Safeguard Program

Safeguard Program

:"The international safeguards system is a system of treaties and inpections administered and conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency to hinder nuclear weapons proliferation."

The Safeguard Program was a United States Army anti-ballistic missile system developed in the late 1960s. Safeguard was designed to protect U.S. ICBM missile sites from counterforce attack, thus preserving the option of an unimpeded retaliatory strike. Safeguard used much of the same technology of the earlier Sentinel Program, which had been designed to protect U.S. cities.

Sentinel was developed but never deployed. Safeguard was planned for several sites within the United States, but only one was completed. Until the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system was deployed, the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard complex in Nekoma, North Dakota, with the separate long-range detection radar located further north near the town of Cavalier, North Dakota, was the only operational anti-ballistic missile system ever deployed by the United States. It defended Minuteman ICBM silos near Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.

It had reinforced underground launchers for thirty Spartan and sixteen Sprint nuclear tipped missiles (an additional fifty or so Sprint missiles were deployed at four remote launch sites). The complex was deactivated in 1976 after being operational for less than four months, due to concerns over continuing an anti-missile arms race, cost, effectiveness, and a changing political climate.

The Russian counterpart to Safeguard was the Soviet A-35 anti-ballistic missile system, which defended Moscow and nearby missile fields. The Russian antimissile system remains in operation today as the upgraded A-135 anti-ballistic missile system.


Safeguard was a two-layer defense system. The long-range Spartan missile would attempt interception outside the earth's atmosphere. The missile's long range allowed protection of a large geographic area. If the Spartan failed to intercept, the high performance (but short range) Sprint missile would attempt interception within the atmosphere. Both missiles used nuclear warheads, and relied on destroying or damaging the incoming warhead with radiation rather than heat or blast.

The envisioned sequence: first detection of enemy launch by Defense Support Program satellites, which sensed the hot infrared exhaust of the ICBM booster. Then while in midcourse phase, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System radar would detect the warheads. As the warheads approached (but while still in space) the Safeguard long-range radar (called Perimeter Acquisition Radar, or PAR) would detect them, providing filtered information to the shorter-range and more precise Missile Site Radar (MSR). As the incoming warhead came within range of the MSR, associated computer systems would calculate intercept trajectories and launch times.

The Sprint missile was test launched 48 times, of which 41 were successful, and two partially successful. [] Spartan was test launched 24 times. []

Original deployment plan

Plans were made in the late 1960s to deploy Safeguard systems in three locations, Whiteman AFB , Missouri, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota to protect key strategic weapons assets. However the Whiteman location was canceled despite the fact that specific site locations had already been selected. Construction actually commenced on the North Dakota and Montana sites, but only the North Dakota site was completed. Remnants of the incomplete PAR system still remain in rural Montana.


The Safeguard system consisted of three primary components, a Perimeter Acquisition Radar, Missile Site Radar and Remote Sprint Launchers.

Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR)

The PAR is a large phased array radar which was intended to detect incoming ballistic missiles as they crossed over the north pole. This information was to be relayed to other command and control sites. Two were intended to be constructed on the northern border of the United States, one in Montana and one in North Dakota. Construction was initiated at both locations, but because of the ABM treaty only the North Dakota site was completed. As of 2006, the North Dakota site, near Cavalier, North Dakota, is still operational and located at Cavalier Air Force Station coord|48|43|28.65|N|97|53|58.44|W|type:landmark. Remnants of the Montana site are located east of Conrad, Montana at coord|48|17|15.83|N|111|20|32.39|W|type:landmark(not shown on topo, but visible on the aerial photo). Potential targets detected by the PAR would be sent to the Missile Site Radar and NORAD. The PAR is listed in the Historic American Engineering Record, survey [ ND-9-P] .

Missile Site Radar (MSR)

The Missile Site Radar was the center of the Safeguard system, it housed the computers and a phased array radar necessary to track and engage incoming ICBMs. The radar building itself is a pyramid structure several stories tall. Construction was initiated in both Montana and North Dakota, but only the North Dakota site remains. The North Dakota site is still standing and can be seen north of Nekoma, North Dakota at coord|48|35|21.91|N|98|21|24.26|W|type:landmark. The remnants of the Montana system were dismantled and buried, it was possibly located at coord|48|08|25.77|N|111|45|26.16|W|type:landmark. Structures similar to the North Dakota site can be seen on aerial images of that site. The MSR complex included Spartan and Sprint missile launchers. The MSR is listed in the Historic American Engineering Record, survey [ ND-9-B] .

Remote Sprint Launchers (RSL)

Remote Sprint Launchers were established around the MSR main complex in order to position missiles closer to their intended targets and thus reduce the flight time to the target. Four sites were completed and still remain as of 2006, 10 to 20 miles around the MSR complex in Nekoma, North Dakota; RSL 1 coord|48|32|00.24|N|98|34|58.81|W|type:landmark, RSL 2 coord|48|50|58.03|N|98|25|55.84|W|type:landmark, RSL 3 coord|48|45|52.63|N|97|59|9.92|W|type:landmark, and RSL 4 coord|48|28|30.91|N|98|15|23.02|W|type:landmark.

Photo Gallery

ee also

*The Sentinel Program
*Strategic Defense Initiative
*Anti-ballistic missile
*Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
*Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
*Cavalier Air Force Station

External links

* [ Unofficial website of the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard complex]
* [ map showing SRMSC components in North Dakota]
* [ Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Antiballistic Missile Complex]
* [ FAS - Safeguard system]
* [ 10th Space Warning Squadron] - Current operators of the PAR system
* [ Global Security - Malstrom ABM site]
* [ Aerial images of Safeguard ABM facilities]

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