Re: Anti-Satellite Weapons (was S.D.I. lives?)

Jim Wilson (jim.wilson@mail.utexas.edu)
Tue, 9 Sep 1997 11:05:22 -0600

At 11:42 PM 9/7/97, Philip Chien wrote:
>Russia has tested their FOBS (Fractional Orbital Bo??? System) a couple of
>times in orbit.  It requires the attacker satellite to enter the same orbit
>as the target, then the attacker explodes which destroys the target.  It's
>only usable for satellites at a fairly low altitude and not considered to
>be a very sophisticated system.
///// ->
        On most discussions I concur with Mr.Chien's assessments.  On this
one, however, a slight clarification appears to be in order.  Based on my
many years in the military space business:
1) FOBS (Fractional Orbit Bomb System) is an ICBM "concept", not an ASAT,
involving a polar launch to the south that reenters at about 3/4 rev.  Very
nasty if you're in the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) system business.  So
nasty, in fact, that they were banned in an early ABM treaty (72?).  I
can't *recall* any FOBS-specific flight tests.
2) What was tested several times (against Soviet targets), as described in
unclassified DOD publications, was a Co-orbital ASAT -- essentially a
spacecraft on a rendezvous orbit, with a fuzing sensor and a fragmentation
warhead instead of a docking mechanism.

        Oh by the way, since we're slightly off topic anyway (sorry), a
previous statement (not Chien's) regarding the disbanding of SDIO and
transferring the programs to the Army are close, but not entirely precise:
SDIO was simply renamed BMDO in '93.  The near-term focus was also shifted,
but it is still very much a tri-service organization.  In fact, the current
BMDO director is USAF Lieutenant General Lester L. Lyles.

Regards,
        Jim Wilson
        Austin, Texas, USA