Return of the "Dead Hand"

Return of the "Dead Hand"
Return of the "Dead Hand"

The United States intends to break the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, which in the future may lead to very different consequences in the military-political sphere. The former parties to the agreement will be able to start creating new weapons and reorganizing the corresponding army structures. In addition, some existing systems and tools will be of particular importance. Thus, the American edition of The National Interest believes that the rejection of the INF Treaty will change the role of the Russian automated control system "Perimeter".

A chilling article about the responses to American moves was published on December 12th under The Buzz. Michael Peck presented a piece entitled Russia's "Dead Hand" Nuclear Doomsday Weapon is Back. The subheading reveals one potential risk. If the United States starts deploying medium-range missiles in Europe again, Russia may consider adopting the doctrine of a preemptive nuclear missile strike.


M. Peck recalls that Russia knows how to create various types of weapons that look very frightening - at least on paper. This year alone, a new nuclear-powered cruise missile and a robotic submarine carrying a 100-megaton nuclear warhead were unveiled.

During the Cold War, there were also terrifying doomsday systems. Perhaps the most terrible of them was the control complex, capable of automatically launching intercontinental missiles when a nuclear strike from the enemy starts. This complex did not need human participation and solved the assigned tasks on its own.

As the author notes, the old control system, known as Perimeter and Dead Hand, may return to work in the future. In doing so, it will become even more deadly than it was in the past.

Peck calls the statements of the United States administration about the planned withdrawal from the 1987 treaty on intermediate and shorter-range missiles as a prerequisite for such events. At one time, this treaty led to the elimination of the once large stocks of missile weapons of several classes. Donald Trump claims that Russia is violating the INF Treaty by developing new cruise missiles that directly contradict its terms.

US intentions infuriated Moscow. In addition, there was a fear that America, like during the Cold War, will be able to deploy nuclear missiles in European countries. For geographic reasons, Russia needs ICBMs to successfully attack the United States. Only such a weapon is capable of reaching the continental United States when launched from Russian territory. At the same time, American missiles of other classes with a shorter range, starting from Germany or Poland, are capable of hitting the central regions of Russia.

Further, M. Peck cites the words of the former chief of the main headquarters of the strategic missile forces, Colonel-General Viktor Yesin. On November 8, the Russian weekly Zvezda published an interview with V. Yesin, in which, along with other topics, they discussed various aspects of strategic deterrence, as well as the consequences of the breakdown of the INF Treaty. First of all, the American author was interested in statements about the "Perimeter" system, as well as about a possible change in the Russian doctrine of the use of nuclear weapons.

First of all, M. Peck pointed to the words of V. Esin about the deployment of missiles in Europe and the response of Moscow. If the United States begins deploying its medium-range missiles in European countries, Russia will consider adopting an updated doctrine for a preemptive nuclear missile strike. Several other issues were also raised in the interview.

The topic of automatic control systems was raised in an interview by the journalist of the weekly "Zvezda". He noted that with the deployment of medium-range missiles near the borders, the flight time could be reduced to almost two to three minutes. In this regard, the question arises: will the Russian Strategic Missile Forces have time to respond to the enemy's first strike? There is also hope for the Perimeter control system, although there are concerns that it was liquidated in the past for one reason or another.

V. Yesin replied that the "Perimeter" / Dead Hand complex is still working. Moreover, this system has been modernized. At the same time, he noted that by the time the "Perimeter" began to work, not all means for a retaliatory strike would remain in the ranks. In this case, it will be possible to launch only those nuclear missiles that remain intact and operational after the first enemy strike.

M. Peck points out the lack of details. It is not clear what V. Esin had in mind when he talked about improving the Perimeter system. The situation is similar with his statements that she continues to work. There is no exact information on this score. However, the basic methods of operation of the control complex are known. According to the available information, the key element of the "Dead Hand" is the modified UR-100 / SS-17 missiles. Their task is to transmit launch commands to all operational ICBMs remaining in the mines.

Further, the author gives a description of the work "Perimeter", taken from the famous book by David E. Hoffman "The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy" war and its dangerous legacy "). According to D. Hoffman, this system works in a semi-automatic mode and needs some human participation.

The country's top leadership, fearing an imminent nuclear missile strike, must "flip the switch" and bring the control system into working order. It is the state leadership that gives permission for further actions. Duty officers must take their places at the command posts located in buried and fortified spherical bunkers - "balls". If a permit for the use of nuclear weapons is obtained, seismic sensors record atomic explosions on the surface, and the communication facilities are no longer operational, the duty officers must launch special command missiles. The latter should transmit the command to launch all intercontinental ballistic missiles with combat equipment. Combat ICBMs must carry out a retaliatory nuclear missile strike against the enemy.

Michael Peck recalls that for many years the existence of the Perimeter system has been supported by only a few pieces of evidence. This fact shows a curious feature of the entire project. For some reason, the Soviet Union concealed its automatic nuclear control complex from a potential enemy in the person of the United States, which it was intended to contain.

However, according to M. Peck, there are obvious points in the context of the Perimeter system. He believes this complex is a fear-based solution. This is the fear of the first strike from the United States, which can destroy the country's leadership, as a result of which there will be no one to give the order to retaliate. It is also the fear that the Russian leader might lose his composure and not give the required order.

From this, the author of The National Interest draws a pessimistic conclusion. If, in the current situation, Russia has begun to publicly discuss the Perimeter complex, the rest should start to worry.


According to various sources, the Perimeter automatic control complex for a massive nuclear strike was created in the seventies of the last century. It was developed as a supplement to the existing means of command and control of strategic nuclear forces and was intended to operate in conditions of their destruction or damage. The complex has been in operation for about 40 years, but most of the information about it is still not subject to disclosure, which contributes to the emergence of various assessments, assumptions and outright speculations.

According to various sources, the "Perimeter" includes a number of its own command posts, responsible for processing incoming data and issuing basic orders. The second key element of the system is launchers with the so-called. command missiles. The 15A11 rocket is a modified version of the MR UR-100U product, in which, instead of combat equipment, a radio-technical complex for transmitting data and commands is used. After launching, the rocket automatically notifies all the remaining SNF objects of the need to complete the combat mission. To receive commands from 15A11 missiles, all nuclear facilities have appropriate receivers.

Some sources mention the existence of command missiles made on the basis of other military weapons. So, the basis for one of these products was the mobile soil complex "Pioneer". Also, the command missile could be built on the basis of the RT-2PM Topol ICBM. According to some reports, 15A11 missiles have been decommissioned in the past and replaced with newer Topol-based products. At the same time, the number and location of command missiles have never been published anywhere.

The full composition of the Perimeter components and the principles of its operation remain unknown, although some information on this matter has already appeared. According to one of the popular versions, the complex includes means of electronic reconnaissance and information collection, seismic and electromagnetic sensors, as well as other equipment. It is understood that in the event of a nuclear missile strike, Perimeter will be able to independently determine the fact of an attack by its characteristic features and automatically issue a command for retaliatory missile launches.

According to other sources, the autonomy of the "Perimeter" system is limited, and therefore it does not include devices and algorithms for independent decision-making. It itself is actually an additional communication system, distinguished by increased survivability and stability even in a nuclear war. There are also other versions that provide for the joint work of humans and automation. Which of them correspond to reality is unknown for reasons of secrecy and security.

In recent years, officials have repeatedly spoken about the continued operation of the Perimeter. The system has been preserved and remains on alert in order to ensure national security. It retains its status as one of the main elements of deterring a potential adversary from rash decisions in the field of nuclear missile weapons.

The United States, under the leadership of the Trump administration, plans to withdraw from the existing treaty on the elimination of intermediate and shorter-range missiles, which, according to various estimates, should lead to the emergence of new types of weapons and a significant change in the strategic situation. Russia will be forced to respond to new challenges, and some of its plans for the future may be related to the "Perimeter" control complex.

However, it is not known how exactly the existing control system will be used after the situation changes, whether it will need to be improved, and whether it will affect the current doctrine of the use of nuclear weapons. This unknown, coupled with the special purpose of the Perimeter, is cause for concern. In addition, according to The National Interest, foreign military and politicians should be concerned about the very fact that Russia has begun to publicly discuss its "Perimeter".

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