By Sharon Watkins Lang, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Command HistorianJuly 5, 2017
In the 1970s, missile defense technology was still based primarily upon nuclear capabilities. As the decade progressed, however, as research explored component improvements and new applications increased interest was given to a new concept - non-nuclear kill technology.
As one text noted, there were "obvious advantages" to an endo-atmospheric non-nuclear kill, or ENNK system, to include "greater public acceptance, avoidance of nuclear release requirements, more sitting and handling flexibility, and the ability to be thoroughly tested." By fiscal year 1982, the concept had reached a new level.
From November 1981 to January 1982, the Systems Definition Office of the Ballistic Missile Defense Systems Command, or BMDSCOM, conducted a study to assess the status of ENNK technology to replace or augment the Sentry system. A study team composed of representatives from 24 groups, developed top-level system requirements in a feasibility mode for ENNK technology.
Meanwhile a separate study team pursued an "intensive analysis investigating alternate basing plans for the MX missile system."
Both study teams produced positive results -- an ENNK system was feasible against a worst case threat. Briefed to senior leaders of the Army, the results gained the attention of John Gardner, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and James Ambrose, Under Secretary of the Army. This interest in turn led to the establishment, on July 6, 1982, of a new ENNK Task Force.
The mission for this new task force was three-fold. The ENNK Task Force was to "define the ENNK capability to perform key defense missions." While the initial studies had focused upon Minuteman/MX defenses, with the creation of the ENNK Task Force, the mission grew to include Anti-tactical Ballistic Missiles and "other military targets" defenses.
With this foundation, the ENNK Task Force was to "determine top-level system performance parameters; develop ENNK system concepts; and formulate specific technology requirements."
In the same Disposition Form which established the six-person Task Force, Maj. Gen. Grayson Tate, Jr., BMD Program Manager and BMDSCOM commander, named Walter L. Dixon, Jr. to head the new unit as a special assistant to the BMD Program Manager. Dixon and his team, three employees each from the BMD Advanced Technology Center, or BMDATC, and the Systems Technology Program Office, addressed all aspects of ENNK development.
The DF was quite specific, Dixon was the "single BMDO focal point and spokesman for ENNK system-level matters."
In fact, he would represent the BMD Program Manager in meetings, conferences, etc. with key personnel from Department of the Army, Department of Defense, other agencies and contractor organizations.
Also given the constrained funding. Dixon's duties further extended to procurement actions. In fact, Dixon and the Task Force would review and coordinate ENNK procurement actions initiated either within BMDSCOM or BMDATC. They also "[maintained] concurrence authority over changes in resource allocations from the baseline ENNK program."
As the primary point of contact for ENNK matters, Dixon and his team were also tasked to "review work in progress to assure compliance with policy, procedures, etc., and fulfillment of the BMDO ENNK objectives;" advising the BMD program manager of any changes needed due to advances in ENNK technology or system requirements.
By the end of the fiscal year, the preliminary system requirements for Minuteman ENNK were nearing completion. Requirements for the MX project, however, depended upon the Air Force deployment mode selection. After three months research to support advanced tactical ballistic missile and other military targets, meanwhile, was described as an embryonic stage.
Nevertheless, the ENNK Task Force was short-lived. Their efforts were institutionalized with the development of the ENNK Division within the Sentry Project Office, effective Oct. 7, 1982.
In a DF issued by BMDSCOM Commander Col. Robert Feist, the ENNK division would "develop ENNK system concepts and requirements for defense of ICBM's and other military targets" with particular emphasis placed on the SENTRY project.