July 31, 2012

FOBS - Space Based Nuclear Weapons


Russian R-36 Missile (at right) used to boost the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) into Space

Ever wondered why the US and Russia have developed space based weapons systems but never maintained them? Perhaps because these systems could be developed in secret and deployed as a "silver bullet" for a first strike in a nuclear war.

The Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) is old technology which could be easily updated. FOBS was a Soviet ICBM program in the 1960s that after launch would go into a low Earth orbit and the nuclear missle(s) would then hurtle back to Earth de-orbit for an attack.

In the early 1960s, the Soviets needed a way to overcome the forward base advantage held by the west. The west had forward bases in Turkey, Europe, and Asia from which shorter range missiles and bombers could attack the USSR. Following the failure of placing missiles to Cuba, the Soviets turned to technology to overcome the lack of forward positioning.

It had no range limit and the orbital flight path would not reveal the target location.

This would allow a path to North America over the South Pole, hitting targets from the south, which is the opposite direction from which

NORAD early warning systems are oriented.
By circumventing the existing US ballistic missile early warning radars FOBS [Globalsecurity reference] missiles could hit Strategic Air Command (SAC) airfields and missile silos before the bombers could take off or missiles launched. FOBS could have also conceivably destroyed ABM radars, disrupt US retaliatory capability, destroy command posts, the White House, and the command and control network. But, due to its limited accuracy and payload, FOBS was deemed ineffective against hardened targets.

Outer Space Treaty banned nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction in earth orbit. However, it did not ban systems that were capable of placing weapons in orbit, and the Soviet Union avoided violating the treaty by conducting tests of its FOBS system without live warheads.

The Soviets developed three missiles to employ FOBS, with only one entering service:

- The orbital missile 8K69 was initially deployed in 1968, and the first regiment with the

R-36 orbital missiles was put on alert in 1969.
- The
Global Rocket 1, or GR-1, was cancelled due to engine problems.
- The
R-46 was not developed, and eventually scrapped.
The U.S. Defense Support Program early warning satellites enabled the US to detect a FOBS launch.

SALT II agreement (1979) prohibited the deployment of FOBS systems:Each Party undertakes not to develop, test, or deploy. However thats what they claim. Who knows what they've built or can build quickly.

I wonder what China has in mind?!