The US anti-ballistic missile (ABM) program started in 1955 with Western Electric and Bell Telephone Laboratories contracted to run the Nike-Zeus missile program. The proposition or mission was to protect US population centers from “a few dozen” Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
Lean innovation observation. The lean build-measure-learn iterative validation process has roots in the Walter A. Shewhart learning and improvement cycle, developed at the same Western Electric and Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1939.
The initial technical challenge was for radar and computing power to differentiate high speed warheads from re-entry clutter or decoys, and develop a tracking solution in time to launch a relatively slow intercept missile.
Fresh challenges of nuclear blackout and electromagnetic pulse were discovered during high altitude nuclear tests in 1958. These could disable the ABM radar complex after the first intercept, preventing further kills. With defense systems configured for one radar complex to control multiple missiles, this was a showstopper.
To ensure a kill on every incoming warhead in a saturation attack, the Nike-Zeus cost-exchange ratio was calculated at 20:1 in favor of the Soviet ICBMs. In Federal budget cash terms offence was cheaper than defense. Deployment was cancelled in January 1963 in favor of more new Minuteman offensive ICBMs as a cheaper deterrent.
Nike-Zeus R&D investment 1956 to 1962 US$6.2 billion (2017 dollars).
Lean innovation observation. State-of-the-art research miracle assumptions need to be validated to create a scalable economic proposition.