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National Missile Defense

National Missile Defense (NMD) is a military strategy that has been discussed in the United States since the 1960s. The basic idea is to shield the U.S. against incoming missiles by shooting them down as they approach the country, and its role in nuclear strategy has been a heated topic for several decades.

In the 1980s, the primary focus of research and planning for National Missile Defense was as part of a Strategic Defense Initiative designed to shield the United States from a massive attack by the Soviet Union and move the United States and the Soviet Union from a position of mutually assured destruction. The motivation behind this effort largely collapsed with the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

In the 1990s and early 21st century, the mission of NMD has changed to the more modest goal of preventing the United States from being subject to nuclear blackmail or nuclear terrorism by a so-called rogue state. The feasibility of this more limited goal remains somewhat controversial. Although most (though not all) defense analysts believe that developing a system to intercept a small missile attack is technologically possible, some have questioned whether it is a strategy that is preferable to that of a promise of retaliation.

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Key equipment


Skeptics named the U.S. missile defense program of the 1980s "Star Wars" (after the hit movie series), since it seemed to its critics to be a mere science fiction scheme with no hope of success. It has since then gained the support of some of its erstwhile critics.

Recent developments

On December 17, 2002 the US formally requested from the UK and Denmark use of facilities in Fylingdales, England, and Thule, Greenland, respectively, as a part of the NMD program.


Jack Mendelsohn, And it still won't work (http://www.thebulletin.org/issues/1999/mj99/mj99mendelsohn), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 55, No. 4 (1999).

This would be a great article to expand...

See also, Nuclear war, Nuclear weapon, Civil defense

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