By Sharon Watkins Lang, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Command HistorianApril 11, 2018
Typically when anyone discusses the Anti-Ballistic Missile, or ABM, Treaty it is in relation to a national missile defense system either the American or the Soviet system. As neither country had an active system in 1995, why was it relevant? By the mid-1990s, technologies have evolved to such an extent that developing theater missile defense capabilities were also reviewed to ensure compliance.
Twenty three years ago on, April 12, the discussion had expanded beyond the Army systems of Safeguard, Ground-based Interceptors and the Theater High Altitude Area Defense to include the U.S. Navy's upper tier missile defense system.
On April 12, 1995, the Department of Defense issued a compliance report, in response to a congressionally mandated study. The Department of Defense report concluded that as Navy Upper Tier, subsequently renamed the Navy Theater Wide Defense System, "does not have capabilities to counter strategic ballistic missiles" deployment would be permitted under the ABM Treaty.
This decision was based upon the proviso that it would not be "tested in an ABM mode" despite the interceptor's speed/velocity capabilities. Although discussions were on-going with Russia to clarify and define what would be called the Theater Missile Defense Demarcation, no formal agreement had been made in 1995.
How does this become a date in USASMDC/ARSTRAT History? The relationship is actually twofold.
Given its history with missile defense, the command's arms control/treaty advisor was already the subject matter expert for the ABM Treaty. In fact in 1995, the command's treaty responsibilities expanded as it was identified as the Army Implementing Agent for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
In the technical realm, the Navy Upper Tier System was a Standard Missile Lightweight Exo-Atmospheric Projectile, or LEAP, interceptor. The ties between the LEAP kinetic kill vehicle and the command date back to the 1980s with the initial work performed in the Hypervelocity Launcher Product Office.
As Gisele Wilson, a former LEAP program manager, later explained, "The Army team worked the design and development of the individual components, system integration, and testing to include lab, ground and flight testing. The LEAP was 'a complete program.'"