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Outside View: Russia's ABM plans -- Part 1

A V-1000 missile on its launcher in raised position.
by Yury Zaitsev
Moscow (UPI) May 20, 2008
Thirty years ago, on May 15, 1978, a missile defense system was placed on combat duty to protect Moscow as the capital of the Soviet Union.

Russia has been developing missile defense systems since the early 1960s. On March 1, 1961, the Soviet Air-Defense Force conducted the first hit-to-kill test when a V-1000 missile interceptor developed by the Fakel (Torch) design bureau under the supervision of Pyotr Grushin, a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, successfully destroyed the warhead of an R-12 intercontinental ballistic missile launched from the Kapustin Yar space center in the Volga region.

Several R-5 medium-range ballistic missiles were destroyed during subsequent tests. The United States was able to conduct similar tests only 23 years later.

From 1961 to 1971, Soviet experts developed the experimental A-35 missile-defense system around Moscow. The system became operational in June 1971 and protected the Soviet capital and surrounding industrial areas.

At that time, the United States, which lacked similar systems, was compelled to negotiate with the Soviet Union. In 1972 Moscow and Washington signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which served as the main element of mutual nuclear parity for several decades.

Under the treaty both sides agreed that each could have only two Anti-Ballistic Missile deployment areas that were heavily regulated and placed so that they could not provide a nationwide ABM defense or become the basis for developing one.

The United States and the Soviet Union thus left unchallenged the penetrating capability of the other's retaliatory missile forces. Both parties agreed to limit the quantitative improvement of their ABM technology.

In 1974 the United States and the Soviet Union signed a protocol to the treaty that entered into force in 1976 and reduced the number of ABM deployment areas to one, either around either side's national capital area or as a single intercontinental ballistic missile deployment area.

The United States elected not to deploy an ABM system and in 1976 deactivated its ineffective site at Grand Forks, N.D., around a Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile launch area.

Although the 1971 Soviet ABM system became obsolete even before it was commissioned, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty allowed Moscow to upgrade it. On May 15, 1978, the more advanced A-35M system was placed on active duty around Moscow.

However, the United States subsequently embarked on an ambitious multiple independent re-entry vehicle program that nullified the Soviet system's capabilities.

Next: The need to avoid a new ABM arms race

(Yury Zaitsev is an academic adviser at the Russian Academy of Engineering Sciences. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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