Book Chapter

The British Response to SDI: Introductory Paper



Nehring H (2005) The British Response to SDI: Introductory Paper. In: Kandiah M & Staerck G (eds.) The British Response to SDI. Witness seminar held in the Chancellor's Hall, Senate House, University of London on 9 July 2003. CCBH Oral History Programme. London: Centre for Contemporary British History, pp. 17-24.

First paragraph: American President Ronald Reagan’s initiative to build a strategic defence system to protect the United States against incoming ballistic missiles was ‘one of the most difficult defence policy issues a British government has had to grapple with since the Second World War’.1 By aiming to develop a defence against nuclear weapons, SDI reintroduced into strategic debates an issue which had been shelved at the beginning of the 1970s – both because of the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 1972 and because of the small effectiveness of ballistic missile defences (BMDs) against a determined enemy. Although the topic of anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs) and BMDs had been on the agenda since the late 1950s, the aim of SDI was novel. The vision was to develop BMDs that could not only protect single nuclear-weapons silos or cities but which could protect the whole country from a nuclear attack. The aim was to develop ways and means of destroying hostile missiles by a series of attacks all along their flight path, from their boost phase after launch to their entry into the atmosphere above the United States of America. For this objective, socalled directed energy weapons, mainly working with lasers, could be used

Nuclear weapons, Cold War, British defence policy, Thatcher, Reagan, Strategic Defence Initiative

Title of seriesCCBH Oral History Programme
Publication date31/12/2005
PublisherCentre for Contemporary British History
Publisher URL…ss%20Seminar.pdf
Place of publicationLondon

People (1)


Professor Holger Nehring

Professor Holger Nehring

Chair in Contemporary European History, History