The Defense: ABM/SDI/BMD/NMD

  • David Hafemeister


Attempts to develop defenses against strategic missiles began almost at the time of their creation. Defenses have gone from antiballistic missile (ABM), to Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), to ballistic missile defense (BMD), to national missile defense (NMD). The Soviets deployed the first ABM system, the Galosh, around Moscow in 1962, which continues today in a modified version. The Johnson administration considered building the “Sentinel” defense to protect US cities, but this would have been difficult because soft buildings extend over large urban areas. But if cities could be completely defended, it would be possible for a nation to attack first without fear of retaliation. It is clear that actual ABM systems would not be able defend against a first strike, but if the nation that had a robust ABM system attacked first, it might be able to defeat a weakened second strike. This is the famous ABM strategic instability. Deployment of an ABM system can also be counterproductive since the existence of Galosh caused the United States to increase targeting of Moscow. For these reasons, Johnson proposed the ABM and SALT treaties to restrain both defensive and offensive weapons. Defensive constraints were originally rejected by Soviet leader Alexi Kosygin in 1968, as he stated that defensive weapons were “moral.” Upon further thought he agreed to the ABM Treaty.


Nuclear Weapon Adaptive Optic Duty Factor American Physical Society Closing Velocity 
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© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Hafemeister
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsCalifornia Polytechnic State UniversitySan Luis ObispoUSA

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