With reference to a question Are there still any companies/academic centers that use mainframes from 60s-70s? on Programmers stack exchange, I answered mentioning the following:

When I was working at RAF Filingdales in the mid 90's, on the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System there, we were told that they couldn't directly connect anything but the original mainframe to the radar array, as it would be considered a violation of a strategic arms treaty governing the use of the early warning radar system.

I'm not now convinced that this was true, given the current National Missile Defence upgrade, but the original CDC-Cyber mainframe could still be in use if the NMD project has not yet been completed.

My assertion was challenged by a commenter who suggested it was the radar itself which was limited by SALT, so it seems that I'm not the only person who has been told that early warning systems are controlled by international treaty.

A survey of the appropriate wikipedia pages doesn't appear to mention either radar warning systems or the computers connected to them in relation to any of these treaties. The closest thing I can find is the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty but this appears to be about the missiles used to shoot down Ballistic Missiles rather than the tracking systems used to locate incoming missiles.

  • I believe that SALT and ABMT grandfathered in systems that were already online. They limited new development so that more complex systems were not developed. I do not believe that congress ever actually signed these treaties but instead they were enacted by executive order. As such GWB was free to issue an order abolishing ABMT with out requiring congressional approval. So while it was limited then I do not believe it is limited now.
    – Chad
    Aug 17, 2011 at 20:14
  • @Chad: Strictly speaking, it's the Senate that ratifies treaties by way of a supermajority consent (i.e. 2/3rds). See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_Clause . Aug 17, 2011 at 21:16
  • Too localised, in my opinion...
    – Sklivvz
    Aug 17, 2011 at 22:49
  • 3
    @Skivvz - By too localised, do you mean that this claim is not notable enough? I do wish down voters would explain what is wrong with my question - this is quite important when someone is new to a given stack exchange site. I believe that my question demonstrates research and don't believe it is unclear, which means that it is probably being considered not useful, but it would be good to know.
    – Mark Booth
    Aug 18, 2011 at 10:54
  • @brian - Yes the Senate is one branch of congress. And the one in responsible for ratifing treaties. But since the treaties were never ratified its kind of irrelavent.
    – Chad
    Aug 18, 2011 at 12:56


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