If you ask anyone what area of science and technology in the USSR was the most resource-intensive and was at its peak, required the infusion of astronomical funds and, in the end, failed, which indirectly contributed to the collapse of the Soviet idea as such, then many will call anything - from space race to generalized military technology. In fact, this role was played by one specific part of the preparation for a potential war - the creation of a missile defense system. As a result, it was the missile defense system (which never really worked) that absorbed more money than the nuclear missile and space programs combined! The answer to the question, how did this happen, and this cycle will serve, which will take us to the early 1960s, so that we can follow everything through the development of domestic missile defense: from the inception to the 1972 ABM Treaty.
The race for space was a matter of prestige (in which we even took 2 colossal prizes - the first satellite and the first man in space), and not the survival of the country and the imposition of our political will on the world. The military-industrial complex absorbed huge, unrealistically gigantic money. But production tanks and even nuclear missiles - the task is generally trivial (especially considering that the groundwork for missiles we and the Americans had at the start was approximately the same, and it grew from the same place - the legendary German Peenemünde test site). Problem number one, the most important and topical, requiring an unimaginable amount of money (only for the project of three over-the-horizon radars "Duga" more than 600 million rubles were killed - an amount that could have been used to build more than one tank army!) all the really best minds in the country, was the creation of a defense against nuclear missiles.
We are not joking about more than one army! As of 1987, the cost of the T-72B1 tank was 236930 rubles, the T-72B - 283370 rubles. T-64B1 cost 271970 rubles, T-64B - 358000 rubles. If we talk about a more adequate vehicle in terms of creation time and combat qualities, the T-80UD, then in the same 1987 it cost 733000 rubles. Back in December 1960, the office of the chief of tank forces was created and the post of chief of tank forces was introduced. In total, by the beginning of the 1960s, 8 tank armies were deployed only in the western theater of operations. In 1987, the USSR already had an unimaginable 53,3 thousand tanks. One tank army consisted of approximately 1250 tanks. As a result, in 1987 prices (and the Duga radar station was developed from 1975 to 1985 and was put into operation at about the same time), the cost of the project could be used to build 2 full-fledged tank armies from T-72 or one from T-80 ...
Taking into account how domestic generals adored the great tank armada (for example, only in the USSR after the war there was the title of Marshal of armored forces), one can imagine what it would have been like for them to sacrifice a couple of thousand more tanks in exchange for a radar station. But they donated. And more than once.
In principle, it is obvious why this happened.
Tanks and warheads - weapon offensive and, by the standards of the most complex missile defense system, relatively low-tech. There is nothing particularly difficult in creating a rocket that (in its simplest version) would fly into space along a ballistic trajectory, and then itself would fall on the enemy's continent (as you know, even the Germans coped with this back in 1942, when the first test run V-2). Taking into account the power of the charge and the number of these missiles, special accuracy was not required - something would hit, and that would be enough.
But no opposition is possible without the balance of the shield and sword. The anti-missile defense systems were supposed to become a shield against the missile threat. And this task was much more important: without a working missile defense system, the Soviet Union turned out to be a naked giant with a nuclear club. You try to attack, and the American missile defense system will shoot down (in theory) everything that you have released, and the response will be crushing. This was especially true at the end of the 1950s, when the United States already had more than 1600 warheads, while the USSR had only a modest 150.
In such circumstances, the idea of taking a risk and trying to end the "evil empire" was very tempting and warmed some American generals. The absence of a reliable shield against missiles in general devalued the entire nuclear race and all types of offensive weapons. What is the use of them if the enemy is protected from you, but you are not from him?
As a result, the creation of an effective missile defense system has become the number one problem in the Union (note that it has not been completely resolved). When Reagan announced the initiation of the "Star Wars" program, which was supposed to become an absolute shield against Soviet missiles, it was tantamount to announcing that the next round against a barely alive and almost not standing boxer would come out straight from the tin Mike Tyson. It turned out that it didn’t matter that the SDI program had failed (and it could not have failed) - by the beginning of the 1980s the USSR was monstrously exhausted, and 80% of this exhaustion arose precisely thanks to the missile defense race.
As a result, even the rumor that the new American system would surpass everything we had finally broke the spirit of the Politburo. Nobody objected to the beginning of perestroika. Everyone understood that either that way, or in another year or two, the USSR would collapse by itself already without any Gorbachev. The Cold War was lost, the United States won. Thanks to hundreds of times better money management and skillful bluffing. It was a conflict of attrition. The first world economic systems and armchair scientists - and the USSR broke down earlier.
Yu.V. Revich, a researcher at the Federal State Unitary Enterprise OKB OT RAS, later a journalist of the publishing house "Computerra" in the field of information technologies, recalls:
“The anti-missile defense of the USSR was one of the most significant projects of the Soviet era, and not only due to the crazy scale of the funds and resources spent. The availability of advanced means of defense against missile attacks in the USSR became one of the main factors that determined the entire world political landscape of the second half of the 1940th century. All political disagreements and differences in the marks of assessment of the Soviet system pale before the fact that the way out of the Cold War, especially in its initial stage (late 1960s - early XNUMXs), was only in turning it into a "hot" one. The world had rather big chances to burn out in a thermonuclear furnace ... The very realization of the fact that nuclear weapons are an irrelevant means of suppressing the enemy, applicable in combat conditions on an equal basis with others, and only a weapon of deterrence, preventing the development of events according to a catastrophic scenario, did not come on both sides of the barricades. right away. And the presence of a workable missile defense system on one of the parties ... became one of the main factors that all this time cooled hotheads until the very idea of an atomic war turned into a kind of abstraction. "
Launch of a Soviet missile defense system. Photo: RIA News
This interlude is needed to make readers understand what was at stake in the late 1950s, when the missile defense race was just beginning.
It was an order of magnitude easier for the Americans: both psychologically and economically - they threw a bone in the form of a couple of billions to the largest corporations, watched how they fought and fought for it for a couple of years, chose the best system based on the results of the massacre and put it into service. The money spent by the United States was repaid by the fact that hundreds of by-products resulting from the race were put into commercial circulation and began to be sold around the world. Own costs are almost zero - efficiency is almost 100%, repeat the required number of times.
In the USSR, everything was absolutely different.
The design bureau and research institute fought in the same way for the attention of the party, but at stake was either great fame, orders, honor and full support until the end of their days, streets named in your honor, and so on - or the loss of everything: reputation, position, money, awards, work, and possibly freedom. As a result, the heat of competition was not just monstrous - it was thermonuclear. For missile defense was not spared anything at all - no resources, astronomical amounts of money (awards for development reached tens of thousands of rubles unimaginable by the standards of the USSR), orders, titles and awards. People burned out, dying from heart attacks and strokes at the age of 40-50, trying to literally gnaw at competing developments with their teeth and push their own.
Footage from the chronicle of test launches of the Soviet V-1000 - the first full-fledged anti-missile in the world (from the book by V. Korovin, Rocket "Fakel". M., MKB "Fakel", 2003)
It is necessary to take into account the complete dimness of the party officials, transferring the battle from the field of intelligence to the field of the ability to press, push, lick, disgrace, and brought up all the worst human qualities. Moreover, this led to the fact that, as a result of the titanic battles of ministries and party bureaucrats for money and stars, the country was generally left without a more or less effective missile defense system. More precisely, without computers that could provide it.
And it was precisely in these millstones that the unfortunate magnificent M-9/10 computer Kartseva, and the Almaz project, and other developments, which will be discussed below, fell. We will quote Yu.V. Revich again:
«History the creation of missile defense was indeed quite dramatic in terms of personal relationships: it was the creation of missile defense among all the significant projects of the Soviet era that suffered the most from the never-ending war of departmental and personal interests. In this, missile defense has far surpassed not only the relatively peaceful in this respect atomic project, but also the rocket and space program, where there were also plenty of conflicts. It probably affected the fact that, unlike the science-intensive nuclear and missile industries, missile defense missions never succumbed to a clear formulation so that once and for all choose the optimal path of development and steadily follow it. In the global setting (“to protect the territory of the country from any means of nuclear attack”), the task turned out to be unsolvable, and for partial solutions there were many competing paths, each of which pulled for a separate program at the state level. In the face of threats, the analysis of which required fundamental technical knowledge, the military was also often at a loss and could not formulate clear requirements for the most complex systems created in a state of time trouble. As a result, the program was slowed down, ugly and nowhere leading parallel projects appeared, funds, time and resources were scattered and flowed into the sand. "
All this was superimposed on the fact that at the beginning of its creation, even those who were sensibly versed in missile technology had no idea how a potential missile defense system would work. For example, VN Chelomey, the general designer of launch vehicles (and also not weakly fighting for his projects with Korolev), proposed the "Taran" system. According to his "expert" (in the field of missile defense, he was an excellent designer of missiles), all American missiles were supposed to fly to the USSR in a relatively narrow corridor near the North Pole. In this regard, he simply proposed to block this corridor with his UR-100 ballistic missiles carrying a multi-megaton thermonuclear charge.
The absurdity of the idea was probably understood by all competent people, but Khrushchev's son Sergei Nikitich worked for Chelomey, and Khrushchev was very fond of simple and understandable solutions. The only new object in the system was to be a multichannel radar TsSO-S developed by A. L. Mints (a man who played a significant role in the death of the A-35 project and all the computers involved, but more on that later). Academician MV Keldysh calculated that to destroy 100 Minuteman warheads (one megaton each), it would be necessary to arrange nuclear illumination from the simultaneous explosion of 200 UR-100 anti-missile missiles, 10 megatons each. However, at the end of 1964, Khrushchev was removed, and the development of this madness ended by itself.
After such an introduction, it becomes clear that missile defense is an extremely important thing and its development (especially in the USSR) was a daunting task. In this series of articles, we will focus on perhaps the most important component of it - invaluable targeting computers, without which all other elements - radars and missiles - are a useless heap of scrap metal. And anyhow, what kind of computer will not suit us - including general purpose. We need a specialized, powerful machine for solving specific problems. And with computers, even ordinary ones, at the end of the 1950s in the USSR, everything was rather sad. To outline the bridgehead, we will continue talking about this in the next articles of our cycle.
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