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Fractional Orbital Bombardment System

Last Updated : 17 Jun, 2022
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Western defense specialists are concerned that China may have tested an orbiting bombardment weapon last summer, as reported by the Financial Times. A nuclear-capable glider was launched into orbit by China’s Long March rocket using a technology that allowed the glider to travel at hypersonic speeds toward its target. 
If this information is accurate, it shows that China was making rapid progress in building weapons that can, to a significant part, avoid current pro-missile (ABM) defenses and the associated warning systems existing in America and the European Union.
As far as we know, China did not invent the Fraction Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS). Russia developed an orbit bombardment system in the 1960s that could transport a nuclear warhead into orbit at a lower trajectory than ordinary fixed-trajectory ballistic missiles. 
The maximum altitude of the missile will be around 150 km. Energetically, this would require a launch vehicle capable of placing the weapon ‘in orbit’. However the orbit was only a fraction of the full orbit, not continuous, and so there would be little need to control a precise orbit or maintain it for long.

History of Development and Deployment:

In the Soviet Union, the SS-9 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (FOBS) was available. The early warning systems of the North American Ballistic Defense Command (NORAD). It’s hard to think of the FOBS and glider as anything but a reusable spacecraft. In actuality, China disputed claims that it had conducted orbital weapon testing, insisting that only a space aircraft had been used in the exercises in question.

As a warhead is placed in a stable orbit, it deorbits above the target. A warhead can complete a full circle if the destination and launch location are aligned. Although the earth is moving, the warhead still flies over the target because the horizontal motion is resisted in such a manner. 

When it comes down to it, the fundamental issue is that the missile may be flown straight to a target, or it can be shot other way around the world and still reach its target over the southernmost pole rather than the north pole, which is where most early warning systems are aimed.

Reasons for Development:

  • With a nuclear weapon, the system provided a limitless strike range.
  • The system allowed you to attack from any angle.
  • For example, the Soviet Union could invade the United States from either the South Pole or the North Pole; technically, it could also carry out both attack plans at the same time.
  • The technology allowed for the circumvention of early warning radar systems. This advantage stems from two separate features of FOBS: (1) its ability to strike from any direction, as previously stated, and (2) its ability to go along a very low Earth orbital path.
  • The system keeps the destination location concealed until the package exited orbit. The FOBS may theoretically stay in orbit for many years due to its incredibly short trajectory, albeit the FOBS vehicle could detach from its warhead at any time throughout the orbit.
  • The FOBS flew faster than the ICBM (assuming no indirect route is used for radar avoidance purposes). The FOBS missile might arrive 10 minutes earlier than the ICBM at its target.
  • The FOBS was supposed to be able to get over American anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defenses, according to the Soviet Union. From the beginning, the Soviet FOBS’ main purpose was to do this.

FOBS Attack Detection and Destroy

When a satellite deorbits and lands or flies low over your region, it may be the first hint of a FOBS assault. The US missile warning system in Earth Orbit (LEO) will see a FOBS spacecraft. Chinese FOBS will be picked up by radars in the southern hemisphere, including North America. Additionally, Australia’s Jindalee Operational Radio Network may identify Chinese launches of FOBS from a distance. An early warning system that can follow the non-parabolic trajectory of a Chinese Depends on what type of glider vehicle might likewise be put up by the US allies throughout South America. Attacks may be conducted simultaneously from numerous directions to increase the likelihood of an interceptor being noticed and intercepted. Deterrence between India And The FOBS Helps To Keep The Peace.

What can India learn from China’s FOBS experiment?

  • Even the most steadfast might be shaken by the term “future” in the setting of Sino-Indian ties. Last year’s deadly border conflict between India and China resulted from a decades-long stalemate between Beijing and Delhi on the boundary issue, which the Chinese leadership has steadfastly refused to resolve. 
  • When a pre-emptive adversary attack is a real possibility, even exceptional payloads such as FOBS that need massive, silo-based rockets fall short of perfection. In addition, China’s FOBS aren’t only for India. Because, at the absolute least, China’s FOBS capacity will enable the PLA’s leadership to shift additional resources, this is another concern that India must address.
    Long-range cruise and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) targeting India exploit their FOBS capacity to attack nations halfway across the globe.
  • As a first step, India will need to significantly increase its nuclear stockpile and the methods by which it can deliver it. Agni-V ICBMs and SLBMS capable of MIRV should be procured rapidly. Commercial satellite photographs from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies reveal that China has initiated the construction of much more than 100 additional silos for ICBMs, a total that Western intelligence agencies believe to be far higher than 350. 
  • As a result, India has to considerably grow its nuclear weapons stockpile to exceed China’s and Pakistan’s combined nuclear stockpiles. Precision strikes against the adversary’s road and rail mobility missiles can only be carried out with real-time vision and data fusion driven by Edge Computing. The Indian government should also put money on nuclear-powered submersibles and long-range cruise missiles.
    Second, India must significantly expand the number of military satellites in orbit around the Earth (LEO). Use existing real-time information sharing agreements with friendly nations to follow any deorbiting Chinese spacecraft.
  • There should be a space aircraft form of this launch system built. The GSLV launch vehicle may be used to propel this space aircraft into orbit. Such a space aircraft may place espionage sensors and transport weapons from space, if necessary.


As the UN Security Council’s five permanent members, India will have to use deterrence to keep the balance of power in check. Anti-Ballistic Missile Agreement is no longer in effect, and Beijing benefits from it to conduct its nuclear tests. Therefore, India’s nuclear deterrent capabilities must be credible to prevent Beijing from pursuing undesirable acts or compel it to behave in a desired manner.

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