Gerald F. Seib, ‘Prodded by Quayle and Cheney, Bush Becomes Fervent Supporter of Strategic Defense Initiative’, Wall Street Journal, 23 February 1990, p. 12). See also Dan Quayle, ‘Remarks before the American Defense Preparedness Association’ (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Vice President, 29 June 1989), p. 10;Google Scholar
  42. Richard B. Cheney, ‘Budgets, Opportunities, Posture and Strategy’, Address to the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, Washington D.C., 20 June 1989, reprinted in Defense Issues, 4, 22 (1989), p. 6.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, William Safire, ‘Madness of Crowds’, New York Times, 23 March 1989, p. A29;Google Scholar
  44. Doug Bandow, ‘Whither SDI?’ Christian Science Monitor, 23 January 1990, p. 19.Google Scholar
  45. 32.
    See also John Pike, ‘Qaddafi Goes Ballistic: The Strained Logic Behind SDI Lite’, The New Republic, 20 March 1989, pp. 14–16;Google Scholar
  46. Scott D. Sagan, Moving Targets: Nuclear Strategy and National Security (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), pp. 113–14.Google Scholar
  47. 33.
    Nunn, ‘Arms Control in the Last Year of the Reagan Administration’, p. 6.Google Scholar
  48. 34.
    Cf. US Congress, CBO, Strategic Defenses, pp. 33–4.Google Scholar
  49. 35.
    The White House Science Council’s Special Panel on SDI in Defense Daily, 1 November 1988, p. S2.Google Scholar
  50. 36.
    Quoted in David C. Morrison, ‘Sam’s Shield’, National Journal, 26 March 1988, p. 841.Google Scholar
  51. 37.
    The USSR has even offered to dismantle the Galosh ABM system around Moscow if the United States would commit itself to the traditional interpretation of the ABM Treaty. See Robert C. Toth, ‘Soviets Quietly Offering Deal on Defensive Arms, Los Angeles Times, 12 October 1989, p. 11.Google Scholar
  52. 38.
    Quayle’s comment is quoted in David Hoffman, ‘Quayle Softens Stance on Threat From Soviets’, Washington Post, 9 December 1989, p. A24. On Soviet concerns regarding missile proliferation, see Thomas L. Friedman, ‘Spread of Missiles is Seen as Soviet Worry in Mideast’, New York Times, 24 March 1989;Google Scholar
  53. Alan Cowell, ‘Soviets Trying to Become Team Player in Mideast’, New York Times, 12 December 1989, p. A10.Google Scholar
  54. See also Douglas M. Johnston and Jay Winik, ‘Scaled-Down Missile Defense Has Merit’, Los Angeles Times, 10 August 1988, p. II–7.Google Scholar
  55. 39.
    See also testimony of Anne Cahn in US Congress, Senate, Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriations for FY1989, Part 6, p. 209; testimony of Ted Postol in US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, p. 209; and Woolf, Accidental Launch Protection System, p. 7.Google Scholar
  56. 40.
    SDIO, Report to the Congress on the Strategic Defense Initiative (Washington, D.C.: US Department of Defense, April 1987), p. D6.Google Scholar
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    See Thomas H. Johnson, ‘Ground-Based ABM Systems’, in Antonia Handler Chayes and Paul Doty (eds). Defending Deterrence: Managing the ABM Treaty Regime into the 21st Century (Washington, D.C.: Pergamon-Brassey’s, 1989), p. 118; and National Campaign to Save the ABM Treaty, ALPS and the ABM Treaty (Washington, D.C.: National Campaign to Save the ABM Treaty, April 1988), p. 3. The modifier ‘arguably’ is added because it is unclear whether one should consider that the early-warning radars operate ‘in conjunction with’ the ABM radar, for clearly the operations of both radars would occur sequentially rather than simultaneously. On the other hand, both sets of operations are part of a single defensive engagement. For details, see Ivo H. Daalder and Jeffrey Boutwell, ‘TBMs and ATBMs: Arms Control Considerations’, in Donald Hafner and John Roper (eds), ATBMs and Western Security (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1988), pp. 185–6.Google Scholar
  58. 42.
    See also testimony of Ashton B. Carter in US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, pp. 455–6.Google Scholar
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    John Rhinelander and Sherri Wasserman Goodman, ‘The Legal Environment’, in Chayes and Doty, Defending Deterrence, p. 46.Google Scholar
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    SDIO, Report to the Congress on the SDI, (April 1987), p. D14. Similarly, McDonnell-Douglas stated that it would consider using GSTS both to commit the ERIS launch and to provide updated tracking information before the interceptor’s own homing radar would be activated to attempt the intercept. As such, in guiding the interceptor, GSTS would substitute for the ABM radar and its deployment would therefore be subject to discussions with the Soviet Union. See US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, pp. 144–5.Google Scholar
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    John Rhinelander, ‘The SALT I Agreements’, in Mason Willrich and John Rhinelander (eds), SALT: The Moscow Agreements and Beyond (New York: Free Press, 1974), p. 127. Note that this statement was written before the 1974 Protocol limited ABM deployments to one site only.Google Scholar
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    US Congress, Senate, Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriations for FY1989, Part 6, p. 156.Google Scholar
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    See letter of John Rhinelander to Senator Sam Nunn, 22 January 1988, p. 3. Rhinelander himself now appears to share this view. See Rhinelander and Goodman, ‘The Legal Environment’, p. 55.Google Scholar
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    As Nunn subsequently argued, if ‘ALPS is perceived by the Soviet Union as a logical follow-on to previous initiatives for preventing accidental war that is in the mutual interest of both nations, the chances that it could serve a constructive purpose are enhanced’; speech by Senator Sam Nunn to the Senate, Congressional Record — Senate, 13 May 1988, p. S5709.Google Scholar
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    Much of the technical criticism of ALPS is based on the assumption that such a system could not defend against a responsive Soviet threat. See, for example, the testimony of Ted Postol in US Congress, House, Special Panel on the SDI, pp. 206–50. As argued, however, not only ALPS’S technical feasibility, but also its strategic desirability depends on the absence of such a response. If the Soviet Union does respond, then the system would be strategically undesirable, even if technically feasible. A technical evaluation of ALPS should therefore be based on the assumption of its strategic desirability.Google Scholar
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    Speech to the Senate by Senator Sam Nunn, in Congressional Record — Senate, 13 May 1988, p. S5709.Google Scholar
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    Fainberg, ‘Limited Missile Defenses’, p. 20. Fainberg assumed that ERIS interceptors based in North Dakota would have a velocity of 5km/sec.Google Scholar
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    SDIO ranks discrimination at the top of the technical risks confronting the SDI programme. See statement of General Monahan in US Congress, Senate, Department of Defense Authorizations for Appropriations for FY1990–91: Part 6, p. 527. The difficulty of discrimination is also implicitly admitted by a staunch advocate of missile defences, James Frelk, Executive Director of the George Marshall Institute. Frelk stated that an ALPS defence would require ‘hundreds or thousands of ground-based interceptors… to protect against an accidental launch’ because of the decoy problem. See Frelk’s letter to the Editor, Wall Street Journal, 23 March 1988.Google Scholar
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    US Congress, CBO, Strategic Defenses, p. 35. Lockheed and McDonnell-Douglas estimated the cost of their proposals at $8-$ 10 billion in FY1988 dollars. See US Congress, Senate, Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriations for FY1989, Part 6, pp. 153, 185–6.Google Scholar
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    Scowcroft and Woolsey, ‘Defense and Arms Control’, p. 5. A similar note of warning was sounded by Arnold Kanter before he joined Scowcroft’s NSC staff. See Arnold Kanter, Whither SDI? Strategic Defenses in the Next Administration (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, N-2806-RC, September 1988), p. 17.Google Scholar
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    Cited in David Morrison, ‘Sam’s Shield’, p. 841.Google Scholar
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    Nunn, ‘Arms Control in the Last Year of the Reagan Administration’, p. 6.Google Scholar
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    See Melissa Healey, ‘Nunn Asks US-Soviet “Fail-Safe Review” to Avert an Unwarranted Missile Launch’, Los Angeles Times, 11 February 1990, p. 8; testimony of Anne Cahn in US Congress, Senate, Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriations for FY1989, Part 6, p. 234;Google Scholar
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© International Institute for Strategic Studies 1991

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  • Ivo H. Daalder

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