SpaceRace Logo National Air and Space Museum logo
The Soviet Challenge in Space: Illustrating the Threat

Space Race Home
Military Origins
Racing to the Moon
Satellite Reconnaissance
A Permanent Presence

Previous pageNext page
Reconnaissance and Space
Discoverer / Corona
Corona's Mission
Treaty Verification

The Soviet Challenge In Space: Illustrating The Threat

Offensive Weapons

Soviet offensive forces grew dramatically in quality and quantity during the Cold War. These included missiles, submarines, and aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The United States devoted considerable resources to assessing and countering this threat. Both the United States and the Soviet Union produced thousands of offensive nuclear warheads capable of destroying both countries many times over. Arms control treaties during the last two decades have significantly reduced these nuclear arsenals.

Scud B

Scud B

The Soviets first deployed the Scud B in the late 1950s. A tactical, mobile, ballistic missile, it could deliver a conventional, nuclear, biological, or chemical warhead to a target about 320 kilometers (200 miles) away. The Soviet Union exported Scud B missiles to its Warsaw Pact allies and to such countries as Iraq, China, and North Korea. The Iraqi use of Scuds during the Gulf War showed the continuing threat posed by these weapons. This illustration was prepared in 1972.
52k JPEG
Image courtesy DIA

Delta III Submarine

Delta III Submarine

This depiction of the Delta III nuclear-powered submarine was completed shortly after the warship entered service in the late 1970s. A Delta III could fire the nuclear-tipped SS-N-18 Stingray ballistic missile from 16 launch tubes. With a range of 6,500 kilometers (3,900 miles), Stingrays could hit targets in the United States form Soviet home ports or coastal waters. The Delta III is still deployed with the Russian navy today.
27k JPEG
Image courtesy DIA


SS-25 Sickle



The deployment of the mobile SS-25 Sickle intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in the 1980s made Soviet land-based nuclear forces harder to locate and destroy. As seen in this work from 1986, the missile and support equipment was mounted on massive off-road vehicles that enabled rapid dispersal. The Sickle carried a single nuclear warhead and was about the same size as the U.S. Minuteman ICBM. Post-Soviet Russia continues to deploy this missile.
37k JPEG
Image courtesy DIA


Manned Space Flight Previous page Next page Defensive Weapons
Space Race > Illustrating the Threat > Offensive Weapons > Defensive Weapons

Space Race Home
Introduction | Military Origins | Racing To the Moon | Satellite Reconnaissance | Permanent Presence | Illustrations