Author Topic: "Air Force Outlines Space Plans" - Aviation Week December 1960  (Read 3207 times)

Online edzieba

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Any idea how the Polaris SLBM would be "ineffective after 1964"?
I have seen hints that the engineers even in the late 50s were well aware that ballistic missiles follow very predictable trajectories. And interception of predictable things was deemed easier than e.g. maneuverable airplanes. I would assume that the term "ineffective" is related to that line of thinking.
Bingo. Chevaline was the package of penaids the UK added to their Polaris missiles, due to not being able to increase the number of actual missiles to hope to saturate ABM projected defences. Similar penaid packages have since become the norm for ICBMs (and some IRBMs).

Online LittleBird

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Any idea how the Polaris SLBM would be "ineffective after 1964"?
I have seen hints that the engineers even in the late 50s were well aware that ballistic missiles follow very predictable trajectories. And interception of predictable things was deemed easier than e.g. maneuverable airplanes. I would assume that the term "ineffective" is related to that line of thinking.
Bingo. Chevaline was the package of penaids the UK added to their Polaris missiles, due to not being able to increase the number of actual missiles to hope to saturate ABM projected defences. Similar penaid packages have since become the norm for ICBMs (and some IRBMs).

Indeed, and would definitely have been part of the conversation as early as 1960, see eg the 3 volume DARPA history, but not obviously something that USAF could criticise Polaris for [*] at that time ? Unless they meant that any one boat couldn't carry more than say 16 missiles ?

[* Edit: I mean without criticising their own ICBMs as well ?]
« Last Edit: 11/23/2022 11:07 am by LittleBird »

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Actually, now I look it up, the perceived advantages of the airborne Skybolt vs ICBMs and (initially) Polaris is an aspect of all this I'd never appreciated.

So if the USAF were briefing against Polaris they might have been briefing for Skybolt and the notional mobile Minuteman  that was also mentioned in Booda's piece. See Wikipedia page for Skybolt:

Quote

Background

The US Air Force had built up an enormous fleet of strategic bombers during the 1950s, only to see them threatened by the possibility of a surprise attack by Soviet ICBMs. As the US bombers were located at only a small number of air bases, a relatively small fleet of missiles could attack all of them at once. The US had been developing its own ICBMs as well, but early models, like the SM-65 Atlas, required some time to prepare to launch from their surface launchers and were vulnerable to sneak air attack. A carefully timed attack from Soviet bombers against US missiles and their ICBMs against US bomber fields could inflict serious damage.[2]

The one weapon system that was not open to attack was the US Navy's Polaris missile system. The Polaris equipped submarines could cruise in large areas of the Atlantic or Pacific where the Soviet fleet was unable to find them, and launch their missiles with impunity. If the goal of the nuclear force was to maintain deterrence by ensuring that a counterstrike would be launched, Polaris met this goal in a way the existing Air Force fleet could not. This fact was more worrying to the Air Force than the Soviet arsenal and generated a number of internal reports on how to deal with this threat to their dominance in the strategic field.[2]

WS-199 and WS-138

In response, in 1957 the Air Force began studying solutions to the "Puzzle of Polaris" under the WS-199 program.
WS-199 was a grab-bag effort, studying anything that might improve the survivability of the Air Force strike capability. Primary among the concepts were two air-launched ballistic missiles, Bold Orion and High Virgo. These systems would give the Air Force a method somewhat similar to the Navy's; in times of high alert, the bomber force would be sent to holding positions far outside the range of any Soviet defenses, and then launch their missiles on command. Using aerial refueling, a bomber might be expected to be able to loiter for as long as a day.

This system had a major advantage compared to Polaris, as the aircraft could be sent radio instructions to retarget the missiles before launch. In theory, the bombers could be used as a second-strike weapon, attacking only those targets that had been missed in a first-strike, or alternately, being switched from counterforce to countervalue targets or vice versa. Ground-based systems like Atlas and Polaris lacked this ability, and could only be retargeted with a significant amount of effort. Even the latest Air Force design, the LGM-30 Minuteman, required changes in targeting data to be loaded from magnetic tape in a process that took several weeks.[3]

[2]Kaplan, Fred (1991). The Wizards of Armageddon. Stanford University Press. pp. 237–238.
[3]Arkin, William (November 1996). "The Six-Hundred Million Dollar Mouse". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 52 (6): 68. Bibcode:1996BuAtS..52f..68A. doi:10.1080/00963402.1996.11456682.


« Last Edit: 11/23/2022 01:56 pm by LittleBird »

Offline Airlocks

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Hmmmm. Always saw Skybolt at the Air Force atempt at turning the B-52 fleet into flying Polaris submarines. At first glance it was a rather smart and savvy idea.

Main issue: it only moved the vulnerability, rather than truly solving it. Even standing on short alerts on the ground, bombers could still be wiped out within the blink of an eye. So they had to fly continously - either going nuclear-power (but JFK stopped that madness in 1961) or Chrome Dome (but: Goldsborough, Palomares and Thulé ended that other madness).

Fact was the Polaris nuclear submarines had the best shield on Earth: the ocean depths. A thousand feet of water, plus the oceans immense areas to hide quietly. Go finding every single 41 for freedom before they fired 16 Polaris with 3 warheads: that's 656 tubes and 1968 nukes.

Even 70 years later, the "nuclear submarine basing" has not been bettered. Not even spaceborne nukes could compete, because orbits are fixed, hence vulnerable to ASAT.

Circa 1965 and even with the Minuteman fleet, the Air Force Generals must have had kittens when they realized the above.
After 20 years, the Navy had prevailed in the race for the ultimate, almost invulnerable nuclear delivery system.

« Last Edit: 11/23/2022 06:33 pm by Airlocks »
Professor Pangloss: a SpaceX die-hard supporter. 
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pangloss

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Uploading in its own thread as I'll be wanting to refer to bits of this from several places. One of the most interesting snapshots I've seen of how USAF were briefing sympathetic people in Congress shortly after Kennedy was elected. Booda's biography interesting in itself, will upload his Wash Post obit tonight.


I have finally read this and a few thoughts come to mind*:

-I haven't seen most of these names or concepts before. So it strikes me as if the reporter was talking to Air Force people who were not out in the front of what they were doing or wanting to do. He may have been talking to the people who were losing the arguments within USAF and therefore wanted to get their ideas out into public. For example, I've never heard of SPAD before, and the fact that it's not mentioned a lot in the histories indicates that it was obscure. Where are the more prominent concepts, like the "Aerospaceplane"? This looks like a lot of vague R&D study ideas that they were pushing from obscure parts of the USAF.

-You really have to consider the overall context, both before and after this article. There were a lot of USAF people annoyed that USAF had been shackled with its space ambitions. There was NASA getting some key stuff (like the initial manned spaceflight program), and ARPA taking over control for awhile. They clearly wanted a new president to give them back the reins, and so they were going public to set the stage for that.

-Now consider what happened after this article. Kennedy's SecDef McNamara looked at a lot of USAF's overly ambitious projects and said no way and killed them. If you remember that while reading this article, you get a better picture. USAF had huge ambitions, a lot of unrealistic projects, and this article reflects that. McNamara rightly paired a lot of that stuff back. He got rid of some major weapons programs, notably the B-70 (although you can add a bunch more to that list).



*What do we really mean when we say "thoughts come to mind"? Isn't the mind made up of thoughts? Is the term redundant and therefore useless?

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There were two major variations of that 1960's brilliant pebbles.

Convair had, first, the SPAD: Space Patrol, Active Defense
Much like early Pebbles concepts, there were 500 big "garages" housing the smallish, 300 pounds interceptors.
As re-discovered 25 years later, the "garages" were very vulnerable: big fat targets for any ASAT system like I.S (IStrebitel Sputnik)

So TRW reworked SPAD into the Random Barrage System, where the 100 000 interceptors would have to be autonomous. They seemingly worked on it until as late as 1966.


The discussion in 1960 of tens of thousands of satellites demonstrates just how out of touch these guys were. How were they going to control those satellites? How many ground stations were necessary? And considering that they were weapons, the need for positive control was high--they needed to know what every one of them was doing almost all the time, because the risk of some of them being taken over when you were not paying attention to them was very high.

This issue showed up in other areas around that time. One of the things that did in Samos was that a full calculation of the number of ground stations needed to communicate with all the satellites produced an alarming number. Paying for dozens of ground stations around the world was going to be very expensive.

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https://www.thespacereview.com/article/2714/1


From that article:

"Secretary McNamara’s and Dr. Brown’s conservatism and lack of vision has left humanity in a local minima, trapped in a gravity well, unable to access the vast wealth of the inner solar system, and left the life on our entire planet bare and defenseless against what has emerged as a credible threat: asteroids and comets.
We have traded the grand visions of 1962 for a much more tawdry reality, one where instead of going to space in ships with large crews that could roam the inner solar system in voyages measured in months, and would have laid the foundation for humans to reach other stars, our species has accepted small tin cans that may just be able to send a handful of specialists to Mars before the Apollo lunar landing centennial.
Had the US Air Force not been gelded in 1962, humanity would today be reaching for the stars."


That was another example of how Garretson is not to be taken seriously--lamenting the fact that a crazy and probably technically impossible weapons system was canceled in 1962, and how that prevents us from flying around the solar system today. It's like wishing that witchcraft and teleportation was real, because then everybody could have a unicorn.

Here is a different perspective:

https://www.thespacereview.com/article/379/1


Online LittleBird

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https://www.thespacereview.com/article/2714/1


From that article:

"Secretary McNamara’s and Dr. Brown’s conservatism and lack of vision has left humanity in a local minima, trapped in a gravity well, unable to access the vast wealth of the inner solar system, and left the life on our entire planet bare and defenseless against what has emerged as a credible threat: asteroids and comets.
We have traded the grand visions of 1962 for a much more tawdry reality, one where instead of going to space in ships with large crews that could roam the inner solar system in voyages measured in months, and would have laid the foundation for humans to reach other stars, our species has accepted small tin cans that may just be able to send a handful of specialists to Mars before the Apollo lunar landing centennial.
Had the US Air Force not been gelded in 1962, humanity would today be reaching for the stars."


That was another example of how Garretson is not to be taken seriously--lamenting the fact that a crazy and probably technically impossible weapons system was canceled in 1962, and how that prevents us from flying around the solar system today. It's like wishing that witchcraft and teleportation was real, because then everybody could have a unicorn.

Here is a different perspective:

https://www.thespacereview.com/article/379/1

Thanks for that pointer. You've probably never been more lucid than in that old TSR piece. I could practically hear the weary sigh at the end ;-)

Without wishing to divert the thread, though, I feel  I should add that at the time one did not need to lament the end of Orion as a weapon, to regret the end of Orion as a mode of transport.

Famously,and as I'm sure you know,  Freeman Dyson did indeed lament the latter at the time: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.149.3680.141
but changed his mind on this over the subsequent decades of a long life, as his son George's biographical memoir records https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/epdf/10.1098/rsbm.2021.0050  (see pages 214 to 216).

I think part of what interests me about the Booda piece in my original posting, however, are the political and journalistic aspects of it.

Had Booda in fact been talking to the briefers from the various parts of the USAF that you've identified (SAC, Schriever's people, etc), who as you say, were not speaking with one voice, or was he talking to those briefed, in Congress? If the latter, were they and he sympathetic to the messages ? Or was this in fact an indirect part of the USN's campaign against SAC's sole strategic  nuclear role, a campaign well advanced by then as Polaris was being developed, and well dcumented in the Arleigh Burke memos at the National Security Archive-linked upthread ?

On specific subject of SPAD I do take your point that it's fairly obscure, and a quick search  in places like Stares' books or Parker Temple's newer book, doesn't find it. However it had appeared a couple of times in the preceding 12 months in AW&ST, I'll post the illustration from one of these.
« Last Edit: 11/25/2022 09:51 am by LittleBird »

Online LittleBird

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Uploading in its own thread as I'll be wanting to refer to bits of this from several places. One of the most interesting snapshots I've seen of how USAF were briefing sympathetic people in Congress shortly after Kennedy was elected. Booda's biography interesting in itself, will upload his Wash Post obit tonight.

I have finally read this and a few thoughts come to mind*:

-I haven't seen most of these names or concepts before. So it strikes me as if the reporter was talking to Air Force people who were not out in the front of what they were doing or wanting to do. He may have been talking to the people who were losing the arguments within USAF and therefore wanted to get their ideas out into public. For example, I've never heard of SPAD before, and the fact that it's not mentioned a lot in the histories indicates that it was obscure. Where are the more prominent concepts, like the "Aerospaceplane"? This looks like a lot of vague R&D study ideas that they were pushing from obscure parts of the USAF.


FWIW the Booda piece says "Space Plane was not included in the briefings", and then offers a short sketch, see attached:

 
« Last Edit: 11/25/2022 04:12 am by LittleBird »

Online LittleBird

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-I haven't seen most of these names or concepts before. So it strikes me as if the reporter was talking to Air Force people who were not out in the front of what they were doing or wanting to do. He may have been talking to the people who were losing the arguments within USAF and therefore wanted to get their ideas out into public. For example, I've never heard of SPAD before, and the fact that it's not mentioned a lot in the histories indicates that it was obscure. 


One important aspect of SPAD is that, as first grab below from AW&ST in Oct 1960 notes, it was originally a specific Convair study but had become used as a more generic term.

Earlier article from Jan 1960, second and third grabs, is also interesting, not least as a part of early MIDAS-like activity that the Lockheed/Cargill Hall histories hadn't mentioned iirc.

Quote

This looks like a lot of vague R&D study ideas that they were pushing from obscure parts of the USAF.


SPAD was at least initially ARPA-funded.
« Last Edit: 11/25/2022 04:27 am by LittleBird »

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It might be worth looking in Spires' book(s) to see what he has to say about this. But it does strike me as a bit off-message, like the people who were talking to Aviation Week were not really the ones in charge, and they were pushing the minor stuff and not the real programs. I would think that in December 1960 there were much higher priority space programs that USAF would like to get money for.


But is this going anywhere? Is there a point to this discussion? I think there could be. That point could be the USAF's totally unrealistic space plans in the 1959-1961 period and how they were eventually brought under control. The various players involved at the time would be an important aspect of this. For instance, was Schriever pushing totally unrealistic plans? His position on ADVENT implies that he was the sane one and other people were out of touch with reality. But what about some of the other plans? One of the reasons NRO was created was because people at higher levels did not trust USAF (Schriever?) with satellite reconnaissance. So it would be interesting to explore who the people were and what their positions and plans were, and how that was all reined-in.
« Last Edit: 11/25/2022 02:09 pm by Blackstar »

Online LittleBird

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It might be worth looking in Spires' book(s) to see what he has to say about this. But it does strike me as a bit off-message, like the people who were talking to Aviation Week were not really the ones in charge, and they were pushing the minor stuff and not the real programs. I would think that in December 1960 there were much higher priority space programs that USAF would like to get money for.

Indeed. Which is one reason why I think it is possible that rather than reporting what USAF were briefing with tacit or explicit USAF approval, Booda may have actually been reporting what he'd heard via the "briefees", and spotlighting the ideas that would not necessarily find favour in DoD. It is not obvious to me that Aviation Week was always aligned with USAF per se.

Quote
But is this going anywhere? Is there a point to this discussion? I think there could be.

Personally I've already found the responses to it interesting, and it has taught me, or sent me off to learn, several things I didn't know (e.g. about Skybolt) or had forgotten (e.g. about von Braun) but your mileage may vary ;-)

Quote
That point could be the USAF's totally unrealistic space plans in the 1959-1961 period and how they were eventually brought under control. The various players involved at the time would be an important aspect of this. For instance, was Schriever pushing totally unrealistic plans? His position on ADVENT implies that he was the sane one and other people were out of touch with reality. But what about some of the other plans?

His unpublished book that leovinus talks about towards beginning of thread was suggestive of exactly that imho (and I think in leovinus' opinion).

Quote
One of the reasons NRO was created was because people at higher levels did not trust USAF (Schriever?) with satellite reconnaissance.

I think evidence seems pretty clear that they didn't trust either Schriever on West Coast or Power's SAC, but the latter had more clout and success in getting some of the recon and related MIDAS-type mission for some of the time.

Quote
So it would be interesting to explore who the people were and what their positions and plans were, and how that was all reined-in.

Be my guest.  It's a story that isn't yet told in full, I'm sure. It's also a story that must surely have intersected with the broader story of Macnamara, and Polaris, and so forth. [Edit: I've thought for a while that Paul Stares' superb book, The Militarization of Space: US Policy, 1945-1984   should have a counterpoint, perhaps called The Demilitarization of Space: US Policy, 1956-1964, say ;-)]
« Last Edit: 11/27/2022 12:54 pm by LittleBird »

Online LittleBird

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It might be worth looking in Spires' book(s) to see what he has to say about this. 

Had a look and no sign-in fact there's an entirely different SPAD, the Center for Supersonic and Pilotless Aircraft Development, as well as the unrelated SPADATS and SPADOC.

However glad I looked, pointed me to an interesting MOL reference, see MOL thread.

Online leovinus

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Some nice Sunday afternoon reading. I never realized that there was a NASA Oral history with Gen. Schriever. He talks about ICBMs, the Air Force relation with NASA, him as "the great motivator", even a little on MOL.

There is also an Oral History with Simon Ramo at TRW, Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation which includes a discussion on the moon as the high ground. Fun stuff.

https://historycollection.jsc.nasa.gov/JSCHistoryPortal/history/oral_histories/ballistics.htm

https://historycollection.jsc.nasa.gov/JSCHistoryPortal/history/oral_histories/NASA_HQ/Ballistic/SchrieverBA/schrieverba.htm

Online LittleBird

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Some nice Sunday afternoon reading. I never realized that there was a NASA Oral history with Gen. Schriever. He talks about ICBMs, the Air Force relation with NASA, him as "the great motivator", even a little on MOL.

There is also an Oral History with Simon Ramo at TRW, Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation which includes a discussion on the moon as the high ground. Fun stuff.

https://historycollection.jsc.nasa.gov/JSCHistoryPortal/history/oral_histories/ballistics.htm

https://historycollection.jsc.nasa.gov/JSCHistoryPortal/history/oral_histories/NASA_HQ/Ballistic/SchrieverBA/schrieverba.htm

Thanks for both of those. Ramo was remarkable in so many ways, see  photo of him, aged 100, with his last patent below.

https://spectrum.ieee.org/simon-ramo-the-r-in-trw-inc-is-the-man-behind-ieees-systems-engineering-medal


 One thing that interests me about him is the consistency of his view about crewed spaceflight-the arguments in the piece you've found are v similar to an article by him from late 60s iirc  that I've seen. One might superficially think this would have lost business for TRW, but I doubt it, arguably the balanced portfolio of TRW's business was a much more  consistent source of contracts, a policy applied also by their great rivals, Hughes.

I am genuinely less sure about Schriever,  and beginning to wonder even more how well-documented his personal views were, as opposed to all the different studies done by AFBMD and numerous other commissioning sources.  For example what was the broader context of the excerpt about bombardment satelites that you quoted upthread ? Did he and co-author actually like the idea, or were they simply listing its features in order to dissect them ?

One interesting quote from about 1969 is in Young, Silcock and Dunn's "Journey to Tranquillity", when the authors interviewed him, by then a consultant in DC.

Quote
"No hard military objectives developed out of the early studies", he says. "There may have been some zealots with fire in their eyes who thought they could dream up things for us to do up there. But no one who really studied the matter could find military uses, especially so far as the lunar surface was concerned."

An interesting quote, to say the least, but even more so from the first director of MOL.  One thing I need to do of course is read Gerry Doyle's thesis properly-it looks like a v thorough job to me.
« Last Edit: 11/28/2022 07:23 am by LittleBird »

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