Intercept 1961: The Birth of Soviet Missile Defense

By Sturdevant, Rick W. | Air Power History, Winter 2015 | Go to article overview

Intercept 1961: The Birth of Soviet Missile Defense


Sturdevant, Rick W., Air Power History


Intercept 1961: The Birth of Soviet Missile Defense. By Mike Gruntman. Reston Virginia: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2015. Illustrations. Photographs. Tables. Notes. Appendices. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xviii, 309. $39.95 ISBN: 978-1-62410-349-0

Now, almost a quarter-century after publication of The Origins of SDI, 1944 1983 Don Baucom's acclaimed history of U.S. missile defense University of Southern California astronautics professor Mike Gruntman has narrated, for the first time in American English, the origins and early history of Soviet ballistic missile defense.

Professor Gruntman's Intercept 1961 takes historians, engineers, and other interested readers from the design of Soviet antiaircraft missiles, air defense systems, and work on a missile tracking radar in the late 1940s into the formulation of ballistic missile defense concepts in the 1950s. The book explains how, despite professional rivalries and "political scheming" among key individuals, chief designers, and top government officials in the totalitarian state, work on the missile defense system antimissiles, radars, computing power, and command capabilities progressed and was tested at Sary-Shagan in the Kazakhstan desert. Finally, on 4 March 1961, the Soviet Union successfully used a non-nuclear antimissile to intercept an intermediate range ballistic missile and destroy its warhead.

Gruntman reminds his audience that he could not have researched and written this incredibly detailed volume without the large quantity of Russian-language source material that became available after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Perusal of publication dates in his footnotes and bibliography, which contain citations for numerous memoirs and technical journals, confirms this. Access to declassified U.S. intelligence reports and photoreconnaissance imagery aerial and satellite enabled him to construct a narrative about what the United States knew that parallels the evolving Soviet story. …

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