Toward that end, let’s look at the Russian past. As the Soviets rightly claim, as early as the turn of the century and continuing into the 1920s, and 1930s, Russian scientists Tsiolkovsky, Kondratiuk, and Tsander were engaged in serious theoretical research on rockets. Goddard in the United States and Oberth in Germany were similarly studying rocketry. During World War II the Soviets effectively used salvo rocket artillery. But in the Soviet Union—and the United States—the first serious military missile development program began only at the end of the war, and on the foundation of the German wartime effort. To their benefit, the Soviets obtained the major portion of the German missile and rocket facilities, completed ordnance, and scientific-engineering personnel, although the United States did get the services of about 160 of the leading German scientists and engineers and about 1,000 V-2 rockets.
This interesting and important aspect of the Soviet postwar approach not only benefited very greatly from what the Germans had done—and what they still continued to do—but also permitted the Russians to develop their own research staffs without becoming dependent upon the Germans, since the latter were not integrated into their program. Some specific problems faced by the Russians were cross-checked by being given to German groups, but on the whole the Germans were not permitted knowledge of the Soviet work.
The actual work on the research, development, and production of missiles and rockets is divided among institutes of the four ministerial-level bodies on a coordinated basis, without duplication. Within the Defense Ministry, Marshall of Artillery N.D. Yakovlev is believed to be responsible for over-all coordination of the various institutes. (at least in part directed by Chief Marshal of Artillery N.N. Voronov). Guided, cruise-type, air-breathing missiles, and air-to-rocket have been Air Force Administration responsibilities (in part under Col. Gen. of Aviation Engineering I.V. Markov).
The head of the Technical Sciences Section of the Academy of Sciences is Lt. Gen. of the Artillery Technical Services A.A. Blagonravov. Also under the Academy of Sciences is the Commission on Interplanetary Communications, which has responsibility for the space satellite and moon rocket programs. Such, then, as the “high command” of the Soviet missile and rocket program.
It is clear that the organizational system of Soviet missile development is complex. But it also represents a coordinated effort geared to mobilize all the most competent military and civilian scientific talents for the over-all rocket, missile, and satellite program. The system avoids duplication. There are no competing service efforts to devise, for example, an antiaircraft missile or an IRBM, though of course different approaches are tried. Artillery, aviation, and industrial organizations all have important roles, but they are each assigned specific missions presumably according to their relative competence; these objectives complement one another rather than duplicate. And finally, the question of operational assignment for employment of the finished weapon systems (which we shall review presently) is decided entirely on other grounds. Thus, for example, aviation institutes develop rocket motors which are used in artillery-developed ballistic missiles.
By 1949 the Soviets had developed an improved V-2 of 200- to 300-mile range, and they turned toward developing an IRBM. Experiments with guided cruise-type missiles and antipodal bombers continued but on a definitely lower priority than the short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. There was, of course, no extended interruption in their program such as there was in our own from 1947 to 1951.
The latter part of 1955 saw a second breakthrough. Large numbers of 800- to 900-mile “junior IRBMS” were successfully tested. By late 1956, the first 1,500- to 1,800-mile IRBMs have been tested. By mid-1957 the first ICBM test rockets were launched, and in August 1957 the Soviets startled much of the world with their announcement of a successful ICBM test, although it still is unclear if the range was as great as their anticipated requirement of 5,000 miles. More probably it was about 3,500 miles.
We have noted that the Soviet development program has integrated the work of various artillery, air force, scientific, and industrial institutes. What of the operational assignment of these various weapons?
One important question remains not fully answered: whether the long-range IRBM and the ICBM will be assigned to the ground forces’ rocket force. Most likely, the latter will be established. Probably a new “Strategic Striking Force” will be created, made up of two components: the present long-range air force (under a marshal of aviation) and the new long-range rocket force (under a marshal of artillery), with the whole command under a “marshal of the Soviet Union.” This would parallel the existing Air Defense Force, and continue the trend toward mission orientation of Soviet military organization.
The Soviet rocket and missile development program is largely managed by various military and industrial institutes closely coordinated in an integrated plan under the direction of the top political leadership. Operational subordination of the resulting missile systems is in terms of functional mission forces rather than traditional land, air, and sea “services.” While a closer inspection of the advantages and disadvantages of this system for our own forces might or might not lead us to judge it inferior to our own approach, it might on the other hand offer some valuable suggestions for improving our own programs.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag