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Title: The development of U.S. Fleet Ballistic Missile technology : Polaris to Trident
Author: Spinardi, Graham
ISNI:       0000 0000 6741 9157
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1988
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The main aim of the study is to document the development of US Fleet Ballistic Missile technology from its mid-1950s beginnings through to Trident II D5. This historical documentation is framed by a perspective which seeks to understand how technology evolves and what the relationship is between, to put it simply, technology and strategy, or technology and politics. Of particular interest in this case study is the relationship between technology and nuclear strategy. It is a commonplace assertion that technology is a dominant, determining factor in the arms race, that indeed there is a technological imperative. In particular there are many who argue that improvements in missile accuracies have driven changes in nuclear strategy away from counter-city retaliatory deterrence to war-fighting counter-force postures. Tracing the history of FBM development from Polaris, considered by many the archetypal counter-city deterrent, to Trident II, with hard-target kill capability comparable to MX, helps our understanding of this issue. In considering this central theme, the development of FBM technology is analysed in the social constructionist terms of the 'new' sociology of technology. This approach argues that technical change must be explained impartially and symmetrically, and that the success of a particular technology is not sufficient explanation in itself, but is rather exactly what needs to be explained. Technology is considered to be underdetermined by the physical world, and thus to be fundamentally shaped by the social world. The extreme characterizations of the relationship between technology and politics - either that technology is simply the tool of political will or that technology is out-of-control (as in the view that accuracy improvements have driven strategy) - are found to be inadequate in this study. Instead it is found that the 'bureaucratic politics' approach captures much of the rich complexity of the process of technological change. Yet even this approach fails fully to capture the complex inter-relatedness of 'technology' and 'politics', nor does it take into account the importance of the physical production of technology.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Nuclear missile development ; Guided missiles