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Cold War Arms Race


Cold War Arms Race: Facts about the Cold War Arms Race, the Missile Gap and MAD.

Definition and Summary of the Cold War Arms Race
Summary and definition:
The Cold War Arms Race between the US and the Soviets began following the development of the Atomic Bomb. The hydrogen bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles followed, terrifying the whole world with the threat of nuclear annihilation. During this frightening period in history was the American perception of the 'Missile Gap' and the adoption of the military strategy doctrine known as MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).

Facts about Cold War Arms Race
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Cold War Arms Race.

During the Potsdam Conference Stalin was informed that the US had tested the Atomic Bomb but not that they intended to use it. This built a high level of distrust between the two nations.

The United States wanted to show that it was stronger, more able and more intelligent than the USSR, and vice-versa.

The competitive nature of the two nations led to the Cold War Arms Race in which both sides competed to develop more powerful weapons, new delivery systems and obtain more nuclear weapons.

Various top secret projects and operations were introduced by both sides to monitor nuclear tests. 'Project Mogul' was one such operation which involved the use of microphones flown on high-altitude balloons for the long-distance detection of sound waves, designed to monitor soviet nuclear tests and later replaced by seismic detectors in Project Skyhook.

By 1953, America was spending $50 billion on the Cold War Arms Race, whilst the USSR was spending $25 billion. The first atomic bombs were delivered by bomber aircraft.

Both the Americans and the Soviets began to develop missile technology that could put rockets in space with new possibilities for the delivery of nuclear weapons.

An intercontinental ballistic missile is a long-range missile capable of sub-orbital flight.

During the Cold War Arms Race, these missiles could be fired from the US to hit targets in Europe and Soviet Russia, and vice versa.

The launch of an orbital satellite was an inevitable stage in the Cold War Arms Race with the development of rocket technology.

The Soviet Union launched the first artificial Earth satellite - Sputnik-1. The Soviet launch of Sputnik triggered the Space Race.

The Arms Race Facts for kids:  The Missile Gap (1957)
Summary and Definition: The Cold War Arms Race was heightened in the late 1950's by the American perception that the Soviets had more powerful weapons and a larger stockpile of missiles. The perception of the Missile Gap was as a result of two developments in 1957. The first was the Soviet's first successful test of the intercontinental ballistic missile in August 1957 quickly followed on 4 October 1957 by the Soviet’s launch of the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, by the same rocket type. These new developments represented Soviet technological achievements which had not been matched at the time by the United States.

The Arms Race Facts for kids: MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction)
Summary and Definition: Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was a doctrine of military strategy that started during the Cold War Arms Race. MAD was based on the assumption that both the USSR and the US would refrain from launching nuclear weapons, as both nations knew that the other would retaliate and cause the complete nuclear annihilation of both the attacker and the defender. The credibility of the MAD scenario, based on the theory of Nuclear Deterrence, was dependent on each side investing substantial capital in their nuclear arsenals, even if they were not intended for use.

The Cold War Facts for kids:  Cold War Arms Race Timeline
The competitive nature of the Cold War Arms Race can be seen in the following Timeline.

1942: The Manhattan Project was established in the US and its scientists led by Robert Oppenheimer developed the Atomic Bomb.

1945: The first atomic bomb was detonated in a test at Alamagordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945

1945: The second atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945

1945: The third bomb was dropped over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945

1946: Operation Crossroads nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The "Able" test detonation was on July 1, 1946 and the "Baker" test was detonated on July 25, 1946

1949: USSR tests its first atomic bomb

1952: USA tests its first hydrogen bomb - the Mike Shot thermonuclear device

1953: USSR tests its first hydrogen bomb - known as the Joe-4 thermonuclear device

1957: USSR tests its first intercontinental ballistic missile capable of sub-orbital flight

1957: USA tests its first intercontinental ballistic missile

1957: USSR launch Sputnik, the first orbital satellite

1960: 1 May 1960: U-2 Incident - USAF spy aircraft shot down over USSR

1961: USSR test 'Tsar Bomba' meaning ‘King Bomb’ a 50-megaton nuclear weapon

1962: Cuban Missile Crisis (October 16 1962 - October 28 1962) Soviet missiles placed in Cuba, and US missiles in Turkey

1968: USA develop MIRV systems that put several warheads on a single launcher to strike widely dispersed targets

1968: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed on July 1, 1968 when powers with nuclear weapons agreed not to give any other countries nuclear technology.

1972: SALT Treaty: Adhering to the policy of Detente, the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty (ABM), and the Interim Agreement on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms set limits on the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles each side could develop.

1975: USSR develop MIRV systems

1975: Brezhnev and Carter sign the SALT II treaty.

1982: Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) began, aimed at strategic nuclear disarmament,  and were conducted from June 29, 1982 – June 1991

1983: USA propose Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) requiring space and earth based laser battle stations. The Soviets bring the ailing nation to the point of bankruptcy in their attempts to match the SDI.

1991: Fall of the USSR and end of the Cold War Arms Race

US American History
1945-1993: Cold War Era

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