On Alert: An Operational History of the United States Air Force Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Program, 1945-2011.

Author:O'Connell, John
Position:Book review
 
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On Alert: An Operational History of the United States Air Force Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Program, 1945-2011. By David M. Spires. Colorado Springs: Air Force Space Command, 2012. Index. Photographs. Appendices. Bibliography. Pp. 348. Available as a free download at http://afinissileers.com/ onalert.pdf

This book is an outstanding history of the land based intercontinental ballistic missiles that make up a vital part of the Triad (USAF ICBMs, USAF bombers, and USN Polaris/Poseidon/Trident ballistic missiles) that provided a nuclear deterrent to aggression by the USSR during the Cold War, and still are on guard against a nuclear attack on the United States.

Spires begins at the end of World War II with the Army Air Forces' look into the future under Gen. Hap Arnold's direction. Initially the Army Air Forces, like the Navy, concentrated on cruise missiles with the reverse-engineered German V-l "Buzz Bomb" as their model. However, RAND, the Army Air Forces think-tank established in 1946, came up with a report comparing air-breathing and ballistic missiles that favored the latter. That led to another look at Convair's proposal for a long-range rocket. Convair had named their long range rocket "Atlas," and it went on into development and production as the first American ICBM.

Each of the Air Force ICBMs is described in detail, including the development process, and the politics--both national and intra-service--in...

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