I like to make the point in my presentations that the era of ICBMs was roughly split between rapid prototyping and sustainment.
The 1950’s and 1960’s were a flurry of activity assigning large amounts of resources to create an intercontinental ballistic missile that could be the perfect deterrent. Then, when perfection was achieved in Minuteman III, the focus shifted to preserving its capabilities.
“Perfection was achieved” is a bit of circular reasoning. But I am OK with it:
Because the deterrent mission was working so well and no one could muster an argument that it wasn’t — that is, an argument that was sufficient enough to allocate resources required to create the next, better ICBM — therefore “perfection was achieved.”
This is why it is important to recall the Peacekeeper (AKA MX) story.
Even the highly advanced Peacekeeper ICBM was doomed from the start. When it was emplaced in Minuteman silos, its effectiveness as a deterrent plummeted despite its highly accurate guidance system. Why? Because it carried up to 10 warheads, emplacement in a silo make it too lucrative of a target. The advanced guidance just made it even more lucrative of a target. Tempting the other side to strike you is bad deterrence calculus.
The original deployment scheme was “rail garrison”, a shell game of railroad rail lines spread across the West. The point of the rail garrison deployment was to make it un-targetable and therefore reduce the desire of an adversary to attempt to destroy it — thus increasing deterrence.
In the end, Peacekeeper’s main value for deterrence wound up being a bargaining chip for arms limitations talks. And, of course, Small Missile, the smaller truck version of the same weapon, never achieved deployment. It was not needed. We had Minuteman.
Quite a lot can be said on the subject of the Peacekeeper missile. And many will feel I have left out far too much information. But what I have noted is true, makes my points, and not contradicted by the rest of the story. (Please leave a comment if you disagree.)
This summary helps reveal the intimate nature of a system and its mission. For instance, many people who functioned as a component in nuclear weapon systems were required to help in our efforts to reduce nuclear arms which is part of the mission of deterrence against nuclear attack.
The chart also helps explain the historic emphasis on sustainment which helped to create the complex system sustainment management model we know today.
For all these reasons and more, it is a good chart to include in my presentations.