Nuclear Weapons And Defense Essay, Research Paper
A third world country is producing nuclear weapons. The country is the same that has given the
United States trouble in the past. It is Iraq. Shortly after the U.S finds this out, we are being attacked by a
nuclear strike from Iraq. U.S. cities are being destroyed one by one. We declare a full scale nuclear
retaliation against Iraq. Huge devastation occurs throughout the world as allies join into the war. Nuclear
winter starts to develop. Over half of the world?s population has been eliminated. Water and food is
contaminated from the radiation. The few survivors of the nuclear war are eating dead animals and people.
There are no hospitals available for the sick, no electricity, no hot water, and no warm clothing. The land is
barren and covered with ruble in the areas that were once called cities. The sky is painted with dark gray
clouds. Lack of sunlight causes the temperature to drop by 50 degrees. The wind picks up and is seldom
below 15 miles per hour. The !
survivors’ offspring, if they are not mutated in some way, will have no schools to attend. They will grow
up like primitive people. The world is forever changed.
The Strategic Initiative would benefit the U.S. because it would deter nuclear attacks on the U.S.
The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) is a research and development program designed to create an
effective space-based defense against nuclear missile attack, and may provoke other nations to put the
same system into space above their own skies. The media labeled the system “Star Wars” because of the
high-tech space aspect of the system. Once nuclear missiles are launched, there is no way to stop them
once they are airborne. The system would be a layered weapon shield that could intercept large numbers of
oncoming intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and
their warhead projectiles in any phase of flight.
The idea of stopping ballistic missiles enroute is not new. The United States and the USSR have deployed
Antiballistic Missiles (ABMs) in limited numbers. It is known, however, that such missiles can be
overwhelmed by thousands of warheads coming from many directions at once. In a nationally televised
address in March 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan called for the long term development of a space-
based defense system that would render nuclear missiles “impotent and obsolete.” The result of his appeal
was SDI, with a planned spending level of $30 billion over five years. One reason for this was because it
would only take 30 minutes for a nuclear warhead to reach the U.S. after it was launched. Once the stuff of
science fiction, sophisticated missile defense systems employing satellite or ground based laser weapons,
particle beam accelerators, “smart” interceptor projectiles, and other computer integrated space
technologies may represent the next era in strategic milita!
ry doctrine and the U.S. Soviet arms competition.
As currently envisioned, the system uses a “layered” defense in which enemy missiles would come
under continuous attack from the time they are launched to just before they reach their targets, a total of
about 30 minutes. Surveillance satellites would register the heat given off by the rising missiles; satellite or
ground-based lasers would strike at the missiles during the boost phase, before they disgorge their many
warheads. X-ray or particle beam weapons would attack surviving missiles in space. A scientist working
on the project stated that “A single X-ray laser module the size of an school desk which applied this
technology could potentially shoot down the entire Soviet land based missile force, if it were to be
launched into the modules field of view.” The system could be managed only by super computers whose
infinitely complex programs would have to be written by other computers. Most decisions would be taken
out of human hands.
Since 1983, space tests of many experimental SDI devices have been made. Nevertheless,
intensive studies by such organizations as the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) and the
Federation of American Scientists (FAS) are pessimistic about the possibility of developing reliable SDI
weapons. They also question whether the Pentagon has fully understood the possible range of
countermeasures that the Soviets might take. These groups and others have expressed concern that SDI
could suffer “catastrophic failure” in wartime and that deployment and even testing violates the 1972 Anti-
The administration was careful to note, and scientists quickly confirmed, the technical difficulties
in the new concept. If the space defense system is feasible, it probably will employ several advanced
technologies in combination and take several decades to develop. Among the systems it might employ are
homing interceptor missiles fired from the ground or satellites, nonexplosive pellets guided by heat sensors,
ground based laser weapons aimed at space mirrors which redirect the beam toward oncoming missiles, and
low orbit satellites that generate and aim laser or particle beams at oncoming missiles. Each of these
systems might or might not be effected in several different ways. The final shape of “Star Wars” and the
stages of implementation would depend on which technologies can be achieved and when. The complexity
of tracking enemy missiles, aiming and firing at them in an integrated, multi-layered space defense system
would require a tremendous amount of computer syst!
President Reagan’s call for an advanced missile defense system represented a major shift in the
four decades of nuclear strategy of deterrence based on the threat of retaliation, the principle of Mutual
Assured Destruction (MAD). The Soviet Union and domestic critics, however, reject the characterization
of “Star Wars” as defensive. Its effect, they say, would be to render Soviet retaliatory forces ineffectual
and thereby leave the USSR open to a first strike. The logical Soviet reaction would be to build up its
offensive capability even more, setting off a new arms spiral. It is widely believed in the West, however,
that the Soviet Union is developing its own space weapons system.
Negations on U.S. and Soviet central strategic systems, renamed the Strategic Arms Reduction
Talks (START) by President Ronald Reagan’s administration, resumed during the summer of 1982.
Through the remainder of Reagan’s presidency the two sides reached consensus on many key points,
including the desirability of 50% reductions in nuclear weapons. Among unresolved issues were exact
procedures for ensuring effective verification of any new agreement and the preferred relationship between
strategic offensive and defensive forces. The United States favored the rapid and eventual deployment of
nationwide defensive systems, as indicated by its support of the Strategic Defense Initiative. The Soviet
Union was sharply critical of SDI. They did not want the system employed because that would have meant
losing the arms race.
By 1985, the Space Shuttle was conducting missions in space for the SDI program. The 18th Shuttle
flight took place on June 17 – 24, 1985, in Discovery, with commander Daniel C. Brandenstein and a crew
of six. During this mission three communications satellites were deployed. In 1990, the public found out
that those satellites were collecting data for the SDI program. In an experiment designed by the U.S.
Defense Department, reflectors were placed in each satellite to test the ability of ground based lasers to
focus in space targets. The 39th space shuttle mission, and the eighth for Atlantis, took place from April 5 –
11, 1991, with commander Air Force Col. Steven R. Nagel and a crew of four specialists. Atlantis
deployed a $617 million Gamma Ray Observatory into orbit approximately 280 miles (450 km) above the
Earth, which was also used for SDI research. The crew logged 22 hours of spacewalking. Space shuttle
Discovery was launched on Apr. 28, 1991, and!
returned to Earth on May 6. Its military mission was concerned with collecting data for the SDI antimissile
program. The mission commander was U.S. Navy Capt. Michael L. Coats. He was assisted by a pilot and
crew of four.
The costs of SDI are so huge, any where from $100 to $200 billion, that a new, less expensive
scheme was proposed in 1988. This new scheme was called “Brilliant Pebbles,” it would consist of several
thousand space based “interceptors,” each independently guided by a powerful built-in computer and an
electronic eye. The interceptor would track the heat plume of the just-fired missile and steer a collision
course. However, new, “fast-burn” missiles could outwit the interceptors and possible out run them.
Because of reduced tensions with the Soviets and lower defense budgets, the Clinton administration has cut
back on funding for SDI, although tests of component systems continue and plans for some form of
deployment remain in place. During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, computer software developed under
SDI guided the Patriot missiles used with mixed success to intercept Iraqi Scud missiles.
Many experts believed the system was impractical. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the
signing of the START I and II treaties, and the election in 1992 of Bill Clinton as president, SDI, like many
other weapons programs, were given a lower budgetary priority. In 1993 Les Aspin announced the
abandonment of SDI and the establishment of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), a less
expensive program that would make use of ground-based antimissile systems.
The SDI system was originally planned to provide a layered defense employing advanced weapons
technologies, several of which were only in a preliminary research stage. The goal was to intercept
incoming missiles in midcourse, high above the earth. The weapons required included space-based and
ground-based nuclear X-ray lasers, subatomic particle beams, and computer-guided projectiles fired by
electromagnetic rail guns, all under the central control of a supercomputer system. Supporting these
weapons would have been a network of space-based sensors and specialized mirrors for directing the laser
beams toward targets. Some of these weapons were in development, but others, particularly the laser
systems and the supercomputer control, were not certain to be attainable. The total cost of such a system
was estimated at between $100 billion and $1 trillion. Actual expenditures amounted to about $30 billion.
The initial annual budget for BMDO was 3.8 billion.
Cost was not the only controversial issue surrounding SDI. Critics of SDI, including several former
government officials, leading scientists, and some NATO members, maintained that the system?even if it
had proved workable?could have been outwitted by an enemy in many ways. Also, other nations feared
that the SDI system could have been used offensively.
SDI would be a defense and offensive weapon against nuclear missiles if it were to be fully
researched and developed; but because of defense cuts and the end of the Cold War Era, the threat of a
nuclear war with Russia is slowly becoming obsolete. Now there is a new threat, third world countries.
President Regan’s plan never really fully developed because the weapons that were being asked to be
developed were unrealistic even for the technology available today.
The Strategic Defense Initiative would benefit the U.S. because it would deter nuclear attacks on the U.S.
United States military research program for developing an antiballistic missile (ABM) defense system, first
proposed by President Ronald Reagan in March 1983. The Reagan administration vigorously sought
acceptance of SDI by the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. As initially
described, the system would provide total U.S. protection against nuclear attack. The concept of SDI
marked a sharp break with the nuclear strategy that had been followed since the development of the
armaments race. This strategy was based on the concept of deterrence through the threat of retaliation.
More specifically, the SDI system would have contravened the ABM Treaty of 1972. For this reason and
others, the SDI proposal was attacked as a further escalation of the armaments race. With tensions raising
in the Mid-East, and the capability of making Nuclear weap!
ons, revival of SDI components is not such a bad idea. The government refuses to do this because of
budget cuts, but it is in the best interest of the human race if it is brought back into the lime light.
Taylor, L.B. Space: Battleground of the Future? New York, F. Watts 1988.
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Wright, Robert “Crazy State” New Republic 12/15/94 p.6-8.
Ressmeyer, Roger “Missile Warning Woes” Popular Mechanics March 94 p.32-36.
Grossnan, Daniel and Seth Shulman “Stars by Another Name” Discover January 94 p.96-100