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The FOBS of War
AIr Force Magazine ^ | 6/1/2005 | Lt. Col Braxton Eisel

Posted on 05/26/2010 12:20:41 AM PDT by ErnstStavroBlofeld

In the movie “Space Cowboys,” Clint Eastwood plays a test pilot/engineer who leads a group of aging astronauts on a mission to retrieve a nuclear-armed satellite, which had been put into space by a Soviet Union that then ceased to exist.

It was, at least in small part, a case of art imitating life.

During the Cold War, both superpowers contemplated the deployment of nuclear weapons in space. However, Moscow did more than contemplate. During the 1960s, the USSR had an operational system ready to go into orbit to attack the United States.

This weapon was a combined low-flying missile and nuclear warhead. It was designed to take off from the Soviet Union and de-orbit for an attack. Most importantly, it would not fly over the Arctic to reach US territory. It would, rather, traverse southern polar areas and reach the US via the “backdoor.”

The superpower space competition heated up with the Soviet Union’s successful Oct. 4, 1957, launch of Sputnik. In those days, the mere act of putting an object into orbit was a major achievement. It didn’t take very long for both sides to start worrying about missiles equipped with doomsday payloads.

For several years afterward, Moscow had the lead. Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev boasted of his country’s superiority in space. On Aug. 9, 1961, Khrushchev bragged, “You [the Americans] do not have 50- or 100-megaton bombs; we have bombs more powerful than 100 megatons. We placed [cosmonauts] in space, and we can replace them with other loads that can be directed to any place on Earth.”

No one had any doubt that the Kremlin leader was talking about nuclear weapons.

In the ensuing years, both the US and USSR spent considerable energy monitoring the nuclear capabilities of the other. To detect incoming Soviet ICBMs,

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TOPICS: Chit/Chat; History; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: coldwar; fobs; icbm; missile; nuclearwarheads; orbit; orbitalweapon; satellite; sovietunion; space; spacewar; ussr

1 posted on 05/26/2010 12:20:41 AM PDT by ErnstStavroBlofeld
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To: Captain Beyond


2 posted on 05/26/2010 12:24:42 AM PDT by ErnstStavroBlofeld ("You hit somebody with your fist and not with your fingers spread:-General Heinz Guderian)
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To: sonofstrangelove
The test launches were monitored by the CIA and matched US expectations. There was a period in 1965-66 to get the system configured, followed in 1967 by a robust firing program, which prepared crews for operations. The orbital missile was first deployed in 1968.

By that time, however, the United Nations had passed Resolution 1884 and the Outer Space Treaty, which called upon the world’s nations to keep nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction out of Earth orbit.


Moscow saw this mainly as a problem of semantics. It promptly dubbed its orbital weapon system the “Fractional Orbital Bombardment System” or FOBS. It claimed that the system would never complete a full orbit and thus would be in compliance with the letter of the international accords. The Kremlin continued developing FOBS to deliver thermonuclear bombs via a low-trajectory, low-visibility route.

The Soviet Union constructed 18 operational FOBS silos at a site west of Tyuratam and activated its first operational unit on Aug. 25, 1969. Two more battalions joined the first. Together, they comprised the 98th Missile Brigade.

A problem of semantics? Sounds just like the politicians that we have in office today ...

3 posted on 05/26/2010 4:30:57 AM PDT by texas booster (Join FreeRepublic's Folding@Home team (Team # 36120) Cure Alzheimer's!)
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