GPS for Nuclear Holocaust: A Peek Inside Hi-Tech ‘Brain’ of American Ballistic Missiles

2019/10/1570780264.jpg
Read: 777     12:41     11 October 2019    

The Cold War constantly pressured the United States and the Soviet Union to create increasingly advanced weaponry. Some of the most dangerous weapons were intercontinental balistic missiles, capable of delivering nucler payload to a distance of thousands of kilometres, Sputnik reported.


For a ballistic missile to become a precision-guided weapon, it must be equipped with a navigation system — simply put, a “brain” that continuously monitors its position, velocity and orientation.

The United States and Soviet Union pioneered the development of such systems, and one of them is thought to be the pinnacle (or nadir) of Cold War-era military technology.

The name of this "doomsday navigator" is Advanced Inertial Reference Sphere (AIRS), and it was used to navigate the highly-accurate LGM-118A Peacekeeper missile, also designated as the MX (Missile Experimental).

A photo of the inertial guidance module was featured in a book by photographer and author Martin Miller, who had catalogued weapons of mass destruction (click here to view) stockpiled by the United States in the late 20th century.

Miller has captured a close-up image of the Advanced Inertial Reference Sphere (AIRS) guidance system. "Rather than being gimbal-mounted, the sphere floats in a fluorocarbon fluid within an outer shell," he writes in the book.

There are three accelerometers and three gyroscopes in the module, which consists of a beryllium sphere floating in a fluorocarbon fluid within an outer shell — making it possible for the sphere to rotate in any direction.

"The gyroscopes and accelerometers are positioned within the sphere as are the three hydraulic thrust valves and turbo-pump used to maintain stable orientation of the sphere," Miller said.
Consisting of some 19,000 parts, the AIRS module brought the strike precision of the MX Peacekeeper missile to to within 40 metres. According to the scarce information available, it was the most precise inertial navigation system ever created.

However, the module appeared to be extremely expensive: according to the Nuclear Weapon Archive blog, in 1989, a single accelerometer used in the AIRS cost $300,000 and took six months to manufacture.

Development of the LGM-118As first began in 1971, and there were originally plans for 100 missiles. Congress, however, capped the number at 50 in 1984. The last such missile was decomissioned in September 2005.



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GPS for Nuclear Holocaust: A Peek Inside Hi-Tech ‘Brain’ of American Ballistic Missiles

2019/10/1570780264.jpg
Read: 778     12:41     11 October 2019    

The Cold War constantly pressured the United States and the Soviet Union to create increasingly advanced weaponry. Some of the most dangerous weapons were intercontinental balistic missiles, capable of delivering nucler payload to a distance of thousands of kilometres, Sputnik reported.


For a ballistic missile to become a precision-guided weapon, it must be equipped with a navigation system — simply put, a “brain” that continuously monitors its position, velocity and orientation.

The United States and Soviet Union pioneered the development of such systems, and one of them is thought to be the pinnacle (or nadir) of Cold War-era military technology.

The name of this "doomsday navigator" is Advanced Inertial Reference Sphere (AIRS), and it was used to navigate the highly-accurate LGM-118A Peacekeeper missile, also designated as the MX (Missile Experimental).

A photo of the inertial guidance module was featured in a book by photographer and author Martin Miller, who had catalogued weapons of mass destruction (click here to view) stockpiled by the United States in the late 20th century.

Miller has captured a close-up image of the Advanced Inertial Reference Sphere (AIRS) guidance system. "Rather than being gimbal-mounted, the sphere floats in a fluorocarbon fluid within an outer shell," he writes in the book.

There are three accelerometers and three gyroscopes in the module, which consists of a beryllium sphere floating in a fluorocarbon fluid within an outer shell — making it possible for the sphere to rotate in any direction.

"The gyroscopes and accelerometers are positioned within the sphere as are the three hydraulic thrust valves and turbo-pump used to maintain stable orientation of the sphere," Miller said.
Consisting of some 19,000 parts, the AIRS module brought the strike precision of the MX Peacekeeper missile to to within 40 metres. According to the scarce information available, it was the most precise inertial navigation system ever created.

However, the module appeared to be extremely expensive: according to the Nuclear Weapon Archive blog, in 1989, a single accelerometer used in the AIRS cost $300,000 and took six months to manufacture.

Development of the LGM-118As first began in 1971, and there were originally plans for 100 missiles. Congress, however, capped the number at 50 in 1984. The last such missile was decomissioned in September 2005.



Tags: