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Episode 404

Wed, 2018-Jun-13 00:11 UTC
Length - 3:43

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Welcome to featured Wiki of the Day where we read the summary of the featured Wikipedia article every day.

The featured article for Wednesday, 13 June 2018 is Nike-X.

Nike-X was an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system designed in the 1960s by the US Army to protect major cities in the United States from attacks by the Soviet Union's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fleet during the Cold War. The X in the name referred to its experimental basis and was supposed to be replaced by a more appropriate name when the system was put into production. This never came to pass; in 1967 the Nike-X program was canceled and replaced by a much lighter defense system known as Sentinel.

The Nike-X system was developed in response to limitations of the earlier Nike Zeus system. Zeus' radars could only track single targets, and it was calculated that a salvo of only four ICBMs would have a 90% chance of hitting a Zeus base. Zeus would have been useful in the late 1950s when the Soviets had only a few dozen missiles, but it was of little use by the early 1960s when it was believed the Soviets would have hundreds. The attacker could also use radar reflectors or high-altitude nuclear explosions to obscure the warheads until they were too close to attack, making a single-warhead attack highly likely to succeed.

The key concept that led to Nike-X was that the rapidly thickening atmosphere below 60 kilometres (37 mi) altitude disrupted the reflectors and explosions. Nike-X was intended to wait until the enemy warheads descended below this altitude and then attack them using a very fast missile known as Sprint. The entire engagement would last only a few seconds and could take place as low as 25,000 feet (7,600 m). To provide the needed speed and accuracy, as well as deal with multi-warhead attacks, Nike-X used a new radar system and building-filling computers that could track hundreds of objects at once and control salvos of many Sprints. Many dozens of warheads would need to arrive at the same time to overwhelm the system.

Building a complete deployment would have been extremely expensive, on the order of the total yearly budget of the Department of Defense. Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense, felt the cost could not be justified and worried it would lead to a further nuclear arms race. He directed the teams to consider deployments where a limited number of interceptors might still be militarily useful. Among these, the I-67 concept suggested building a lightweight defense against very limited attacks. When the People's Republic of China exploded their first H-bomb in June 1967, I-67 was promoted as a defense against a Chinese attack, and this system became Sentinel in October. Nike-X development, in its original form, ended.

This recording reflects the Wikipedia text as of 00:11 UTC on Wednesday, 13 June 2018.

For the full current version of the article, go to

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Abulsme Productions also produces Curmudgeon's Corner, a current events podcast.

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