Cruise missile development in the United States since the early 1970's : A case study in the determinants of weapons succession.
This is an examination of the determinants of weapons succession as
they have operated in the United States since the early 1970s. It
takes as its subject matter the joint-service development of the
modular cruise missile. both strategic and tactical. What this
example also provides is a chance to study the start-up of a programme
which did not initially represent a follow-on to an existing system.
Moreover. the revival of cruise missile development in the UnHed
States. unlike the ground-breaking programmes which had led to the
atomic bomb. the ICBM and the SlBM. was achieved against a background
of apathy and resistance from the armed services.
This study has attempted a critique both of orthodox analyses of the
acquisition of weapons. which have explained armaments as a rational
response to an external threat. and of theories of bureaucratic
politics. which have largely been blind to the role of industry. This
study concludes that to understand the determinants of weapons
succession. it is necessary to examine the social structure of defence
technology. This involves examining the role of the producers of
military technology (the defence prime contractors). and the consumers
(government and the services) and the relationship which exists
The cruise missile programmes constituted a challenge both to the
existing missions of the services and the influence of the dominant
aerospace corporations. It was a challenge which did not succeed.
The cruise missile was assimilated by the services in ways which
enhanced their dominant missions which are associated with particular
weapons platforms. most notably the penetrating bomber and the
aircraft carrier. Joint service development of the missile was
staunchly resisted and is not part of the follow-on cruise missile
The attempts made by the Joint Cruise Missile Project Office to reform
acquisition were unsuccessful. Design-to-cost, second production
sourcing and increased competition did not control the cost of the
weapon. Indeed, the increasing involvement of aerospace companies in
el ectronics has meant that they have been abl e to re-assert thei r
dominant position as the main defence contractors. despite a severe
slump in orders in the early 1970s.
Domestic attempts to curb the weapons succession process have been
thwarted by the influence of its dominant institutions in the United
States. Yet the same can also be seen to apply to attempts at curbing
the arms build up through direct external negotiations. It is not
simply that bilateral nuclear arms control negotiations have failed to
reduce the demand for weaponry: arms control has become an important
demand factor in the weapons succession process. stimulating new
weapons developments and legitimating weapons deployments.
What this study demonstrates is that, to understand the nature of the
arsenal, a range of dominant institutional influences must be
addressed. Reform or change will only come about if the 'social
stucture l of weapons technology is first understood.