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intercept 1961 by mike gruntman

Mike Gruntman

Intercept 1961.

The Birth of Soviet Missile Defense.

AIAA, Reston, Va., 2015
ISBN 978-1-62410-349-0 (print)
eISBN: 978-1-62410-350-6 (pdf - at

330 pages with 120+ figures
Bibliography: 200+ references

Intercept 1961 on Amazon

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Proceedings of the IEEE Intercept 1961 by Mike Gruntman

Intercept 1961 by Mike Gruntman

Intercept 1961  –  8-page journal article

Intercept 1961  –  2-page info (pdf)

About the Book

scroll down to Table of Contents (with list of figures) and Preface

More than 50 years ago, pioneering scientists and engineers in the Soviet Union and the United States searched for a technical means of defense against ballistic missiles. This book tells the little-known story of the earliest breakthroughs which paved the way for the emergence of a powerful missile defense complex in the Soviet Union, a major factor in the Cold War.

On March 4, 1961, a Soviet guided missile performed the first nonnuclear intercept of an intermediate range ballistic missile (SS-4, R-12) at the Saryshagan test site in the Kazakhstan desert when it destroyed an approaching warhead. This spectacular and most consequential achievement followed earlier intercepts by the United States Army of several shorter range missiles at White Sands.

The new field led to the emergence of monitoring space objects in orbit, ballistic missile early warning, and antisatellite weapons. The first operational Soviet missile defense system A-35 was deployed in 1970s to protect Moscow; its successor remaining active today.

Intercept 1961 focuses on the events that led to the first nonnuclear intercepts of long-range ballistic missile warheads in 1961. It introduces leading participants, now largely forgotten or unknown, and contains many technical characteristics of early air and missile defense systems, rarely found even in highly special-ized publications. The latter details are not overwhelming, and anyone interested in rocketry, space, and radar will navigate through the book without difficulty.

Abundant literature on rocketry, ballistic missiles, satellites, and space exploration fills bookshelves. At the same time, very little is known about missile defense and first intercepts. The book fills this gap.

Intercept 1961 is especially relevant today as the United States and other countries continue facing the eternal "protect-or-avenge" dilemma when balancing retaliatory offensive capabilities against defensive protection. In an age of unstable governments, spreading weapons of mass destruction, and radical ideologies and terrorism, this historical background is critical for informed policy formulation, threat evaluation, defense planning, and counteracting the proliferation of weapons and sensitive technologies.

The book is a must read for students of history, scientists and engineers, analysts, and specialists in international relations and national security.

The book has more than 120 figures, including a number of photographs never published outside Russia. Many U.S. reconnaissance photographs appear for the first time ever (in open literature).

Selected bibliography includes more than 200 entries. Many referred to publications appeared in limited editions and are not widely known. The language barrier also often restricts their use. In addition, declassified U.S. government documents and reconnaissance imagery are not always conveniently accessible.

Book reviews  –  intercept 1961 book reviews

About the Author

Dr. Mike Gruntman is professor of astronautics at the University of Southern California (USC). His life journey took him from a child growing on the Tyuratam (Baikonur) missile and space launch base during the late 1950s and early 1960s to an accomplished space physicist to the founder of a major space engineering education program, today a nationally recognized astronautical engineering department at USC.

Mike is actively involved in research and development programs in space science and space technology and has authored and co-authored nearly 300 publications. He published four books, including Blazing the Trail: The Early History of Spacecraft and Rocketry (AIAA, 2004), which won the International Academy of Astronautics' award. Another his book, From Astronautics to Cosmonautics, 2007, was nominated (2008) for the Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society. Mike also wrote a history book on an espionage case, about a Soviet spy operating under cover at USC during World War II, Enemy Amongst Trojans. A Soviet Spy at USC.

videos by mike gruntman    Mike's videos on satellite orbits

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Intercept 1961 – Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction: Protect or Avenge

Away from Public Eyes
Geopolitical Importance
Selective Virtue of Defense
Common Sense

Figures: Fig. 1.1. Fragments of Scud missile

Chapter 2. Special Bureau SB-1

Advanced Weapons
Communist Princeling
New Special Bureau
Kometa KS-1 (AS-1) missile

Figures: Fig. 2.1. Joseph V. Stalin; Fig. 2.2. Sergo Beria; Fig. 2.3. Pavel N. Kuksenko; Fig. 2.4. Krug (SA-4); Fig. 2.5. Alexander S. Yakovlev, Andrei N. Tupolev, Semen A. Lavochkin, and Artem I. Mikoyan; Fig. 2.6. Kometa KS-1 (AS-1)

Chapter 3. Stalin's Order

A Summons to the Kremlin
Design Bureau KB-1
A New "Empire" Emerges
Track-While-Scan Radar
Antiaircraft Missile V-300
The Death of Stalin

Figures: Fig. 3.1. Joseph V. Stalin and Lavrentii P. Beria; Fig. 3.2. Alexander A. Raspletin; Fig. 3.3. Aksel' I. Berg; Fig. 3.4. KB-1 building; Fig. 3.5. KB-1 building; Fig. 3.6. Antenna aperture; Fig. 3.7. B-200 radar; Fig. 3.8. B-200 radar; Fig. 3.9. Semen A. Lavochkin; Fig. 3.10. ZUR-205 (V-300, SA-1); Fig. 3.11. Alexei M. Isaev; Fig. 3.12. Vladimir P. Barmin; Fig. 3.13. Vasilii I. Voznyuk, Sergei I. Vetoshkin, and Sergei P. Korolev; Fig. 3.14. Sergo Beria; Fig. 3.15. S-75 (SA-2) missile; Fig. 3.16. Petr D. Grushin

Chapter 4. Air Defense System of Moscow

Early Warning Radars
Two Rings of Fire
The S-25 (SA-1) Site
S-25 (SA-1) Operational
U-2 Aircraft over Moscow
Two Bears in One Lair

Figures: Fig. 4.1. A-100 and Kama radars; Fig. 4.2. A-100 map; Fig. 4.3. A-100 site; Fig. 4.4. S-25 (SA-1) map; Fig. 4.5. S-25 (SA-1) site; Fig. 4.6. S-25 (SA-1) site; Fig. 4.7. V-300 missile; Fig. 4.8. Moscow; Fig. 4.9. Moscow; Fig. 4.10. Moscow; Fig. 4.11. S-75 (SA-2) site; Fig. 4.12. S-75 (SA-2) missile; Fig. 4.13. Grigorii V. Kisun'ko

Chapter 5. Beginning of Missile Defense

In Response to a New Threat
A Time of Changes in the Military-Industrial Complex
Missile Defense Challenges
Meeting at TGU (Third Chief Directorate)
Development Leaders
Experimental System A Authorized
Development Team

Figures: Fig. 5.1. A-4 (V-2); Fig. 5.2. A-4 (V-2) hits Antwerp; Fig. 5.3. Vasilii D. Sokolovsky and Dwight D. Eisenhower; Fig. 5.4. Nikita S. Khrushchev; Fig. 5.5. Alexander L. Mints; Fig. 5.6. Grigorii V. Kisun'ko; Fig. 5.7. Timeline of early air and missile defenses; Fig. 5.8. Evolution of KB-1; Fig. 5.9. System A concept; Fig. 5.10. Petr D. Grushin tombstone; Fig. 5.11. Organizations in early air and missile defenses

Chapter 6. Saryshagan Test Site

Desert in Kazakhstan
Construction in the Desert
GNIIP-10 (Test Range)
Test Site "Put on the Map"
Growing Installation
Site 2
Operation K - Nuclear Explosions in Saryshagan's Skies

Figures: Fig. 6.1. Major Soviet weapons development test sites; Fig. 6.2. Saryshagan range; Fig. 6.3. Indigenous people; Fig. 6.4. Lake Balkhash; Fig. 6.5. Construction troops badge; Fig. 6.6. Saryshagan railroad station and Priozersk; Fig. 6.7. Saryshagan railroad station; Fig. 6.8. High-voltage power lines at Saryshagan; Fig. 6.9. Main airfield at Saryshagan; Fig. 6.10. Map of Saryshagan range; Fig. 6.11. Map of support base at Saryshagan range; Fig. 6.12. S-75 (SA-2) battery at Saryshagan; Fig. 6.13. Map of Saryshagan range; Fig. 6.14. TsSO-P (Hen House) radar, Saryshagan range; Fig. 6.15. Site 2, Saryshagan range; Fig. 6.16. Fenced-off area, Site 2, Saryshagan range; Fig. 6.17. Airstrip, Site 2, Saryshagan range; Fig. 6.18. R-5 field launch position near Chelkar; Fig. 6.19. RE-4 radar, Site 38, Saryshagan range; Fig. 6.20. Priozersk; Fig. 6.21. Priozersk; Fig. 6.22. Television tower, Priozersk; Fig. 6.23. Eastern part of Saryshagan range

Chapter 7. Experimental System A

System Concept
Long-Range Search Radar Dunai-2 (Hen Roost)
Precise Tracking and Guidance Radar RTN
Interceptor Missile Initial Guidance Radar
Interceptor Missile V-1000
Data Transmission System
Central Computing Station

Figures: Fig. 7.1. System A at Saryshagan range; Fig. 7.2. Dunai-2 (Sites 14 and 15) and TsSO-P (Site 8) area at Saryshagan range; Fig. 7.3. Dunai-2 (Hen Roost North), Site 14; Fig. 7.4. Dunai-2 (Hen Roost); Fig. 7.5. Dunai-2 (Hen Roost North); Fig. 7.6. Dunai-2 (Hen Roost North); Fig. 7.7. TsSO-P (Hen House); Fig. 7.8. RTN radar; Fig. 7.9. RTN radar; Fig. 7.10. RTN radar; Fig. 7.11. RTN radar at Site 2; Fig. 7.12. Initial guidance RSVPR radar; Fig. 7.13. V-1000 interceptor missile; Fig. 7.14. Missile launch pad; Fig. 7.15. Microwave relay communication tower; Fig. 7.16. Terminal communication tower at Site 2; Fig. 7.17. Site 40, Saryshagan range; Fig. 7.18. M-40 and M-50 computers, Saryshagan range

Chapter 8. Intercepts

Autonomous and System Tests
Interceptor Warhead
The Success on 4 March 1961
Tests Continue
Battle Against Penetration Aids Begins

Figures: Fig. 8.1. Central control post TsIS; Fig. 8.2. Site 40, Saryshagan range; Fig. 8.3. Trajectories of ballistic missiles in first intercepts; Fig. 8.4. V-1000 interceptor missile; Fig. 8.5. Launch positions of V-1000 missiles; Fig. 8.6. Mikhail K. Yangel; Fig. 8.7. IRBM R-12 (SS-4); Fig. 8.8. R-12 field launch position near Makat; Fig. 8.9. Launch of V-1000; Fig. 8.10. Remnants of the warhead shot down on 4 March 1961; Fig. 8.11. Optical instrument KST-60; Fig. 8.12. Sequence of frames of R-12 intercept on 9 June 1961; Fig. 8.13. Sequence of frames of R-12 intercept on 9 June 1961; Fig. 8.14. Sequence of frames of R-12 intercept on 9 June 1961

Chapter 9. Beyond Experiments

Toward Operational Missile Defense (A-35)
Crisis in Missile Defense
Scientific-Industrial Association Vympel
Firing of Grigorii Kisun'ko
A Gigantic Enterprise
Antisatellite Weapons
Ballistic Missile Early Warning
Soviet Princelings
Weapons in Space
Post-USSR Era

Figures: Fig. 9.1. Dunai-3 (Dog House) radar; Fig. 9.2. RE-4, RKTs, and RKI, Site 38, Saryshagan range; Fig. 9.3. Vladimir N. Chelomei; Fig. 9.4. S-225 concept; Fig. 9.5. Nikolai I. Krylov, Nikita S. Khrushchev, Dmitrii F. Ustinov, Leonid I. Brezhnev, and Frol A. Kozlov; Fig. 9.6. A-35 and A-35M map; Fig. 9.7. A-35 site near Klin; Fig. 9.8. A-35 site near Zagorsk; Fig. 9.9. OS-1 node near Irkutsk; Fig. 9.10. OS-2 node, Saryshagan range; Fig. 9.11. Over-the-horizon radar near Nikolaev; Fig. 9.12. Laser space battlestation Polyus and Energia booster; Fig. 9.13. Remnants of RTN, Site 2, Saryshagan; Fig. 9.14. Remnants of garrison clubhouse, Site 35, Saryshagan range

Appendix A. First U.S. Missile Intercepts

Figures: Fig. A.1. Honest John; Fig. A.2. Hawk; Fig. A.3. Honest John intercept by Hawk; Fig. A.4. Corporal and Nike-Hercules; Fig. A.5. Corporal intercept by Nike-Hercules; Fig. A.6. Nike-Zeus

Appendix B. Acronyms and Abbreviations

Appendix C. Pronunciation Guide

Appendix D. List of Figures

Appendix E. Selected Bibliography


On 4 March 1961, a Soviet guided missile intercepted and destroyed the approaching warhead of an intermediate-range ballistic missile R-12 (SS-4) at the Saryshagan test site in the Kazakhstan desert. Several successful intercepts followed, paving the way for the emergence of a powerful political, military, scientific-technological, and industrial missile defense complex in the Soviet Union.

The spectacular nonnuclear destruction of a long-range ballistic missile clearly earned a place among the most important and consequential Soviet firsts in a rapidly advancing field of missiles and space. The other accomplishments of that era included the first intercontinental ballistic missile R-7 (SS-6) and artificial Earth satellite Sputnik in August and October, respectively, of 1957, and an orbital flight by the first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, in April 1961.

In contrast to Sputnik and Gagarin’s flight, the history of the first intercept of a long-range ballistic missile remains poorly known and appreciated. The event stood out as especially impressive because it relied on advanced electronics, sophisticated radar systems, high-speed communications, real-time computing, and precise guidance and control. The Western public and media rarely viewed these areas of military technology as being particularly strong in the Soviet Union.

The missile defense achievement had its roots in the Soviet air defense establishment that was organizationally and technologically different and separate from those building strategic ballistic missiles and satellites and launching cosmonauts. The early missile defense programs also led to the development and emergence of new space-related areas such as tracking and cataloging of orbiting space objects, space object identification, detection from space of ballistic missile launches, and antisatellite weapons. Although abundant literature on ballistic missiles and space exploration fills bookshelves, very little is written about missile defense and first intercepts.

At the same time, the proliferation of ballistic missiles coupled with weapons of mass destruction, radical ideologies, and terrorism make missile defense increasingly important to the free world. Policy debates on the subject and media accounts are sometimes shallow in substance and not always informed, with ideologically driven narratives not uncommon.

After the collapse and disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in the early 1990s, many leading defense research and development organizations in Russia published detailed corporate histories that described the introduction of major weapon, rocket, and space systems and associated research, development, and manufacturing efforts. In addition, a number of authors with varying degrees of expertise wrote accounts of some programs in defense areas. Much of this literature appeared in very limited editions and remains poorly known, especially outside Russia. The language barrier also plays an important restrictive role. Declassified U.S. government documents and reconnaissance imagery offer additional insight into the story, but they are not always conveniently accessible.

As a result, only a few, even among specialists, are familiar with the origins and history of the Soviet air defense establishment from which missile defense emerged and to which it remains closely linked to this day. Common sense calls for more attention to air defense systems, military units, and leading managers, scientists, and engineers because of their prominent and literally deadly role in contesting the policies of the United States and its allies in the free world.

Soviet air defense regiments, sometimes supported by scientists and engineers from development organizations, directly engaged U.S. fliers in a shooting war in Vietnam [e.g., Pervov, 2001, pp. 231–242; Semenov, 2008, pp. 237–255]. Such units also fought against Israel's pilots in Egypt for a few months in 1970 [e.g., Vinogradov et al., 1997; Pervov, 2001, pp. 243–249; Semenov, 2008, pp. 256–272]. These were real combat operations where the Soviets on one side and the Americans and Israelis on the other shed blood and took casualties. Providing antiaircraft missiles to anti-American regimes has been for decades and remains today a major tool in advancing Soviet, and now Russian, policies and interests.

A factually accurate sequence of events and the history of missile defense are not only indispensable for viewing the Cold War, but also essential for understanding the heritage, industrial capabilities, and relations among main defense "players" in the post-Soviet geopolitical space. Although some organizations changed their focus, merged, and reorganized, a number of key design bureaus and industrial plants survived through the turmoil of the 1990s. They now actively contribute to defense buildup and exports of weapons by the new assertive Russia.

The role of defense-related science and technology in the twentieth century offers insights into the current dynamics of the world. The historic background is thus critical for informed policy formulation, defense planning, threat evaluation, and counteracting the proliferation of weapons and sensitive technologies.

This book focuses on the events that led to the first nonnuclear intercept of a long-range ballistic missile warhead by the Soviet Union in 1961. It introduces leading participants, largely forgotten now or unknown, and contains many technical characteristics of early air and missile defense systems, rarely found even in highly specialized publications. The latter details are not overbearing, and anyone interested in rocketry, space, and radar will navigate through the book without difficulty.

The book is for readers with diverse backgrounds and interests. It is for all those who are engaged in research, development, and operation of weapons systems in missile defense, air defense, military and national security space, and broad related fields of rocketry, missiles, satellites, space exploration and technology, and radar. It is also for science and engineering students who are considering careers in these areas.

The book will appeal to those involved in analyzing and formulating policies and engaged in planning in the areas of national security, defense, science, technology, and weapons proliferation. Missile defense has become an area of vital importance for the national security of a growing number of countries around the globe. Consequently, this publication will inform those interested in international relations and public policies. Students of history will find important, not-readily-available factual information.

In addition, the book is for anybody with a general interest in missiles, rocketry, space systems, space exploration, space applications, radar, military technology, and history and the Cold War.

A comparison between the Soviet and U.S. missile defense programs as well as antiballistic missile (ABM) and other arms control treaties, the evolution of national policies, and details of the development of missile defense systems after the first intercepts are, with a few exceptions, beyond the scope of this publication ...