The Fractional Orbital Bombardment System
) was a Soviet
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....
An intercontinental ballistic missile is a ballistic missile with a long range typically designed for nuclear weapons delivery...
program in the 1960s that after launch would go into a low Earth orbit
A low Earth orbit is generally defined as an orbit within the locus extending from the Earth’s surface up to an altitude of 2,000 km...
and would then de-orbit for an attack. It had no range limit and the orbital flight path would not reveal the target location. This would allow a path to North America over the South Pole
The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is one of the two points where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth and lies on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole...
, hitting targets from the south, which is the opposite direction from which NORAD
North American Aerospace Defense Command is a joint organization of Canada and the United States that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty, and defense for the two countries. Headquarters NORAD is located at Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, Colorado...
early warning systems are oriented.
The Outer Space Treaty
The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law...
banned nuclear weapons in Earth orbit. However, it did not ban systems that were capable of placing weapons in orbit, and the Soviet Union avoided violating the treaty by conducting tests of its FOBS system without live warheads.
The Soviets developed three missiles to employ FOBS, with only one entering service:
- The orbital missile 8K69 (also known as R-36orb) was initially deployed in 1968, with the first regiment put on alert in 1969.
- The Global Rocket 1
The Global Rocket 1 was a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System intercontinental ballistic missile developed but not deployed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War...
, or GR-1, was cancelled due to engine problems.
- The R-46 was not developed, and eventually scrapped.
The U.S. Defense Support Program
The Defense Support Program is a program of the U.S. Air Force that operates the reconnaissance satellites which form the principal component of the Satellite Early Warning System currently used by the United States....
early warning satellites, first launched in 1970, enabled the US to detect a FOBS launch.
The SALT II agreement (1979) prohibited the deployment of FOBS systems:
- Each Party undertakes not to develop, test, or deploy:
- (c) systems for placing into Earth orbit nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...
s or any other kind of weapons of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures , natural structures , or the biosphere in general...
, including fractional orbital missiles;
The missile was phased out in January 1983 in compliance with this treaty.