Professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction, this Air Force publication outlines the career of Air Force General Bernard Schriever, responsible for the development of America's intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Undoubtedly Bernard Schriever left his most prominent mark on the development of Air Force intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). When he became manager of the ICBM program in mid-1954, it had suffered through a checkered history marked by stop-and-go development, unrealistic requirements, divided authority, low priorities, and indecision whether the emphasis should be on ballistic missiles or winged missiles like the Snark and Navaho, essentially unpiloted aircraft.
Research in the ballistic missile field had begun immediately after World War II but soon fell victim to budgetary cuts that reduced it to dormancy. The program was resurrected in January 1951 as Project MX-1593, which led ultimately to the Atlas ICBM. In December 1952, a committee of the Air Force SAB headed by Dr. Clark B. Millikan recommended a phased approach that would not produce an operational missile until 1965.
In March 1953, Schriever learned of a scientific breakthrough that appeared to make intercontinental missiles technically feasible much sooner than the Millikan Committee thought possible. At a meeting of the SAB, Dr. Edward Teller, a leading advocate for the development of hydrogen weapons, reported on the successful test of a hydrogen bomb device in November 1952the "Mike" shot. Dr. John von Neumann, head of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, confirmed Teller's report and predicted that hydrogen warheads would be extremely light, with a high explosive yield. This news captured the attention of Schriever and Theodore Walkowicz, a retired Air Force officer. The two visited von Neumann and were convinced that the predicted new weapon, lighter and much more powerful than atomic warheads, promised to dispel one of the major obstacles in ICBM development. The missile could require less thrust because of its lighter warhead, and its trajectory could be less accurate because of the warhead's greater destructive power. Von Neumann believed a thermonuclear warhead weighing 1,500 pounds and yielding one megaton could be achieved by 1960. Schriever urged the SAB to formalize these findings and prevailed upon von Neumann, Teller, and other leading scientists to issue a report in June 1953 that confirmed the feasibility of such a lightweight, high-yield warhead.
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