The Search for Security in Space 9781501737091

This book brings together the best work on space security by well-known arms control analysts, along with significant re

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The Search for Security in Space

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Cornell Studies in Security Affairs

edited by Robert J. Art and Robert Jervis Strategic Nuclear Targeting, edited by Desmond Ball and Jeffrey Richelson Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919-1941, by Michael A. Barnhart Citizens and Soldiers: The Dilemmas of Military Service, by Eliot A. Cohen Great Power Politics and the Struggle over Austria, 1945-1955, by Audrey Kurth Cronin Innovation and the Arms Race: How the United States and the Soviet Union Develop New Military Technologies, by Matthew Evangelista The Wrong War: American Policy and the Dimensions of the Korean Conflict, 1950-1955, by Rosemary Foot The Soviet Union and the Failure of Collective Security, 1954-1958, by Jiri Hochman The Warsaw Pact: Alliance in Transition? edited by David Holloway and Jane M. O. Sharp The Illogic of American Nuclear Strategy, by Robert Jervis Nuclear Crisis Management: A Dangerous Illusion, by Richard Ned Lebow The Search for Security in Space, edited by Kenneth N. Luongo and W. Thomas Wander The Nuclear Future, by Michael Mandelbaum Conventional Deterrence, by John J. Mearsheimer The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany between the World Wars, by Barry R. Posen Fighting to a Finish: The Politics of War Termination in the United States and Japan, 1945, by Leon V. Sigal The Ideology of the Offensive: Military Decision Making and the Disasters of 1914, by Jack Snyder The Militarization of Space: U.S. Policy, 1945-1984, by Paul B. Stares Making the Alliance Work: The United States and Western Europe, by Gregory F. Treverton The Origins of Alliances, by Stephen M. Walt The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany, 1955-1959, by Wesley K. Wark

The Search for Security in Space EDITED BY

Kenneth N. Luongo AND

W. Thomas Wander

Cornell University Press Ithaca and London

Copyright © 1989 by American Association for the Advancement of Science All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission writing from the publisher. For information, address Cornell University Press, 124 Roberts Place, Ithaca, New York 14850. First published 1989 by Cornell University Press. International Standard Book Number (cloth) 0-8014-2145-4 International Standard Book Number (paper) 0-8014-9482-6 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 88-47928 Printed in the United States of America Librarians: Library of Congress cataloging information appears on the last page of the book. The paper in this book is acid-free and meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources.


Acknowledgments Introduction Part

vii 1

I. U.S. and Soviet Space Weapon Programs



W. Thomas Wander 1. U.S. and Soviet Military Space Programs:


A Comparative Assessment Paul B. Stares

2. The Threat to Space Systems


Paul B. Stares

3. The Ballistic Missile Defense Debate


The Office of Technology Assessment

4. The President's Strategic Defense Initiative 5. The Soviet BMD Program

82 94

Sayre Stevens Part

II. Evaluating SD1 Technology

Introduction W. Thomas Wander 6. SDI: Goals and Technical Objectives

129 144

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

7. The SDI Technical Program


The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

8. What Is "Proof"?


Gary L. Guertner

9. The Reagan Strategic Defense Initiative: A Technical Appraisal Sidney D. Drell, Philip /. Farley, and David Holloway [v]


Contents 10. Is SDI Technically Feasible? Harold Brown Part

11. 12.

13. 14.


III. Space Weapon Arms Control

Introduction W. Thomas Wander U.S. Space Arms Control Policy U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency The Reduction of Nuclear Arms and the Preventing of an Arms Race in Space USSR Institute for World Economy and International Relations The ABM Treaty Office of the U.S. Department of State Legal Adviser Interpretation of the ABM Treaty Sam Nunn Part

223 235

246 261 279

IV. Appendixes

1. Texts of the 1972 ABM Treaty, Its Agreed Interpretations, and Its 1976 Protocol 2. Treaties Containing Provisions Relevant to Outer Space with the Appropriate Articles 3. Acronyms Contributors Index

301 313 320 325 329


Acknowledgmen ts

This anthology grew out of a seminar for Members of Congress and congressional staff which the AAAS Program on Science, Arms Con¬ trol, and National Security sponsored on March 19, 1986. The editors thank the Carnegie Corporation of New York for its generous support of the seminar and the preparation of this manuscript. We thank Rich¬ ard A. Scribner, Laureen Andrews, and Robin Eisenacher for their assistance in arranging that seminar. We also gratefully acknowledge the assistance of John Ohlmstead, Jeffrey Levin, Matthew Budzik, and Marie Ackermann. The editors are deeply indebted to Shoshana Kominsky and Angela Hewitt for their tireless work in the preparation of the manuscript and for their good humor during the process. The series editor, Robert Jervis, reviewed an early version of the four introductory essays. In addition, Sandy Thomas reviewed the introductions for Parts I and II, and Sidney Graybeal reviewed the Part III introduction. Ashton Carter reviewed all of the introductory material. These reviewers de¬ serve much credit for the constructive suggestions that made the intro¬ ductory essays more readable and more accurate. Of course, they bear no responsibility for any remaining deficiencies of content or style. Finally, the editors thank Alvin Trivelpiece, AAAS Executive Officer; J. Thomas Ratchford, AAAS Associate Executive Officer; and the mem¬ bers of the AAAS Committee on Science, Arms Control, and National Security for their unwavering support of this undertaking. K.N.L. Washington, D.C.





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The Search for Security in Space


Outer space is an area of vital importance to the national security interests of both the United States and the Soviet Union. It is, therefore, also critically important to the balance of power between these two nations. For this reason, defining appropriate, mutually acceptable uses of space for military activities has been a central issue on the super¬ power agenda for some thirty years. The critical question in this context, however, is not simply whether space should be used for military purposes by the two superpowers; that question has been answered affirmatively for more than twentyfive years. Passive military operations—the use of satellites to provide information on an adversary's forces, facilitate communications, verify arms control measures, provide early warning of a nuclear attack, and so forth—have been generally accepted as legitimate uses of space. It is true that these satellites can enhance the effectiveness of both nuclear and conventional forces. But because they do not directly fire on an adversary's troops, facilities, or equipment, and because they also have important stabilizing effects, analysts generally conclude that they make a valuable contribution to maintaining the peace. Thus the most significant issues raised by the military use of space have more to do with whether actual weapons should be deployed there—the weaponization of space—and if so, what kinds and under what conditions.

The Search for Security in Space, 1957-1976

In 1957 the military potential of outer space was vividly demonstrated to the world. The dramatic launching of the Soviet artificial satellite Sputnik I confronted humanity with the sobering prospect that any [1]

Search for Security in Space

weapon, even the most devastating weapon of that era, the hydrogen bomb, could be launched, ominously circle the earth, and be delivered to any location on earth at any time. Although Sputnik was a peaceful satellite, the implications for its use for military purposes were understood well by a U.S. population schooled in the politics of the Cold War and fearful of Soviet military and political intentions. It was in this atmosphere that U.S. leaders launched a concerted effort to protect the nation from Soviet satellites by developing antisatellite (asat) weapons and from some strategic nuclear weapons by exploring technologies for ballistic missile defense (BMD). In the late 1950s the United States conducted research on a variety of concepts for the interception or inspection of space vehicles, for the possibility that the Soviets would place hydrogen bombs in orbit was, for a time, considered a real threat to the United States. In the mid-1960s the United States conducted tests of an unarmed, ground-based asat weapon in the South Pacific. In time of war, these operational asat weapons, deployed on Johnston Island, would carry nuclear warheads and intercept Soviet orbital bombs as they passed overhead on their way to North America. In addition to orbiting weapons, another threat arose from the de¬ velopment of the intercontinental ballistic missile (icbm). With the icbm, nuclear weapons could be launched from the territory of one nation, travel through space, and hit targets in another nation within minutes. To counter the icbm threat, the United States was working to develop a deployable antiballistic missile (ABM) system. Although the one operational ABM site permitted by the ABM Treaty protocol was deactivated in 1976, research on strategic defenses has continued. During this period, the Soviet Union perceived similar threats from U.S. satellites and icbms and was working on comparable asat weap¬ ons and BMD. For example, in the late 1960s and mid-1970s, the Soviets intermittently conducted tests of a non-nuclear asat and a fractional orbit bombardment system (FOBS).1 In addition to these efforts to develop asat weapons and ABM de¬ fenses, the United States and the Soviet Union have conducted the search for security in space through negotiations. Agreements have been reached that permit stabilizing military activities but prohibit ac-

1. A fractional orbit bombardment system is a missile that achieves orbital trajectory but fires a set of retrorockets before completion of one orbit in order to slow down, reenter the atmosphere, and release the warhead it carries into a ballistic trajectory toward its target. A normal icbm follows an arching, elliptical path and is highly visible to defending radars. A fobs missile in low orbit can make a sharp descent to earth, substantially cutting radar warning time. These systems were banned by the salt ii Treaty (Article IX, Section C). [2]


tivities and weapons that are destabilizing. For instance, there are cur¬ rently three major treaties in force that regulate various aspects of the use of space for military purposes: • the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty prohibits nuclear explosions such as nuclear weapons tests in space; • the 1967 Outer Space Treaty bans the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in space; • the 1972 ABM Treaty prohibits the testing, development, and deploy¬ ment of space-based ABM systems or components.

The Search for Security in Space,


Despite this series of agreements, the United States continues to be locked into a political and military competition with the Soviet Union. Moreover, thirty years after Sputnik, the superpowers are still seeking ways of protecting themselves from each other's satellites and nuclear weapons and, at the same time, protecting their own space-based as¬ sets. In the last decade or so, this latest round of the search for security in space has been pressed most vigorously in two related arenas. First, both the United States and the Soviet Union have continued to pursue the development of effective antisatellite weapons. For in¬ stance, the Soviet Union resumed testing of its latest asat weapon in 1976 and currently has an operational, if rudimentary, asat system. That system has not been tested since 1982. For its part, the United States has not had an operational asat system since the mid-1970s, but with the resumption of Soviet asat tests, it has continued its efforts to develop such a capability within congressionally imposed constraints of budgetary and testing limits. The threat implicit in these activities has led each nation to be con¬ cerned about the security of its own space-based national security as¬ sets. In the late 1970s this concern led to several attempts to negotiate mutually acceptable, verifiable limits on asat weapons. Those efforts were not successful and have not been resumed. Second, although the ABM Treaty has limited the testing, develop¬ ment, and deployment of strategic defenses, both superpowers have continued to mount major research efforts in the area of ballistic missile defense. The Soviet Union has a treaty-compliant operational ABM system around Moscow, which is periodically upgraded. In the United States, the one ABM site permitted by the ABM Treaty protocol has been inactive since 1976. Nevertheless, the U.S. research effort focusing on strategic defenses was consolidated and expanded after President Reagan placed BMD at the top of the defense-policy agenda in 1983 with the introduction of his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). [3]

Search for Security in Space

The overall wisdom—and the political and military implications—of this new quest for strategic defenses has been the subject of the most divisive national security debate of the 1980s in the United States. Moreover, as the SDI research program has progressed, controversy has arisen over the merits of this defensive vision both for technical ("It won't work as advertised") and policy reasons ("Even if it works rea¬ sonably well, it would also contribute significantly to arms race in¬ stability, crisis instability, and so forth"). One important justification for the SDI research program has been that it will provide enough reliable data on the feasibility of strategic defenses that a future president can make an informed decision about deployment sometime in the 1990s. Serious questions have been raised, however, about whether the experimentation needed to produce such data can be conducted without violating the restrictions imposed by the ABM Treaty. In 1985 that controversy was fully joined when the Reagan admin¬ istration embraced, in principle, a new, broad interpretation of the ABM Treaty that would permit the testing and development of exotic defen¬ sive weapons based on physical principles other than those understood when the treaty was signed in 1972. Thus far. President Reagan has directed that the SDI must adhere to the traditional or narrow treaty interpretation. Nevertheless, the need perceived by the program's sup¬ porters to conduct experiments violative of those restrictions and the presence of a less restrictive alternative interpretation accepted by the president in principle have combined to create an urgent and important national debate about the precise limits imposed by the treaty. In light of all these developments, it is clear that the debate over the military use of space is not over but has entered a new and critically important phase. Since large amounts of resources have already been committed to the development of a new generation of space weapons, a decision will have to be made relatively soon about whether it is in the security interests of the superpowers to continue to forgo the deploy¬ ment of weapons in space, or whether the time has come to abandon the existing limitations on space weapons. The decisions made in the next several years about asats and strategic defenses may well have endur¬ ing consequences for the character of permissible military activity in space and for the relations between the two superpowers as well.

Purpose and Scope

To illuminate these and related issues, this collection of essays exam¬ ines the key elements that help to define the search for security in space. [4]


Part I explores the roles and technologies of the U.S. and Soviet space weapon programs, including their as at and BMD programs. Part II examines the debate over the accomplishments and technological feasi¬ bility of the Strategic Defense Initiative. Finally, Part III examines the arms control treaty regime that currently governs space weapons, the positions of the superpowers in the Geneva arms control negotiations, and the debate over the legitimate reach of the ABM Treaty. Beyond the breadth of its coverage, this collection reflects an un¬ usually balanced view of the space weapons controversy. For example, the positions and the programs of both the United States and the Soviet Union are presented. Moreover, the positions of the two governments are presented unfiltered, through the use of several government docu¬ ments. Finally, these treatments are balanced by the often contrary analyses of experts from outside the government. This approach permits two objectives to be achieved simultaneously. First, these selections provide a broad, informative overview that ad¬ dresses the essential components of the space weapons debate, includ¬ ing discussions of the weapons themselves and their evolution, their military role, their technical feasibility and operational limits, and chal¬ lenges to the arms control regime that governs them. Second, the information is offered in such a way that readers are not led to a particular conclusion but are challenged to weigh the evidence and arguments presented by those with very different perspectives and to arrive at their own conclusions on these extremely important and timely issues.



Part I contains five essays that collectively address the evolution of U.S. and Soviet policy governing the military use of space and space weapons deployment; the potential political and military implications of deploying space weapons; and the purpose and scope of the U.S. and Soviet as at and ABM programs. Chapter 1, by Paul B. Stares, reviews the origins of U.S. and Soviet military satellites and the development of weapons to destroy them. Covering the period from 1945 to the present, the chapter details the emergence of military satellites (Milsats) and asats and explains the driving forces behind their development. Stares provides a brief de¬ scription of the dual use of some Milsats. The active employment of these satellites to assist offensive military capabilities makes them a primary target for asat attack. Stares provides a useful and necessary comparison of the importance of key classes of satellites to both the [5]

Search for Security in Space

United States and the ussr, and he examines the important implications for deterrence and security. The author completes the chapter by exam¬ ining possible future trends in Milsats and asats. The second chapter, also by Stares, provides an overview of current U.S. and Soviet asat programs. He assesses the threat to currently deployed superpower Milsats from the present generation of asats. He concludes that an asat attack by either superpower would be pro¬ longed, provocative, and not very effective. Moving beyond the super¬ powers' dedicated asats. Stares examines weapons with residual asat capability (including ABM weapons) and evaluates their potential effec¬ tiveness if they were to be operated in an asat mode. The author also provides an outline of possible future U.S. and Soviet asat weapons. The conclusion to the chapter addresses the overlap between asat and ABM advanced technology weapon testing and the vulnerability that any space-based weapon faces and will need to overcome to be ef¬ fective. In Chapter 3 the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment provides a pro-con introduction to the issues in the debate over the SDI program and the usefulness of ballistic missile defense generally. The key issues are the goals and technological feasibility of SDI and its implications for arms control. The Office of Technology Assessment suggests some alternatives to the current SDI research program and analyzes the im¬ plications of these alternatives for ABM Treaty compliance; arms con¬ trol; asat arms control; ABM research, development, and deployment; technology experiments; research and development for offensive forces; allied reactions; and technology transfer. This introduction to the current ABM debate provides an analytical framework for the fol¬ lowing chapters. Chapter 4 is an official White House document on the SDI that con¬ tains an introduction by President Ronald Reagan. This document pro¬ vides the official U.S. government policy and rationale for SDI. The chapter outlines the reasons why the president initiated the SDI, his goals for the program, and his view of the impact of SDI on deterrence of nuclear aggression. The chapter includes details on the requirements for an effective ballistic missile defense, the role of SDI in U.S. arms control strategy, and the implications of SDI for U.S. relations with its allies. The final chapter in Part I is an authoritative description of the Soviet BMD program written by Sayre Stevens. This chapter provides a com¬ prehensive overview of the historical development of the Soviet BMD system, describes the current Soviet BMD system, and discusses the importance of this system in Soviet nuclear strategy. Stevens also ad¬ dresses the Soviet view of the ABM Treaty, the nation's reasons for [6]


entering into the agreement, and the impact of the treaty on the current Soviet BMD program.



Part II contains five chapters that evaluate the technological feasibility of SDL This section focuses only on the U.S. SDI for several reasons. First, there is a major debate in the United States over the goals and feasibility of SDI, and this issue needs to be addressed. Second, the advanced technology research that is being conducted under the SDI program for ABM weapons is also applicable for use with asat weap¬ ons. Third, this advanced technology research is also being conducted by the Soviet Union in its BMD and asat programs. Because the U.S. technological and scientific base is generally considered more advanced than that of the Soviet Union, it can reasonably be assumed that the problems and progress of the U.S. program will similarly affect the Soviets. Chapter 6 addresses the goals and technical objectives of the SDI. It was written by the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (sdio), the U.S. agency primarily responsible for overseeing the SDI program. This chapter covers five basic issues: the performance goals that the SDI must meet, the requirements for an effective layered defense against ballistic missiles, the technical objectives and development pace for the elements of the defense, the basic activities and structure of the pro¬ gram; and the proposal for a phased deployment of strategic defenses. Chapter 7, also by the sdio, provides an overview of the SDI technical program and its accomplishments. Six major program elements are described and reported on: surveillance, acquisition, tracking, and kill assessment (satka); directed-energy weapons (DEW); kinetic-energv weapons (KEW); survivability, lethality, and key technologies (slkt); the Innovative Science and Technology (1ST) Office; and battle manage¬ ment/command, control, and communications (BM/C3). This chapter reflects the sdio's most recent description of the technologies that are being researched for strategic defense and its most recent evaluation of the progress the program has made. It is a baseline against which the critical discussion of SDI technologies can be measured. In Chapter 8 Gary L. Guertner asks what would constitute proof of SDI's technological feasibility. Guertner argues that it will be very diffi¬ cult to prove the feasibility of SDI for a number of reasons. First, the goals of the SDI have shifted and continue to shift, thereby making it difficult to determine whether the program is feasible for point or population defense. Second, there are political pressures for moving [7]

Search for Security in Space

the SDI ahead and maintaining it as a program. These pressures can taint the scientific analysis that is necessary to decide objectively if SDI technologies are feasible. Third, the ABM Treaty placed constraints on the development and testing of ABM systems, and it will be impossible to conduct integrated tests of capability while adhering to the treaty. Fourth, the cost of the system (including research, development, test¬ ing, and deployment) has not even begun to be addressed. The cost of the various elements of the program are difficult to calculate, and it may prove to be enormously expensive. Overall, the author is not sanguine that a proven feasible defense can be created, validated, or deployed. Similarly skeptical about the technological feasibility of SDI tech¬ nologies are the authors of Chapter 9, Sidney D. Drell, Philip J. Farley, and David Holloway. They examine the promise of strategic defense and then analyze the technologies to be used in the specific layers of the defense. The authors conclude that though there have been major technological advances in recent years, it will be extremely difficult to build the nationwide strategic defense envisioned by President Reagan. They further estimate that there is no present prospect for an effective defense against a reactive Soviet ballistic missile threat (one in which the Soviets employ countermeasures to overcome the defense) and that many decades of research are required before the feasibility of such a defense system can be determined. Harold Brown, in Chapter 10, discusses a timetable for the availability of key SDI technologies. He studies the probable technologies that would be available in the near term (ten to fifteen years from now) and the far term (twenty to twenty-five years from now). This analysis identifies the technologies that are currently available and estimates their effectiveness for strategic defense. The author points out more exotic, longer-term technologies that seem most feasible at present and estimates a time when they may be available. Brown also includes recommendations for how to proceed with a realistic research and development program. He concludes that the near term prospects for defense capabilities are feasible and cost-effective for some type of point defense but that for the longer term, the prognosis for the defense of populations against a responsive Soviet threat is not presently encouraging.



Part III includes four chapters that address the question of space weapon arms control. This section covers three major issues: the exist¬ ing arms control treaty regime covering space weapons; the challenges [8]


to the existing regime; and the possibilities for future agreements in this area. Opening Part III, Chapter 11 provides a current overview of U.S. space weapon arms control policy. The chapter was written by the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, but the policy positions repre¬ sented were agreed upon by interagency review. These official policy statements review the arms control goals of the U.S. government and present the U.S. negotiating position in the Geneva Nuclear and Space Talks (NST). In addition, the chapter reviews the U.S. SDI and asat programs and comments on their consistency with U.S. arms control policy, their compliance with existing arms control agreements, their effect on current and possible future negotiations, and the verifiability of an agreement that would limit these weapons. The analysis of the SDTs compliance with the ABM Treaty presented in this chapter reflects official U.S. policy and is very controversial because it is based on a "permissive" interpretation of the ABM Treaty's provisions. This "rein¬ terpretation" of the treaty was announced in 1985 and is considered legally valid by the Reagan administration. The SDI program to date, however, has been conducted under the traditionally accepted "restric¬ tive" reading of the treaty. Problems in interpreting the ABM Treaty are discussed in detail in Chapters 13 and 14. Chapter 12 is a description of the Soviet Union's policy on space weapon arms control. It was written by the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the ussr Academy of Sciences. This chapter explains the negotiating position of the Soviet Union at the Geneva talks and the arms control goals of the ussr. Special attention is given to the 1986 summit meeting between President Reagan and Gen¬ eral Secretary Gorbachev that was held in Reykjavik, Iceland. Arms control proposals made by both sides at that meeting are considered very important because they provided a framework for deep reductions in strategic nuclear ballistic missiles and provisions for adherence to the restrictive interpretation of the ABM Treaty. This chapter examines the ABM Treaty regime from the Soviet perspective and analyzes the im¬ plications of the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative for this agreement. Further discussion covers asats, especially the threats posed by the U.S. asat program. The last few pages present possible structures for an asat arms control agreement. Chapters 13 and 14 cover the very controversial but vitally important issue of the U.S. interpretation of the ABM Treaty. In Chapter 13, the primary architect of the ABM Treaty reinterpretation, the State Depart¬ ment Legal Adviser presents the analysis that he believes allows a less restrictive reading of the ABM Treaty limitations. This interpretation would allow the development and testing of mobile and space-based [9]

Search for Security in Space

exotic technology weapons such as lasers. The author cites four bases for his conclusion: the negotiating record; the text of the treaty; the treaty's ratification process; and the subsequent practice of the ussr and United States under the treaty. Using the same four areas of analysis. Senator Sam Nunn in Chapter 14 arrives at the opposite conclusion from that of the legal adviser. His study indicates that the traditional, restrictive interpretation of the ABM Treaty is the only legally valid one. This reading restricts the develop¬ ment and testing of all mobile and space-based ABM weapons. Senator Nunn vigorously disputes the legal adviser's analysis and comments on the constitutional implications of the method that was used to arrive at the reinterpretation. The resolution of the ABM Treaty controversy is the crucial element in any future arms control regime for space weapons and is also the linchpin in negotiations toward deep cuts in strategic nuclear weapons, a goal that both President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev have stated they desire. It is clear that the present impasse over the limits of the agreement must be resolved. So long as major ambiguities in the treaty language remain, however, and so long as questions remain about whether adherence to the treaty's restrictions is in the net national interest of the two superpowers, little progress will be made.




and Soviet

Space Weapon Programs


W. Thomas Wander Perhaps because of the prominence of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the attention paid to the military uses of space has increased significantly in recent years. Political discourse is now replete, on one hand, with concerns about the deployment of weapons in space and, on the other, with excitement about the opportunities for strategic advan¬ tage afforded by the application of American science and technology to satisfying military needs in space. The use of space by the military, however, is not a new phenomenon. For more than twenty-five years, military satellites launched by both the United States and the Soviet Union have performed a variety of mis¬ sions—including reconnaissance, early warning, and communica¬ tions—to enhance the effectiveness of their respective armed forces. The level of superpower activity is suggested by the fact that of the total number of satellites launched during this period about two-thirds, or more than two thousand, have contained military payloads.1 Despite this long history, issues revolving around the military use of space are now often judged to be urgent because, unlike previous missions, new developments involve the possible deployment and the eventual use of weapons in space. Setting aside the stabilizing uses of space—for surveillance, communications, treaty compliance verifica¬ tion, early warning, and so forth—that are generally considered posi¬ tive contributors to the peace, the distinction can be a fine one in moral terms—the direct use of space weapons against military or civilian i. Paul B. Stares, The Militarization of Space: U.S. Policy, 1945-1984 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985). [11]

W. Thomas Wander targets versus the use of space technology to enhance the effectiveness and hence the lethality of armed forces. Nevertheless, these develop¬ ments do suggest a time when armed and perhaps even nuclear con¬ flicts will be carried into space, thereby adding another dimension to competition and conflict between the superpowers. In view of this history and these more recent developments. Part I of this book addresses three sets of issues related to the military use of space: (1) the emerging threats against existing and future space-based assets, that is, antisatellite (asat) weapons, (2) the development of U.S. and Soviet ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities, and (3) the po¬ tential political and military implications of deploying space weapons. Before we proceed to those discussions, however, it will be helpful to establish a common background, to introduce some of the issues raised and examined in greater detail in the five chapters that follow. We begin with a review of some basic terminology of satellites and their orbits and then describe the most important missions currently performed by military satellites. We can then begin to address the central issues of this section—the development by both superpowers of asat systems and ballistic missile defense.

Orbits of Military Satellites

The first order of business is to establish some of the basic vocabularly used to discuss military satellites and their orbits.2 All orbits are either circular or elliptical. For circular orbits, one is usually provided with a single number indicating altitude (e.g., 230 or 36,000 kilometers). For elliptical orbits, one is provided with the altitude of the perigee or lowest point and the altitude of the apogee or highest point of that orbit (e.g., 250 x 39,000 kilometers). Orbits are also equatorial, polar, or inclined depending on the orbital plane's orientation to the earth's equator. A satellite with an orbit inclined o° would circle the equator. Thus a satellite might have a circular orbit at 1,000 kilometers inclined 83° to the equator or a highly elliptical orbit 440 x 40,000 kilometers inclined 63° to the equator. Finally, a satellite's period is the time it takes to complete one revolution of the earth. Satellites that have low circular orbits (200 to 1,000 kilo¬ meters) have much shorter periods (90 to 120 minutes) than do those in highly elliptical or high-altitude circular orbits (twelve to twenty-four 2. See Ashton B. Carter, "Satellites and Anti-Satellites: The Limits of the Possible,"

International Security 10 (Spring 1986): 48-52; and William J. Durch and Dean A. Wilkening, "Steps into Space," in William J. Durch, ed.. National Interests and the Military Use of Space (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1984), pp. 11-33, f°r a fuller discussion of the issues from which this review is drawn. [12]

U.S. and Soviet Space Weapon Programs

hours). Satellites serving the military are generally in five types of orbits. Low earth orbit (LEO). LEOs are orbits below 5,000 kilometers. Such orbits have periods ranging from ninety minutes to a few hours. Satel¬ lites in LEO are used for a variety of missions, including photorecon¬ naissance, ocean reconnaissance, meteorology, and geodesy. Geosynchronous orbit (GEO). Military satellites located in GEO have a circular orbit with an altitude of approximately 36,000 kilometers, an inclination of o°, and a period of twenty-four hours. Perhaps the great¬ est advantage of this orbit is that with its twenty-four-hour period, and o° inclination, a satellite in GEO moves with the earth and therefore stays over the same point on the equator. Thus such an orbit is some¬ times called geostationary. As Ashton Carter points out, such satellites positioned over the equator have line-of-sight contact with more than 80 percent of the hemisphere below. Thus by properly positioning several satellites around the equator, one can cover the entire globe, save for the polar regions.3 Because of this particular attribute, most U.S. and several Soviet communication satellites are in GEO, as are some satel¬ lites used for signals intelligence and ballistic missile early warning. Molniya orbit. Molniya orbit is highly elliptical (500 x 40,000 kilo¬ meters) and has a twelve-hour period. One important trait of such an orbit is that the satellite moves very slowly near its apogee and very rapidly near its perigee. Consequently, for more than eleven hours out of every twelve, the satellite is on only one side of the earth. Moreover, with the orbit inclined, the satellite lingers over the Northern Hemi¬ sphere. This characteristic has led the Soviet Union to use the Molniya orbit for ballistic missile early warning, as well as for many communica¬ tion satellites. Semisynchronous orbit. Satellites in semisynchronous orbit have a cir¬ cular orbit at an altitude of 20,000 kilometers (sometimes defined as anywhere from LEO to GEO) with a twelve-hour period. Satellites in this orbit are often used for navigation purposes. Supersynchronous orbit. These orbits are between GEO and the moon. Few satellites currently inhabit this area, but it offers a large area for future military missions. It may become particularly attractive to mili¬ tary planners if the survivability of satellites becomes problematic at lower altitudes. 3. Carter, “Satellites and Anti-Satellites," pp. 50, 52.


W. Thomas Wander Missions of Military Satellites

The number of launches of military satellites has proliferated over the last two decades for the simple reason that orbiting satellites provide services that are either unique or that cannot be provided as effectively or as economically by other methods. Among the military missions they perform are reconnaissance, communication, navigation, meteorology, and geodesy.4


These are among the most important of the military satellites because they help to verify arms control agreements as well as pinpoint military targets. Reconnaissance satellites with at least five different purposes can be identified. Photographic reconnaissance. With sensors on board including televi¬

sion cameras, multispectral scanners, and microwave radars, these sat¬ ellites detect, identify, and locate military targets as well as monitor arms control compliance. These satellites were formerly used almost exclusively for strategic intelligence gathering, but improved camera resolution and increased speed of data processing have made them useful for tactical missions such as battlefield surveillance. The spacecraft now deployed to perform this function for the United States is the Keyhole (KH)-n with a lifetime of some three years and the ability to resolve objects of some 30 centimeters in size.5 The lifetime of Soviet photoreconnaissance satellites, the Kosmos series, has increased (less than 60 days for the fourth generation, more than 230 days for the fifth) but is still considerably shorter than that of U.S. models. They, too, have excellent resolution capabilities. 4. This account relies on the discussion in Paul B. Stares, Space and National Security (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1987), pp. 52-67; and Bhupendra Jasani, Space Weapons: The Arms Control Dilemma (London: Taylor Francis, 1984), pp. 5-10. Other useful discussions of satellites and their military missions include William E. Burrows, Deep Black: Space Espionage and National Security (New York: Random House, 1986); Thomas Karas, The New High Ground: Systems and Weapons of Space Age War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983); Jeffrey Richelson, The U.S. Intelligence Community (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1985); Stares, Militarization of Space; and C. Richard Whelan, Guide to Military Space Programs (Arlington, Va.: Pasha Publications, 1984). 5. The latest generation of U.S. photoreconnaissance satellites, the KH-12, is sched¬ uled to be deployed in late 1988 or early 1989. Its deployment has been delayed by the problems with the space shuttle, which was to have put it into orbit and provided continuing maintenance. Once operational, the KH-12 should provide even higher-reso¬ lution photographs and have a longer lifetime than the KH-11 (up to fifteen years with shuttle servicing). See Colin Norman, “New Spy Satellites Urged for Verification," Sci¬ ence, April 1, 1988, pp. 20-21.

U.S. and Soviet Space Weapon Programs

Signals intelligence (SIGINT). These are satellites dedicated to elec¬

tronic intelligence (elint), communications intelligence (comint), and telemetry intelligence (telint). They are the ears of space-based intel¬ ligence gathering, listening to military communciations between bases, early warning radars, and air defense and missile defense radars. They also collect data on missile testing from signals transmitted from the test vehicle in the form of telemetry. Details (operational life span, numbers deployed, and the like) about both the U.S. and the Soviet sigint satellites are classified. Neverthe¬ less, the United States is reported to have two groupings of such satel¬ lites, one in GEO and the other in a highly elliptical orbit over the northern Soviet Union. The Soviets apparently deploy at least two sigint satellite constellations in LEO. Ocean reconnaissance and oceanography. These are a set of satellites

used specifically to detect and track naval ships and determine sea conditions. The Whitecloud satellites, part of the Navy Ocean Sur¬ veillance System (noss), are put into an 1,100-kilometer circular orbit inclined 63° to the equator and use millimeter-wave radio receivers and perhaps passive infrared (IR) sensors to detect radar and communica¬ tion signals from surface vessels. The Soviet Union employs a less reliable system of two parts. Passive electronic ocean reconnaissance satellites (eorsats) intercept radio and radar transmissions, allowing targets to be pinpointed with great ac¬ curacy, eorsats have a 65° inclined circular orbit generally at an altitude of 430 kilometers. The second element of the system is the radar ocean reconnaissance satellites (rorsats), which provide a broader area of detection and actively track naval targets. They have the same 65° inclined circular orbit but at an altitude of 260 kilometers. The rorsats have had consistent technical difficulties and therefore have not been able to operate continuously. Satellites can also be used to collect data about the ocean—the height of waves, the strength and direction of ocean currents and surface winds, sea and undersea temperatures, the level of sea salinity, and coastal features. Such data can be critically important for naval activities generally, are potentially vital to future antisubmarine warfare opera¬ tions, and can contribute to improving the accuracy of missiles launched from submarines. Early Warning Satellites

Early warning satellites are designed to detect the launch of landbased or submarine-launched ballistic missiles (slbms). The use of in-

W. Thomas Wander

frared sensors in space to detect the hot exhaust plumes of attacking missiles during their initial boost phase provides a vital margin of warning time compared to ground-based radars. Supplementing radars with early warning satellites has increased the warning time of a surprise attack by ballistic missiles from approx¬ imately fifteen minutes to about thirty minutes. The U.S. early warning satellites are placed in GEO some 36,000 kilometers above the earth, while comparable Soviet satellites are orbited in highly elliptical Molyniya orbit (400 x 40,000 kilometers) inclined 63° to the equator.

Detection of Nuclear Explosions A package of sensors, the Nuclear Detection System (NDS), is being installed on the eighteen navigation satellite constellation Navstar GPS (Navigation System Time and Ranging Global Positioning System). When fully operational in 1990, these sensors will provide real-time data on the yield, height, and location (within 100 meters) of nuclear bursts occurring anywhere on earth. Although the Soviet Union may use satellites designed for other missions to house such sensors, it does not appear to have a similar capability.

Communications Satellites One of the earliest uses of satellites was for reliable and secure mili¬ tary communications. Currently, some 80 percent of U.S. military com¬ munications are relayed by satellite, including command and control functions and communications between mobile forces such as aircraft, naval ships, and soldiers on foot and their commanders. The United States uses five space-based communications systems for the military: the Defense Satellite Communications System (dscs), the Fleet Satellite Communications (fltsatcom) System, the Satellite Data System (SDS), the Leased Satellite (Leasat) System, and the Air Force Satellite Com¬ munications (afsatcom) System. With the exception of the SDS, these satellites are maintained in GEO. SDS is in an elliptical orbit (250 x 39,000 kilometers) inclined 64° to the equator. It is difficult to distinguish between the Soviet Union's satellites for civilian and military communication purposes. Nevertheless, it appears that the ussr employs satellites in circular orbits at 800 and 1,5°° kilome¬ ters inclined 740 to the equator, as well as satellites with elliptical orbits (440 x 40,000 kilometers) tilted 63° to the equator. In addition, Paul B. Stares concludes, 'The Soviet Union almost certainly makes use of its [16]

U.S. and Soviet Space Weapon Programs

satellites in the geosynchronous orbit for military communications, if only as a backup."6

Navigation Satellites Both superpowers have developed satellite navigation systems. For many weapons systems, particularly for missiles launched from seabased platforms, the exact position and speed of the weapon are impor¬ tant data. Naval vessels (surface ships and submarines), aircraft, and even some missiles determine their positions and velocities using satel¬ lite signals that are emitted continuously. A constellation of eighteen satellites in semisynchronous orbit (e.g., the Navstar GPS) would be able, for instance, to determine positions within about 20 meters and velocities to within 0.1 meter per second.

Meteorological Satellites Many factors influence a missile's accuracy during flight. Among them are meteorological conditions, including water vapor content in the atmosphere and wind velocity along the expected trajectory. Infor¬ mation about these and other factors is used to predict satellite orbital tracks. Sensors on board the U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Pro¬ gram (dmsp) and the Soviet Meteor satellites in LEO record a variety of atmospheric data to be used in such calculations. Such measurements include the oxygen and nitrogen density of the thermosphere and the temperature and water vapor at various altitudes, surface wind speeds, and so forth.

Geodetic Satellites Additional factors that influence the accuracy of intercontinental bal¬ listic missiles (ICBMs) and cruise missiles include the precision of data concerning the size and shape of the earth's surface and its gravitational fields. Several satellites in LEO are used by both the United States (e.g., Geosat and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's [nasa] GEOS and Lageos) and the Soviet Union to increase the knowl¬ edge of these factors and improve the accuracy of such mapping ac¬ tivity. 6. Stares, Space and National Security, p. 32.

W. Thomas Wander

ASAT The vital military functions that satellites perform combined with their relative vulnerability makes them an inviting target for military planners on both sides of the superpower confrontation. In this context, the Soviets have developed the world's only currently operational anti¬ satellite system, although many question its effectiveness. For its part, the United States has been pursuing, as vigorously as budget and other congressional constraints will allow, an active asat research and de¬ velopment program.7

Soviet ASAT. As Paul Stares explains in Chapter 2, the Soviet dedi¬ cated asat system involves a co-orbital or co-planar interceptor. This interceptor achieves the same orbit as the target satellite. Within one or two revolutions of the earth, it is maneuvered from the ground to close in on the target. At that point, its own guidance system takes it within an acceptable range of the satellite and its explosive is detonated dis¬ tributing shrapnel at high velocity for the kill. Although this system is said to be operational, its effectiveness is the subject of some debate. This point can be illustrated without leaving the Department of Defense (DOD). That is, DOD's evaluation of the effec¬ tiveness of the Soviet asat system has varied over time from "some¬ what troublesome" to "an operational system fully capable of perform¬ ing its mission." In Soviet Military Power, 1987, DOD concludes that the system "is reasonably capable of performing its missions, and thus it is a distinct threat to U.S. low-altitude satellites." 8 Other analysts, how¬ ever, emphasize that it is not yet a reliable system. As Stares indicates, it has failed in test intercepts more often than it has succeeded. In fact, nine out of the last eleven efforts from 1976 to 1982 have ended in failure. There have been no tests since 1982.

U.S. ASAT. If it becomes operational, the dedicated U.S.

sys¬ tem would appear to be superior to that developed by the Soviet Union. The U.S. system consists of an air-launched missile—the air-launched miniature vehicle (almv)—with a heat-seeking warhead that would intercept Soviet satellites in LEO. This missile would be launched from an F-15 fighter and would intercept and collide with the target satellite. This U.S. asat system has several distinct advantages over its Soviet counterparts because it is not a co-orbital system. First, it can complete its attack more quickly because it need not maneuver into the target asat

7. In the 1960s, the United States deployed an operational nuclear-armed satellite interceptor system, but by the mid-1970s, most of the asat program had been terminated. 8. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1987 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1987), p. 52.

U.S. and Soviet Space Weapon Programs

satellite's orbit but only cross it. Second, it should be able to attack Soviet early warning and communication satellites at the perigee of their Molyniya orbits. The Soviet as at can reach that altitude (approx¬ imately 400 kilometers) but not at sufficient speed to close on its target.9 In practice, the U.S. system has been more successful than its Soviet counterpart with four successful tests out of the last five from 1984 to 1986.10 Nevertheless, as Stares demonstrates, there are reasons to doubt its operational effectiveness at this point. In fact, as matters now stand, neither nation can have full confidence in the performance of its asat


Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) In addition to concern about protecting space-based assets from asat weapons, the search for security involves using those assets to protect one's nation from the threat of strategic offensive ballistic missiles. The interest in and development of an antiballistic missile (ABM) program did not, of course, begin with SDI.11 For the Soviets, the deployment of an ABM system was fairly straightforward. By the late 1960s, the Soviet Union had developed a long-range, nuclear-armed interceptor, the Galosh, and deployed around Moscow the early warning and battle management radars necessary for an operational ABM system for the capital. By 1970, missiles had been installed at four sites around Mos¬ cow with sixteen launchers each. The Galosh system deployment was halted at sixty-four launchers.

The U.S. BMD Program to lyyi The U.S. ABM deployment process was not nearly so tidy. By the end of the 1950s, the development of the first-generation ABM was already well advanced. The army's interceptor, the Nike-Zeus, would have been directed by ground-based, mechanically steered radar to move 9. Carter, “Satellites and Anti-Satellites," p. 74. 10. As discussed more fully in the introduction to Part III, Congress began restricting asat testing in the mid-1980s. For instance, the defense appropriations bill for fiscal year 1985 permitted only three asat tests against objects in space. Beginning with the defense appropriations measure for fiscal year 1986 and continuing to the present, all asat testing against objects in space has been prohibited until the president certifies to Congress that the Soviet Union has tested a dedicated asat against an object in space. In its fiscal year 1989 budget request, the Department of Defense has asked that this asat system be terminated, although research will continue on more exotic asat weapons. 11. There are many accounts of the early history of the superpower ABM programs. This review relies on Office of Technology Assessment, Ballistic Missile Defense Tech¬ nologies (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985), pp. 45-66, and Herbert York, Does Strategic Defense Breed Offense? (Boston: University Press of America for the Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, 19^7).

W. Thomas Wander

within an acceptable range of the Soviet reentry vehicle (RV). At that point, the RV would be destroyed by an exploding nuclear weapon carried by the interceptor. But because it was judged to cost the United States more to counter Soviet missiles with this system than it would cost the Soviets to deploy them and because of technological limitations (slow rockets, mechanical radar, and the like), the Nike-Zeus was sup¬ planted, without ever being deployed, by the Nike-X in 1963. The Nike-X would have faster-burning rockets (the Sprint) and elec¬ tronically steered phased-array radars, and it would intercept RVs just after they entered the atmosphere (to make it easier to distinguish real RVs from decoys). Sprint was joined in 1965 by another interceptor, the Spartan, which would destroy several RVs at once by exploding a nuclear warhead above the atmosphere. By early 1967, the research and development (R&D) results for this system looked very encouraging, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff had tentatively decided on a deployment scheme. The Spartan with a range of several hundred miles would provide an area defense for the United States, and the Sprint with a more limited range of about twenty-five miles would defend twenty-five cities (later expanded to fifty-two). By late 1967, however. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was pro¬ posing deployment of only a partial, thin Nike-X ABM system, Sentinel, not to defend against a massive Soviet first strike but against a potential Chinese icbm force or an accidental Soviet attack. As political opposition to ABM deployment increased, the plan was altered once again. In 1969 the newly installed Nixon administration suspended Sentinel deployment in favor of the Safeguard system de¬ signed to defend icbm silos, not cities. In that year. Congress, within the context of a heated national debate over the wisdom of ABM deploy¬ ment, almost delayed deployment of Safeguard—failing to do so only on a fifty-one to fifty vote in the Senate (the vice-president, Spiro Agnew, cast the tie-breaking vote). With that hurdle surmounted, ini¬ tial deployment at Grand Forks, North Dakota, began. With the signing of the ABM Treaty in 1972, however, the debate about deployment of ABM systems ended. Although each side was allowed eventually to retain one ABM site (Grand Forks for the United States and Moscow for the Soviet Union), the superpowers clearly concluded that the nationwide deployment of ABM systems would not be in their national security interests. As Sidney Drell, Philip Farley, and David Holloway nicely summarize the situation in Chapter 9, that decision was made because such ABM systems were judged to have several shortcomings. They were futile because the offense would inev¬ itably win an offense-defense competition, particularly against popula¬ tion centers. They would destabilize the arms race because the United [20]

U.S. and Soviet Space Weapon Programs

States and the Soviet Union would compete not only in deployed ABM systems but also in offensive systems to overcome the opposing de¬ fense. The deployed ABM systems would be particularly effective against a retaliatory second strike, and therefore, in a crisis there would be great advantage from and thus great pressure to strike first. They therefore would be crisis destabilizing. Finally, they were costly. Both nations would have to develop and deploy constantly updated offen¬ sive and defensive systems, and for the foreseeable future the offensive efforts to overwhelm the defense would be much less costly than the defensive response.

Revival of ABM Although the issues seemed settled in 1972, the two nations con¬ tinued research on ABM systems. In accordance with the provisions of the ABM Treaty, the Soviets have maintained and are modernizing their operational, single-layer ABM system at Moscow. It includes sixteen reloadable, above-ground Galosh launchers, battle management and tracking and guidance radars, and four exoatmospheric interceptors for each launcher. The interceptors are nuclear-armed, ground-based mis¬ siles designed to intercept reentry vehicles in space shortly before they reenter the earth's atmosphere. According to DOD, a new, modernized Moscow ABM system is being developed. It will be a "two-layer system composed of silo-based, long-range modified Galosh interceptors; silo-based, probably nuclear¬ armed Gazelle high-acceleration endoatmospheric interceptors (de¬ signed to engage reentry vehicles within the atmosphere); and associ¬ ated engagement, guidance, and battle management radar systems." When complete, possibly by the end of this decade, this system will have the one hundred operational ABM launchers permitted under the ABM Treaty.12 Beyond the Moscow ABM system, the Soviet Union has, since the 1960s, initiated a substantial research program in advanced technolo¬ gies applicable to ballistic missile defense similar to those under consid¬ eration in the SDI program (the U.S. program will be examined in detail in Part II). Thus they have a large program investigating the use of laser weapons (including chemical, excimer, free-electron, and x-ray lasers), particle beam weapons, radio-frequency weapons, kinetic-energy weapons, and computer and sensor technology. Testing of some of these weapons could occur in the 1990s, but deployment in an operational system dedicated to BMD is not likely to be a technically feasible option until well after the turn of the century. 12. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, ig8y, p. 47. [21]

W. Thomas Wander

ASATs and ABM Although asats and ABMs have been treated separately here and in arms control negotiations (e.g., most BMD activity is prohibited by the ABM Treaty but asat activity is not), the overlap between the two is considerable and significant, asat weapons pose a grave threat to the vulnerable BMD warning, acquisition, and battle management sensors placed in space. Moreover, as research proceeds on ABM systems, the technologies developed for defending against incoming missies (an extremely complicated task) will doubtless be usable for disrupting the very critical communications and early warning satellite links on which that BMD must depend (a much simpler challenge). As Drell et al. conclude in Chapter 9, "This presents an unavoidable dilemma: asat threatens ABM, but ABM developments contribute to asat." ABM deployments on each side will pose threats to the other's defen¬ sive systems, and in particular to the space-based components. In this way, defensive deployments can legitimately be viewed as a potential adjunct to a first-strike capability. In other words, weapons that are ostensibly defensive in character could actually be used to suppress the opponent's defense and thus enhance the effectiveness of a first strike. As Harold Brown observes in Chapter 1-6, "However effective spacebased systems may be against ballistic missiles, they would appear to be more effective in suppressing defenses."


[1] U.S. and Soviet Military Space Programs: A Comparative Assessment Paul



Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the United States and the Soviet Union have steadily expanded their military use of space to the point that they now rely heavily on satellites to enhance their national se¬ curity. Although space is often referred to as the "new high ground” or a "new dimension of the arms race," there is nothing novel about its use for military purposes. Military satellites are used for reconnaissance, early warning, communication, navigation, weather forecasting, and geodetic data gathering. The current development of antisatellite (asat) weapons and the growing interest in space-based ballistic missile de¬ fense (BMD) systems, however, clearly indicate a new trend in the militarization of space. Although it has been an integral part of the arms race between the superpowers for more than twenty-five years, space has generally been considered a "sanctuary" from the deployment and use of weapons.1 Although the United States and the Soviet Union both use space for broadly similar purposes, there are significant differences in the man¬ ner in which they deploy their satellites and the value they choose to place on them. These differences become especially important when one examines the implications of a conflict in space, implications that will force the superpowers to seek new precautions as threats to their satellites increase. Reprinted with slight modifications by permission of Daedalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Paul Stares, "U.S. & Soviet Military Space Programs: A Comparative Assessment," vol. 114, no. 2, 1985, Cambridge, Mass. 1. The term sanctuary needs some qualification: both superpowers have had the capability, from the beginning of the space age, to disrupt and disable satellites with electronic jamming or by detonating nuclear warheads nearby. [23]

Paul B. Stares Evolution of the


Military Exploitation of Space

After a short period of uncertainty following Sputnik, when many feared and predicted that space would become an arena of superpower military competition, the United States and the Soviet Union settled down to a relatively stable relationship in their military exploitation of space. Compared with other areas of the arms race, and in sharp con¬ trast to their rivalry in space exploration generally, the policies of both superpowers toward the military use of space has been remarkably free from competition. With few exceptions, both countries have developed space systems in accordance with their own terrestrial security require¬ ments, rather than in response to the activities of the other. Moreover, the usual attributes of a military competition—the presence of weapons systems—has so far been absent from space. As military satellites are essentially supportive of or ancillary to activities on earth, space has remained, in effect, an adjunct to the arms race. Although military satellites are often regarded as "passive" because they are not lethal devices, they can enhance the lethality of other weapons and the effectiveness of military forces. This inherent duality, which has been aptly described as Janus-like, is apparent in the current applications of military satellites. Photographic and electronic recon¬ naissance satellites, for example, provide indispensable national techni¬ cal means of verification for arms control and early warning of an attack. In this respect, they are considered benign and stabilizing. Yet they can also pinpoint military targets for attack during a conflict and provide valuable information for electronic countermeasures. Ocean reconnais¬ sance satellites do not have such redeeming virtues; their only function is to detect, track, and target naval vessels. The U.S. nuclear explosion detection satellites were also initially developed to support arms control—specifically, to monitor compli¬ ance with the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963. While the latest system designed to detect nuclear bursts will continue to perform this role, its primary mission now is to facilitate postattack assessment and retarget¬ ing after a nuclear exchange. In other words, it has become an aid to warfighting. Even communication, navigation, and weather satellites, which ap¬ pear to be harmless, can be considered indirectly threatening to an adversary. Communication satellites may be able to increase a country's control over geographically dispersed forces and provide a valuable link for crisis management purposes, but in the same way they can also improve the overall performance of military forces. Space communica¬ tion links, for example, provide the United States with an almost in-

U.S. and Soviet Military Space Programs

stantaneous method of collecting, collating, and disseminating infor¬ mation on the whereabouts of Soviet nuclear submarines, a capability that is obviously important for antisubmarine warfare (ASW) opera¬ tions. Submarines, in turn, use navigation satellites to update their inertial guidance systems, which improves the accuracy of their ballistic missiles. These same satellites will increasingly be able to guide a range of strategic and tactical weapons to their targets with near perfect preci¬ sion. Meteorological satellites can be used to improve the effectiveness of military strikes by providing timely information about the weather over target areas. Even geodetic satellites, which map the earth's shift¬ ing gravitational fields, can provide valuable targeting data for strategic missiles. The only satellites that are unequivocally pacific are the early warning systems that detect the launch of icbms and slbms. If ballistic missile defenses become a reality, however, these satellites will be used to acquire and track targets for interception and to assess the success of an engagement. The dual nature of military satellites has become more apparent in recent years as the range of applications has expanded. For the first ten to fifteen years of the space age, satellites primarily benefited strategic forces, but since the mid-1970s, space systems have increasingly pro¬ vided general-purpose forces with battlefield surveillance, communica¬ tion facilities, and targeting information. The Soviet Union has as a rule lagged behind the United States in the development of military space technology, despite its early lead with Sputnik. Table 1-1 gives the dates of the introduction of various categories of U.S. and Soviet satellites and summarizes their current orbital deployments. Despite a common appreciation of the benefits of military satellites, the United States and the Soviet Union have not always shared the same attitudes or policies toward the exploitation of space. Since World War II, four phases can be discerned.2

Early Visions and Preparations, 1945-1957 The potential military benefits of outer space were recognized as early as 1946 in the United States, but the dramatic contraction in the U.S. military budget after World War II discouraged experimentation in new ideas and research programs. Early satellite and ballistic missile de¬ velopment proposals, especially, fell victim to military conservatism induced, in part, by fiscal constraint. Without large boosters, there could be no space program. 2. Unless otherwise stated, information for the following section is taken from Paul B. Stares, The Militarization of Space: U.S. Policy, 1945-1984 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985). [25]

Paul B. Stares Table 1-1. Categories of U.S. and Soviet military satellites and year of first deployment Date of first Typical deployments Type of satellite






1-5 low orbit



6 low orbit



6 low orbit

4 low orbit



Early warning

3 Geosynch

9 Molniya



Nuclear detec-

6 Semisyncha









Photographic reconnaissance

2-3 low orbit


1-2 Geosynch

intelligence Ocean surveillance

tion Communications


2 Supersynch 11 Geosynch 2 Molniya

27 Low orbit 12 Molniya 12 Geosynch


3 Low orbit 6 Semisynch b


2 Low orbit

10 Low orbit 9-12 Semisynch 3 Low orbit

a Consists of sensors on Navstar navigation satellites. bThe Navstar navigation system will contain eighteen satellites when completed.

By the early 1950s, though, attitudes began to change as the Cold War intensified. The need for a more reliable source of strategic intelligence provided the raison d'etre for reconnaissance satellites, and the de¬ mand for additional strategic delivery systems sparked interest in the ballistic missile program. Neither of these, however, was pursued very urgently. It is also ironic that the U.S. commitment in 1955 to launch a "scientific" satellite as a contribution to the International Geophysical Year (IGY) also hindered the progress of the U.S. space effort. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's decision to forbid the use of military boosters for the IGY program led to the disastrous choice of the Vanguard, a small and relatively undeveloped launch vehicle. Had the Eisenhower administration chosen the more advanced Army Orbiter project, with its Redstone (later Jupiter) rocket, the United States would have been the first country to place a satellite into orbit. In contrast, ballistic missile development and the space program were receiving the highest political support in the Soviet Union. Not only was this compatible with the revolutionary scientific ethic, but strategic missiles offered a way to improve "the correlation of forces" with the West and an opportunity to reduce the size of Soviet conventional forces.3 Furthermore, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev saw clearly the 3. See Robert P. Berman and John C. Baker, Soviet Strategic Forces: Requirements and Responses (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1982), pp. 46-47. [26]

U.S. and Soviet Military Space Programs

political and propaganda benefits of being the first country to launch an artificial satellite. While the U.S. program was proceeding slowly, han¬ dicapped by a self-imposed separation of military and civilian space research, the Soviets stole the lead in developing the world's first inter¬ continental ballistic missile—the SS-6—and the world's first artificial satellite. Sputnik.

Expansion and Uncertainty, i^y8-ig6y The immediate crisis of confidence caused by the Soviet coup de main in space led to a rapid expansion of the U.S. space program. Sputnik also generated considerable public anxiety that the Soviet Union might use space to threaten the United States. Believing that space repre¬ sented a new dimension of warfare and that the emerging Soviet threat would need to be countered militarily, the armed services and the aerospace companies actively canvassed for a variety of space weapons, including antisatellite devices, orbital bombardment systems, and space-based ballistic missile interceptors. Preliminary research was carried out on many such proposals (in¬ cluding the world's first asat demonstration in 1959) as an insurance against hostile Soviet activities in space. But Eisenhower and, later, John F. Kennedy rejected further development on the grounds that it would spur competition with the Soviet Union and ultimately destroy the "peaceful" image the United States was trying to foster for its space program. Although both presidents genuinely wanted to prevent an arms race in outer space, their policy stemmed principally from a desire to legitimize U.S. satellite reconnaissance and reduce the likelihood of Soviet countermeasures. This need to protect reconnaissance satellites became even more imperative when satellites became the primary source of strategic intel¬ ligence following the demise of U-2 overflights in May i960. Despite some veiled threats, however, the Soviets never attempted to rebuff U.S. reconnaissance satellites in the same way they had the U-2 flights. Instead, in 1962 the Soviet Union introduced a resolution in the United Nations to outlaw "espionage" from space. The United States coun¬ tered that satellite reconnaissance was a peaceful and legitimate use of space, thereby implicitly distinguishing it from nonpeaceful and illegiti¬ mate activities. A vigorous U.S. space weapons program would only have contradicted and jeopardized this strategy. Aside from this primary motive, space weapons offered few if any attractions to the United States at this time. Until an unequivocal Soviet threat developed in space, antisatellite weapons had little use. As l able 1-1 indicates, the Soviet military space program was still in its infancy. Orbital bombardment systems also offered no meaningful advantages [27]

Paul B. Stares

over ballistic missiles as strategic delivery vehicles; if anything, they were inferior. Where a military rationale could be demonstrated, such as with space-based BMD systems, the United States considered further development prohibitively expensive and technically infeasible. The only exception to this stance came in 1963, when President Kennedy, as a precaution against the possible deployment of Soviet orbital bombs, authorized the development of two ground-based antisatellite systems, one using the Nike-Zeus ABM missile and the other the Thor intermedi¬ ate-range ballistic missile (irbm). No more than a handful of these missiles were ever deployed. Although the Thor system remained oper¬ ational until 1975, its fixed launch site and nuclear warhead severely limited the circumstances under which it could be used. The Soviet Union dropped its opposition to satellite reconnaissance in the fall of 1963. At the same time, it also agreed to a U.N. resolution banning the deployment in space of weapons of mass destruction. This resolution subsequently became the basis for the Outer Space Treaty, signed in 1967. Although there were some remaining doubts, par¬ ticularly when the Soviet Union began testing a fractional orbital bom¬ bardment system (fobs) in 1966, it appeared to many that the Soviets had accepted—if only tacitly—the U.S. conception of space as a sanctu¬ ary from certain military activities. This was partly true. Soviet diplomatic efforts to ban satellite recon¬ naissance had failed to gain wide support in the United Nations, and the use of force against U.S. satellites would not have been easy. More important, continued opposition to reconnaissance from space would have been counterproductive to the Soviet Union's own satellite recon¬ naissance program, which began to return photos in 1962. The overrid¬ ing requirement of responding to the Kennedy administration's offen¬ sive strategic buildup no doubt made further confrontation and a potential military competition in space especially undesirable for the Soviets. Nonetheless, they considered it prudent to take out some technological insurance and, in the process, gain the ability to counter U.S. space systems in the event of war. For all these reasons, the Soviet Union in the early 1960s embarked on a satellite interceptor program.

Consolidation and Stability, iy68~iyy^ It was testament to the stability of the apparent modus vivendi in space that even when the Soviet Union began testing its satellite inter¬ ceptor in 1968 the United States seemed remarkably unalarmed—some¬ thing that would have been unthinkable a few years earlier. The little concern that did exist soon dissipated when the Soviets ceased their asat tests at the end of 1971 and conducted no further tests for the next [28]

U.S. and Soviet Military Space Programs

four and a half years. The United States was also encouraged by the progress of detente, which produced a number of agreements reinforc¬ ing the tacit ground rules for the military exploitation of space. The salt i interim agreement, signed in 1972, contained important clauses pro¬ hibiting interference with national technical means of verification, in¬ cluding satellites. The ABM treaty signed at the same time also banned the testing and deployment of BMD systems in space. After the rapid expansion of the early 1960s, the U.S. military space program settled into routine operations. The sophistication of satellites improved steadily, but the general level of space activity dropped off from its frenetic pace at the beginning of the decade. Even the space budget began to decline in real terms. These trends were owing partly to greater efficiencies in the space program and partly to the military's shift in attention away from space to the war in Southeast Asia. The Soviet space program, on the other hand, underwent rapid ex¬ pansion in the late 1960s, deploying new types of satellites with greater frequency. By the early 1970s, Soviet space activity had surpassed that of the United States in both number of launches and total payloads orbited. Soviet use of reconnaissance satellites during the major inter¬ national conflicts of this period indicated clearly that space systems were becoming an integral part of Soviet crisis monitoring and, ul¬ timately, Soviet war planning.

The Emerging Arms Race in Space, 1976 to Present By 1976, the increasing military use of space on the part of the Soviets had become a source of concern to the United States. This concern in many respects mirrored the U.S. reaction to the Soviet strategic buildup that also occurred during this period. The resumption of Soviet satellite interceptor tests in 1976 was the primary catalyst for the United States's reconsideration of the usefulness of antisatellite weapons. Although the new Soviet tests were not markedly different from the earlier series (and if anything, had an inferior performance), the tenor of U.S.-Soviet relations had changed significantly. The Soviet attainment of strategic parity and its perceived adventurism in the Third World made the United States especially sensitive to any new Soviet military activities. As a result. President Gerald Ford in one of the last acts of his admin¬ istration authorized the development of a new U.S. antisatellite system. While the ostensible rationale was to counter the indirect threat from Soviet military satellites—especially ocean reconnaissance satellites— the real reason appears to have been an unwillingness to accept any imbalance in U.S.-Soviet asat capabilities. President Jimmy Carter continued with the


R&D program to

Paul B. Stares

gain bargaining leverage in asat arms control negotiations and to pro¬ vide insurance in case such negotiations failed. Three rounds of asat negotiations were held in 1978-79, but no agreement was reached. Although some progress was made, differences over the scope of an agreement, the diversions of the salt ii debate, and the suspension of arms control negotiations following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan thwarted any chance of success. For nearly four years, the Reagan administration opposed resump¬ tion of asat negotiations, despite the Soviet Union's announcement of a unilateral testing moratorium and its proposal of two space weapons treaties to the United Nations. By the summer of 1984, however, grow¬ ing congressional pressure and concern over the possible electoral re¬ percussions resulting from an alarming deterioration in U.S.-Soviet relations forced the Reagan administration to reconsider its stance on the asat issue. A Soviet offer to begin discussions in September 1984 came to naught when the sides could not agree on the scope of the talks or on an asat test moratorium. The Soviets wanted to include all space weapons and to impose an immediate test ban—an obvious effort to restrict the U.S. asat program and the BMD research provided by the Strategic Defense Initiative. The United States insisted on at least test¬ ing its new asat system—the air-launched miniature vehicle—before considering any asat limitations, and it insisted the talks should cover strategic and theater nuclear forces as well. Following the 1984 presi¬ dential election, a U.S. proposal for "umbrella" arms control discus¬ sions, to include space weapons, was accepted by the Soviets. Although some type of agreement relating to space weapons cannot be dis¬ counted, the prospects for meaningful limitations are being progres¬ sively undermined by the pace of asat research and development.

A Comparative Assessment of U.S. and Soviet Military Space Programs

Since outer space offers the same inherent opportunities to both the United States and the Soviet Union, it is not surprising that they should eventually find themselves using satellites for broadly similar purposes. There are real distinctions, however, between the two countries' pro¬ grams. The most noticeable difference is the rate at which each country launches payloads into orbit. Throughout the 1960s, the United States led the Soviet Union both in total space launches and total payloads. During the 1970s, however, the number of U.S. space launches progres¬ sively declined, while that of the Soviets increased. In 1984, the Soviet Union conducted ninety-seven launches, of which 80 percent were [30]

U.S. and Soviet Military Space Programs

identified as military related; the United States had twenty-three launches, of which 39 percent were for military purposes. These statis¬ tics are often cited to highlight the dynamic nature of the Soviet space program and indicate implicitly that the United States has fallen behind in the exploitation of space. Actually, a high rate of launches is more indicative of a lower capability. As the U.S. Department of Defense states, the fact that the "Soviets routinely conduct about four to five times as many space launches per year as the United States ... is necessitated primarily by the shorter system lifetimes and poorer re¬ liability of most Soviet satellites."4 For example, Soviet reconnaissance satellites, which account for nearly 60 percent of all its military space launches, stay in orbit on average only about three weeks.5 Most of these satellites are deliberately returned from orbit to recover the ex¬ posed film. In contrast, the two main U.S. systems, the KH-9 (Big Bird) and the KH-11, last approximately thirty-five weeks and one hundred weeks respectively. The KH-9 returns its film by recoverable capsules, and the KH-11 transmits images electronically. Although these two recovery methods were mastered by the United States in the 1960s, the Soviets began to use recoverable capsules only during the late 1970s and are only now developing an electronic transmission system. The addi¬ tional argument that the Soviets' higher launch rate better enables them to replace satellites that are lost during hostilities may be true, but this smacks of making a virtue out of necessity. Another reason the Soviets have a higher launch rate is because it generally takes a greater number of Soviet satellites to provide the same level of service as their U.S. counterparts. For example, the Soviets maintain three distinct constellations of satellites for the purposes of space communication. The tactical communication satellites are small and simple, operating at low altitudes. They are what is known as "store dump" satellites—they receive information as they pass over one part of the globe, transmitting it later at an appropriate time and place; they are not used for urgent communications. For these lowaltitude satellites to provide continuous coverage of the world, the Soviets must cluster them into two constellations, with three satellites in one constellation and twenty-four in the other. In addition, the Molniya strategic communication system contains another twelve satel¬ lites, in a highly elliptical orbit, that provide continuous coverage of the northernmost latitudes of the Soviet Union, where many of the coun¬ try's key military installations are located. Because of the curvature of 4. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1984 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1984), p. 46. 5. See Nicholas Johnson, The Soviet Year in Space, 1983 (Colorado Springs: Teledyne Brown Engineering Corp., 1984), p. 10.

Paul B. Stares

the earth, geostationary communication satellites placed 36,000 kilome¬ ters above the equator would not provide satisfactory coverage of these areas. More recently, the Soviets have begun using geostationary satel¬ lites for communication, some of which is almost certainly military related. In contrast, except for two Satellite Data Systems (SDS) satel¬ lites used for polar communications in an orbit similar to the Molniyas', U.S. tactical and strategic military communications are handled by ap¬ proximately eleven high-capacity, long-lasting geostationary satellites. The United States also uses the geostationary orbit for early warning and electronic intelligence-gathering satellites. Besides these differences in the duration and distribution of U.S. and Soviet satellites, there are other practices that distinguish the two space programs. U.S. satellites more often perform dual functions: the Navstar GPS (global positioning system) navigation satellites and the Defense Support Program (DSP) early warning satellites also carry nu¬ clear-explosion detectors, other satellites carry special strategic com¬ munication transponders, and the Defense Department's meteorologi¬ cal satellites carry a variety of sensors with different applications.6 Such multipurpose satellites are not common in the Soviet space pro¬ gram. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, has placed greater emphasis on manned military space operations. The manned Salyut space station has been used for reconnaissance purposes and possibly for other mili¬ tary-related experiments. Currently, the only manned U.S. spacecraft is the space shuttle, which stays in space for relatively short periods to ferry satellites into orbit. The Soviet Union is currently working on its own shuttle, but a full-scale vehicle has yet to be tested.

Relative Dependence on Military Space Systems

Assessing the relative importance of military space systems to the two superpowers is considerably more difficult than comparing their opera¬ tional styles. It has often been said that the United States is more dependent than the Soviet Union on the services of military satellites. Statements about the relative dependency on satellites, however, must be interpreted with some care. To begin with, there is a vital difference between dependence based on choice and dependence based on neces¬ sity. Satellites may be relied on to support certain missions, but there may be other ways to achieve this. Also, in situations where satellite service is unique, it may not be critical or always important. The amount 6. Thomas Karas, The New High Ground: Strategies and Weapons of Space Age War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), pp. 137, 145. [32]

U.S. and Soviet Military Space Programs

of dependence therefore varies with the different types of satellites, with their peacetime and wartime roles, and with the circumstances in which they are used. While it is true that accounting for all these variables requires a more complicated assessment, it would be undeni¬ ably more meaningful than merely "static" comparisons. This can be illustrated by examining four categories of satellites: reconnaissance, communication, early warning, and navigation.

Reconnaissance Satellites Given the closed nature of Soviet society, the United States is more dependent on reconnaissance satellites for its strategic intelligence gathering and for verification of arms control agreements. In the United States, no other method of verification can rival in importance the use of photographic and electronic reconnaissance satellites. We must be care¬ ful, however, not to exaggerate this difference between the super¬ powers. The Soviets, too, rely on satellites for monitoring activities in China, for strategic targeting, and for corroborating information gained from other intelligence sources. The Soviets also depend on satellites for crisis monitoring, as indicated by changes in the orbits of Soviet recon¬ naissance satellites and their higher launch/recovery rate during major international conflicts. The United States, on the other hand, can use high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft deployed at numerous bases around the world. The Soviets also have long-range reconnaissance aircraft, but they do not have as many bases worldwide and therefore cannot achieve as much coverage. Levels of dependence on reconnaissance satellites during wartime are more difficult to assess. It is likely that satellites will play a vital early warning role before hostilities, but subsequent use will depend on the geographic location of the conflict and the type of warfare. For example, the initial dependence on satellites during a conventional war in Europe would likely be low because ground-based, in-theater reconnaissance systems, such as aircraft and, in the future, remotely piloted vehicles, would be available. Given the expected high attrition of these systems, however, satellites may become the primary source of information in a prolonged conventional war, provided that the equipment necessary to receive and use the data survives. In conflicts occurring outside Europe or the immediate periphery of the superpowers, conventional recon¬ naissance systems may be less available, creating greater dependence on satellites. Since the United States—with its global military presence and large number of overseas bases—is likely to have more alternatives available to it than the Soviet Union, it will probably have a lower overall dependence on satellites. [33]

Paul B. Stares

In the event of a nuclear war, the relative importance of reconnais¬ sance satellites will depend heavily on the role that each country en¬ visages for its space-based systems and on the length and intensity of hostilities. The development of satellites designed specifically for post¬ attack assessment reflects a desire on the part of the United States to ensure flexible and discrete nuclear attack options to meet a variety of contingencies. In contrast, as one analyst has pointed out, Soviet doc¬ trine favors massive initial attacks and evinces little concern for postat¬ tack assessment and follow-up acts.7 After a prolonged nuclear ex¬ change, satellites arguably cease to have much relevance, especially as the ground-based centers that receive and use their data will almost certainly be destroyed.

Communications Satellites A statistic often cited to illustrate U.S. dependence on space systems is that more than 70 percent of all U.S. military communications are transmitted via satellite. Again, such a figure is meaningful only when put into proper perspective. In peacetime, a good deal of routine mes¬ sage traffic passes through military communication satellites simply because they offer an inexpensive way to transmit information. In wartime, when message traffic would be pared down to a vital mini¬ mum, satellites may be useful, but not necessarily critical; there are other ways of communicating information, including a variety of dedi¬ cated military radio systems and civilian channels.8 Here again, geo¬ graphical factors will determine the alternatives available to both sides with Soviet dependence on satellite communication likely to be higher than that of the United States in geographically remote areas. Considerable redundancy also exists among methods of communica¬ ting with strategic nuclear forces. The Soviet Union has invested mas¬ sively in redundant command, control, and communication facilities— including an extensive network of buried cables and radio relay sys¬ tems—many of which appear to be designed to function during and after a nuclear war.9 The United States, similarly, has a wide range of strategic systems to ensure unbroken communication at least in the 7. See Stephen M. Meyer, “Soviet Military Programmes and the 'New High Ground,'" Survival 25 (September-October 1983): 207. 8. For a comprehensive discussion of the variety of communication systems used by the superpowers, see William M. Arkin and Richard Fieldhouse, “Nuclear Weapon Command, Control, and Communications," in SIPR1 Year-Book, 1984 (London: Taylor and Francis, 1984), pp. 455-516. 9. See Colin S. Gray, American Military Space Policy: Information Systems, Weapon Sys¬ tems and Arms Control (Cambridge, Mass.: Abt Books, 1982), p. 5.


U.S. and Soviet Military Space Programs

initial stages of a nuclear war.10 On the face of it, therefore, dependence on space systems for strategic communication appears to be low for both countries. This may change, however, as both sides begin to rely more heavily on highly dispersed and mobile strategic forces.

Early Warning Satellites It is difficult to predict which superpower would benefit more from the extra warning time provided by early warning satellites. The low peacetime alert rates of the Soviet strategic forces suggest that they would gain more. Yet early warning satellites can provide only tactical warning, so the benefits may be marginal, at best, for forces not already on alert. While the Soviet bomber force would need early warning to get off the ground before an attack, the greater role bombers play in U.S. strategic forces suggests that early warning might be comparatively more important to the United States. The flight times of forward-de¬ ployed slbms and intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) missiles are so short, however, that even the extra warning time provided by satel¬ lites may not be sufficient for bombers to clear their bases before attack¬ ing warheads arrive.

Navigation Satellites Both the United States and the Soviet Union are deploying remark¬ ably similar satellite navigation systems (Navstar GPS and global navi¬ gation satellite system [Glonass], respectively). This appears to indicate that the two nations have an equal interest in, and place equal impor¬ tance on, navigation systems. But apart from its ability to pinpoint nuclear explosions, Navstar will almost certainly have a wider range of applications at both the strategic and tactical levels, making it the more valuable of the two (it has already demonstrated its ability to guide "dumb" weapons with the same accuracy as inherently "smart" preci¬ sion-guided munitions).11 In conclusion, although space is clearly important to both the United States and the Soviet Union, the relative dependency varies between different categories of satellites and in different contingencies. 10. Charles A. Zraket, "Strategic Command, Control, Communications, and Intel¬ ligence," Science, June 22, 1984, pp. 1306-11. 11. See U.S. Congress, Senate Subcommittee of the Committee on Armed Services, Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriations for Fiscal Year 19S1, 96th Cong., 2d sess., pt. 5, 1980, p. 2674.


Paul B. Stares Future Applications

The importance of space shows every indication of growing in the years ahead as the military applications of satellites continue to expand. At the tactical level, the use of satellites to detect aircraft and direct air defenses—a role very similar to that performed by airborne warning and control system (awacs)—is currently being considered. Local com¬ manders will also be able to use such satellites for deep strike opera¬ tions. With the added precision of navigation satellites, long-range military targets can be attacked with high confidence of success. Highaccuracy theater and strategic missiles will also increase the potential for preemptive counterforce attacks. Perhaps the most portentous develop¬ ment will be the use of satellites for strategic antisubmarine warfare operations. Current efforts to develop space-based sensors that would make the ocean depths transparent will undermine the last truly invul¬ nerable segment of the strategic triad. The impact of such systems, however, might be mitigated by the deployment of ballistic missile defenses. Regardless of the final configuration of a BMD system— whether for limited point defense or comprehensive population protec¬ tion—space systems will be used for the early detection, tracking, and discrimination of attacking warheads. More ambitious systems would make outer space the first line of defense, through orbiting or "pop-up" battle stations. Although the trend toward relying heavily on space systems to sup¬ port a wide range of military missions will continue in the foreseeable future, the wisdom of pursuing this course must be evaluated in light of their growing vulnerability to a determined adversary's countermea¬ sures.


The militarization of space has resulted in what many regard as two incompatible trends: the first is the steady expansion of the role of military satellites; the second is the inevitable response of antisatellite weapons. This raises a dilemma. To continue to rely on increasingly vulnerable space systems is to court disaster. Yet to restrict the develop¬ ment of ASAT weapons is to make outer space safe for potentially threatening satellites. In a sense, though, the alternatives are not actually this stark. It is true that if the number of dedicated ASAT weapons were controlled, the existence of residual ASAT capabilities would still pose a threat to satellites. Nonetheless, we face a fundamental choice: we can enjoy the [36]

U.S. and Soviet Military Space Programs

benefits—and tolerate the attendant hazards—of allowing satellites to operate in a relative sanctuary; or we can opt for a situation in which the full potential of space will never be exploited because we are reluctant to expose our satellites to the threat of unrestrained ASATs. Such a choice can be made only after careful weighing of the benefits and hazards satellites pose to our country. This choice is fast becoming moot, how¬ ever, as the development of space weapons gains momentum and reduces the likelihood of meaningful arms control.


[2] The Threat to Space Systems Paul B. Stares

The need to counter the threat posed by the Soviet Union's opera¬ tional antisatellite system remains the principal rationale for the U.S. asat program. Unless the United States deploys a commensurate anti¬ satellite capability, it is argued, the Soviets will be able to attack U.S. space assets with impunity. Furthermore, the presence of the Soviet interceptor and of so-called "residual" asat capabilities (weapons that can be used against satellites though they were not designed to do so) are cited as the main reasons that an asat ban would not be practicable or even desirable. In response, the supporters of space arms control argue that the Soviet asat threat has been overrated and, moreover, that the superior U.S. system under development will only encourage the Soviet Union to field more advanced antisatellite weapons in the future. They argue, furthermore, that a variety of unilateral satellite survivability measures can reduce the threat from both the Soviet Union's asat and whatever residual capabilities it may possess. This chapter examines these competing arguments in closer detail. It assesses the current and planned antisatellite capabilities of the super¬ powers and compares them with the weapon systems that could be fielded in the absence of arms control.

Soviet ASAT Capabilities and U.S. Vulnerabilities

The Soviet Union possesses the only specifically designed or "dedi¬ cated" antisatellite weapon system in operational service today. In addition, the Soviets have at their disposal a range of nondedicated, or Reprinted with slight modifications with permission from Paul B. Stares, Space and National Security (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, © 1987).


The Threat to Space Systems



capabilities that could also be used against U.S. space

systems. Dedicated Systems

The Soviet asat system has been described as a co-orbital, or more accurately co-planar, interceptor that is launched into space by a large liquid-fueled SL-n booster.1 After the system achieves orbit, ground controllers maneuver the interceptor vehicle so that after either one or two revolutions of the earth it passes sufficiently near the target satellite for its own guidance system to take over. When in range an explosive charge aboard the interceptor is detonated, sending a cloud of shrapnel at high speed to destroy the target.2 Western observers generally agree that the Soviet Union has tested its asat system against satellite targets on twenty occasions since 1968. There have been no tests since June 1982 (see Table 2-1). In each case the interceptor has been launched from Tyuratam and the target satellites (since 1971) from Plesetsk. All the intercepts have occurred at roughly the same orbital inclination, ranging between 62° and 66° and no higher than approximately 1,700 kilometers. Although this does not mean that only satellites at those inclinations are vulnerable, the Soviet asat does have to be launched into the same orbital plane as the target—hence its classification as a co-planar intercept system.3 Thus it must wait for the earth's rotation to bring the launch site under the orbital path of the target satellite. Since satellites in low earth orbit pass over Tyuratam only twice a day, the average wait to intercept a specific satellite will be six hours.4 Once the asat is launched, the time taken to execute an attack will depend on the number of orbits around the earth that the interceptor makes. Most of the test intercepts have occurred after two revolutions, or about three and a half hours. Since 1976 a much faster approach after 1. The SL-11 designation is from the nomenclature used by the U.S. Department of Defense. It is essentially a modified SS-9 icbm. In a somewhat puzzling interview with a West German paper. Col. Gen. Nikolai Chervov, a member of the General Staff of the Soviet armed forces, denied the existence of a co-orbital Soviet asat system but admitted to the possession of direct-ascent "antisatellite missiles" that had been successfully tested against "imaginary points outside the atmosphere." See "Soviet General Says ussr Pos¬ sesses asat System," in Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report: Soviet Union, May 30, 1985, p. AA5. 2. The interceptor is reported to be fifteen to twenty feet long and five feet in diameter, with a weight of about 2.5 tons. Unless otherwise indicated the discussion of the Soviet asat system is from Paul B. Stares, The Militarization of Space: U.S. Policy, 1945-1984 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), pp. 135-56, 187-89. 3. See William J. Durch, "Anti-Satellite Weapons, Arms Control Options, and the Military Use of Space," paper prepared for the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, July 1984, p. 12. 4. Richard L. Garwin, Kurt Gottfried, and Donald L. Hafner, "Antisatellite Weap¬ ons," Scientific American 250 (June 1984): 49.


Paul B. Stares Table 2-1. Soviet antisatellite tests, 1968-1982

Date Oct. 20, 1968 Nov. 1, 1968



intercept alt.










Oct. 23, 1970

535 530



Oct. 30, 1970




Feb. 25, 1971




Apr. 4, 1971




Dec. 3, 1971




Feb. 16, 1976

575 590







Apr. 13, 1976 Jul. 21, 1976


1,630 (?)

Dec. 27, 1976




May 23, 1977




1/575 (?)



June 17, 1977 Oct. 26, 1977




Dec. 21, 1977

995 985



May 19, 1978



Apr. 18, 1980




Feb. 2, 1981




Mar. 14, 1981




June 18, 1982




just one revolution has been demonstrated, cutting the elapsed time by half. The Soviet as at test program has had a mixed record of success. From Table 2-1 it can be calculated that 70 percent of the tests between 1968 and 1971 were considered a success by Western analysts, but the rate plummeted to a dismal 30 percent between 1976 and 1982, evidently because the Soviets began to test a new guidance system. Whereas before 1976 the interceptor had relied solely on radar to guide it toward the target, half the tests since then have reportedly involved the use of an optical infrared guidance system.5 This appears to have failed on every attempt. Table 2-2 gives a more detailed breakdown of the record of the Soviet asat test program according to guidance system used and number of revolutions taken to approach the target. The official U.S. assessment of the Soviet asat system has changed significantly since the 1970s, when it became an object of concern to U.S. defense planners. In 1977, when Harold Brown, then secretary of defense, first acknowledged that the Soviet Union possessed an "opera5. Nicholas L. Johnson, The Soviet Year in Space, 1981 (Colorado Springs: Teledyne Brown Engineering Corp., 1982), p. 26.


The Threat to Space Systems Table 2-2. Success rate of the Soviet asat test program, by guidance system, 1968-1982 Type All tests Radar guided Two revolutions One revolution Infrared guided

Number of tests

Success rate



14 10 4


0.64 0.70 0.50 0.00

tional capability" to destroy some U.S. satellites in space, he described the threat as only "somewhat troublesome."6 7 Two years later, during the Senate hearings on the salt ii Treaty, Brown's low opinion of the Soviet asat was echoed by the then air force chief of staff. General Lew Allen: "The system that they have tested so far has the potential of being effective against our low-altitude satellites. It was tested in that kind of mode, and it has had some successful tests. On the other hand, it is difficult to assign a very high degree of credibility because it has not been a uniformly successful program." Furthermore, noted the general: "They have the systems that are more or less at the ready. It is not a very quick reacting system. The systems that are at the ready are located in the missile test areas. So, I think our general opinion is that we give it a very questionable operational capability for a few launches. In other words, it is a threat that we are worried about, but they have not had a test program that would cause us to believe it is a very credible threat. The Reagan administration, however, has painted a considerably different picture of the Soviet asat's operational readiness and effec¬ tiveness. For example, the 1984 edition of Soviet Military Power stated that at Tyuratam "two launch pads and storage space for additional interceptors and launch vehicles are available. Several interceptors could be launched each day from each of the pads. 8 Moreover, in a probable effort to counter unofficial assessments that downplayed So¬ viet asat capabilities, the 1986 edition stated: "Given the complexity of launch, target tracking, and radar-guided intercept, the Soviet asat system is far from primitive. Soviet asat tests have been largely suc6. Bernard Weinraub, “Brown Says Soviets Can Fell Satellites,” Neiv 'lork limes, October 5, 1977. _ . _ . n , „ 7. The SALT II Treaty, Hearings before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 96th Cong., 1st sess., 1979, pp. 1, ^-24. 8 U S Department of Defense, Soviet Militant Power, 1984 (Washington, D.C.: U.b. Government Printing Office, 1984), pp. 34~35- Interestingly, the following year's edition dropped the reference to the number of launch pads at Tyuratam and stated only that “several interceptors could be launched each day" (U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 198s [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985], P- 5°)-


Paul B. Stares

cessful, indicating an operational system fully capable of performing its mission."9 What can be made of these contrasting assessments? Although it is not possible to evaluate the readiness of the Soviet asat system from unclassified sources, it is possible to reach some conclusions about its potential threat to U.S. satellites from what is publicly known. At a minimum one can list the U.S. satellites that are theoretically in range of the interceptor. Although there have apparently been no attempted intercepts above 1,710 kilometers, the U.S. Department of Defense credits the Soviet asat with being able to reach targets at "more than 5000 km."10 Assuming that its effective altitude reach is no more than double the Defense Department's estimate, a survey of U.S. military satellites shows that about twenty are currently exposed to attack, excluding spares and the space shuttle (see Table 2-3). This is less than half the total complement of the U.S. military satellites. Although the Satellite Data System (SDS) communication and Jumpseat Signals Intel¬ ligence (sigint) satellites pass within Soviet asat range during the perigee of their highly elliptical orbits, this occurs in the Southern Hemisphere and thus puts them out of the line of sight of Soviet ground controllers maneuvering the interceptor. The satellites also travel at too great a relative speed for an interception to be feasible.11 During the next ten years the number of vulnerable U.S. satellites will probably remain about the same. By the mid- to late 1990s, the high-altitude Navstar GPS will have replaced the low-altitude Transit-Nova constella¬ tion, but new low-altitude U.S. systems for various surveillance tasks may have been deployed by then. In addition to the Defense Depart¬ ment satellites, the Soviets may want to target U.S. civilian-operated space systems that also serve military uses, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's meteorological satellites, and nonU.S. reconnaissance spacecraft like the French Spot satellite and its successors. The U.S. satellites shown in Table 2-3 are theoretically vulnerable, but how easy would it be for the Soviets to disable all or a significant part of the target set? Assessments of this kind require difficult judgments about a whole range of variables, some of which even the Soviets can only estimate. The number of interceptors and compatible launch pads available for antisatellite operations have to be estimated, as does the rate at which they can be serviced and used. Though the Soviets have 9. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1986 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986), p. 49. 10. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1985, p. 56. For a useful discus¬ sion of how the orbital inclination of the target can affect the altitude reach of the Soviet asat, see Durch, "Anti-Satellite Weapons," pp. 12-13. 11. Ashton B. Carter, "Satellites and Anti-Satellites: The Limits of the Possible," Inter¬ national Security 10 (Spring 1986): 74. [42]

The Threat to Space Systems Table 2-3. U.S. military satellites within reach of the Soviet




Application Photoreconnaissance

Keyhole (KH)-n,i2b

Ocean reconnaissance



Transit-Nova Defense Meteorological Support Program

Meteorology Total

Number of targets 2-4 8 4-6 2 20

aExcludes space shuttle and satellite spares. bKH-i2 expected to be deployed in 1988.

on at least two occasions conducted tests of their asat system in con¬ junction with other military exercises, they have yet to carry out multi¬ ple asat launches to simulate the likely conditions of wartime use.1The rate at which the Soviet asat system can be used is not just gov¬ erned by the availability of ready launch pads but also, as discussed above, by the orbital phasing of the target satellites. The interceptor may have to remain idle for a significant period until a launch oppor¬ tunity presents itself. The best moment for an attack may not always coincide with an operationally ready launch pad. The Soviet asat is also dependent on ground-based surveillance radars and battle manage¬ ment systems to supply timely targeting data and postattack damage assessments. Once the asat has been launched, another set of factors will determine its success. In addition to the various rocket stages functioning properly, the guidance system has to lock on to the target and the kill mechanism detonate at the appropriate moment. Test data give some indication of the system's operational reliability, but they cannot reflect fully the stress of wartime use. Despite the analytical uncertainty inherent in such exercises, it is still useful to go beyond listing which U.S. satellites are vulnerable to the Soviet asat system and estimate how effective it would be in wartime. A standard method to compensate for the lack of hard information is to assign a range of plausible values for the probability that each intercept attempt would succeed. This is usually defined as the single-shot proba¬ bility of kill (sspk). In this case the sspk is the compound probability of the booster, guidance system, and kill mechanism all functioning suc¬ cessfully.13 A range of sspk values can then be used to estimate the number of interceptors needed to disable a given set of target satellites. 12. The two occasions were in 1976 and 1982. See "Russia s Killer Satellites, Fort igu Report, January 14, 1981, p. 2; and Johnson, Soviet Year in Space, 1982 (Colorado Springs: Teledyne Brown Engineering Corp., 1983), p. 25. 13. The standard definition of the single-shot probability of kill does not normally involve compounding the reliability of the booster, guidance system, anti so forth. Strictly speaking, "terminal kill probability" (TKP) is the correct term.

Paul B. Stares

Although it is important to recognize that wartime performance often falls short of the results achieved in peacetime,14 the data on the Soviet asat test program shown in Table 2-2 provide a useful range of hypo¬ thetical sspk values. A plausible "best-case" figure for the Soviets would be 0.75, which is higher than the most successful portions of the test program to date. This would also be assuming that the individual components of the overall sspk value, that is, the probability of the booster, guidance system, and warhead all functioning successfully, is greater than 0.90. A useful middle range sspk value is 0.65, which approximates the success achieved by the tests of the radar-guided interceptor. The lowest sspk value used here is 0.45, which represents the success rate achieved in the test program as a whole.15 If we assume that the Soviet Union will want to disable each U.S. satellite it attacks with 95 percent confidence—that is, with each satel¬ lite having an overall probability of survival (OPS) of 0.05—we can estimate how many shots per target (interceptor launches per satellite) will be needed to guarantee this effectiveness criterion with each of the sspk values chosen above. Also, assuming, as the U.S. Department of Defense believes, that the Soviets can launch several interceptors daily from each of their two dedicated launch pads—say between two and six shots maximum—we can further estimate how long it would take them to complete asat campaigns against various numbers of U.S. satellites (target sets). In this case four arbitrary target sets—of three, six, twelve, and twenty-four satellites—have been chosen. The largest set repre¬ sents the full complement of U.S. satellites (plus some spares) currently vulnerable to the Soviet asat system, while the other sets could be made up from a single category of satellites or from combinations thereof. For example, a target set of six might comprise the constellation of Transit navigation satellites, or a combination of photoreconnais¬ sance and weather satellites. It should be noted, however, that a con¬ stellation need not be completely disabled to undermine its operational usefulness. Thus destroying four of six Transit satellites might be suffi¬ cient. Table 2-4 shows the number of shots and Table 2-5 the number of days needed to complete an asat campaign according to these vari¬ ables. If the Soviets were to attempt a "sky-sweeping" attack against the largest target set of U.S. military satellites (twenty-four) then we can see from Table 2-5 that under best-cast sspk assumptions for the ussr it would take more than a week allowing six shots a day and nearly two 14. For historical examples see Joshua M. Epstein, Measuring Military Power: The Soviet Air Threat to Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), pp. 148-49. 15. The following calculations are based on a methodology detailed in Stares, Space and National Security, p. 92.


The Threat to Space Systems Table 2-4. Estimates of Soviet asat shots required to disable a range of U.S. satellite target sets, by probability of kill Target set Single-shot probability of kill High (0.75) Moderate (0.65) Low (0.45)


6 satellites

12 satellites














68 120

1 satellite


24 satellites

Table 2-5. Estimates of days required to disable a range of U.S. satellite target sets, by probability of kill Target set Single-shot probability of kill



1.1 1.4

High (0.75) Moderate (0.65) Low (0.45)


High (0.75) Moderate (0.65) Low (0.45)

1.6 2.1 3.8

High (0.75) Moderate (0.65) Low (0.45)

3.2 4-3


6 satellites

12 satellites

At six shots a day 2.2 4-3 2.8 3-7 10.0 5.0 At four shots a day 6.5 3.2 8.6 4-3 15.0 7-5 At two shots a day 13.0 6.5 17.1 8.6 30.1 15.0



8.6 11.4 20.0 13.0 17.1 30.1 25.9 34.2 60.1

weeks with four shots a day. With lower sspk values the sky-sweeping campaign would take even longer, up to a month. Faced with such a lengthy campaign, it seems fair to assume that the Soviets would be more discriminating and target only the most critical U.S. satellites. From the table we can see that assuming medium to high values for the aSat's sspk and four to six shots a day, it would take only a few days to disable the smaller target sets.16 16. These estimates change somewhat if the initial Soviet effectiveness criterion for each attack is relaxed. For example, if the specified overall probability of kill is lowered from 0.95 to 0.75 (that is, an OPS of 0.25 instead of 0.05) the time taken to conduct an asa i campaign is considerably shorter. Considering what may be at stake in an asai attack, [45]

Paul B. Stares

These calculations, however, ignore other operational factors that could significantly affect the length of an as at campaign. In addition to the time taken to refurbish the launch pads, the on-site fueling facilities would have to be restocked and interceptors and boosters brought from distant storage to replace those used. And these calculations do not take into account U.S. countermeasures, either to improve the survivability of its satellites (by stealth, evasive maneuvers, decoys, and so on), or to reduce the pace of Soviet asat operations (by attacks on space sur¬ veillance radars and launch sites). The latter, of course, are relevant only if hostilities between the superpowers have escalated to attacks on the Soviet homeland. On balance, then, the Soviet asat system in its current configuration suffers from significant operational constraints, particularly in terms of the types of U.S. satellites it can realistically threaten and the pace at which it could conduct an asat campaign. As two officers of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) concluded in testimony before Congress in 1985: "While the Soviets seek to be able to deny enemy use of space in wartime, current Soviet antisatellite capabilities are limited and fall short of meeting this apparent requirement."17 Nevertheless, the Soviet interceptor could be employed selectively against a few key U.S. space¬ craft (such as the reconnaissance systems) in low earth orbit. Unless the appropriate countermeasures are taken, the success of such attacks could have a serious effect on U.S. military operations in certain war¬ time contingencies.

however, the higher probability that the target survives may be too great for contingency planning purposes. Increasing the Soviet launch rate (shots each day) also reduces estimates of the time needed to conduct similar asat campaigns using this analysis. Besides the absence of evidence that the Soviets could conduct such high-intensity operations, there is still the constraint imposed by the orbital phasing of the target satellites. A more general criticism of this approach to estimating the likely operational effective¬ ness of the Soviet asat system is that it assumes the full expenditure of a predetermined number of shots for each satellite target to ensure its destruction with a given level of confidence. In practice, targets may be disabled with fewer shots, allowing the use of unexpended shots against other targets. This reallocation is, of course, possible only if a damage assessment can be made after each attempted intercept. The campaign, there¬ fore, could conceivably be briefer than prudent assumptions allow. Since we are dealing with probabilities, it could last longer. The model also assumes that each asat engage¬ ment has an independent probability of success, whereas the learning experience of combat operations could progressively improve the single-shot kill probability of succes¬ sive shots. This improvement would likewise shorten the campaign, but again it cannot be assumed beforehand. 17. Testimony of Robert M. Gates and Lawrence K. Gershwin, in Soviet Strategic Force Developments, Joint Hearing before the Subcommittee on Strategic and Theater Nuclear Forces of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Subcommittee on Defense of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, 99th Cong., 1st sess., 1986, p. 18.


The Threat to Space Systems

Residual asat Capabilities In addition to its dedicated asat weapon system the Soviet Union possesses some weapon systems built for other purposes that can, theoretically at least, be used against U.S. satellites.

Antiballistic missile systems. High on the Pentagon's list of accredited Soviet residual asat capabilities is the system of sixty-four nuclear¬ armed antiballistic missile interceptors code-named Galosh that are deployed around Moscow. This system, which is currently being up¬ graded with new battle management radars and an improved version of the Galosh interceptor (designated SH-04), is designed to intercept attacking warheads outside of the earth's atmosphere.18 Because of this, an antisatellite capability is attributed to it. The SH-04 interceptors can probably reach targets as high as several hundred kilometers above the earth, but the radiation from their nuclear warheads would affect satellites well beyond this altitude. Though their potential use as asat weapons is undeniable, it is, however, implausible short of a nuclear war for several reasons. First, the detonation of nuclear weapons above the atmosphere would not only be highly escalatory but also likely to damage friendly satellites and disrupt communications in the area below the explosion. Also, using the Galosh antiballistic missiles in this manner reduces the num¬ ber available for the protection of Moscow, which is, after all, their primary mission.

Long-range ballistic missiles. In theory, any Soviet long-range ballistic missile (icbm, slbm, or irbm) could be modified to attack U.S. satellites by reprogramming the missile's guidance logic and changing the fusing on the warhead to detonate at a given point in space. While these changes would not be difficult, using ballistic missiles in this way has the same drawbacks—radiation damage to friendly satellites and dis¬ rupted communications—as nuclear-armed ABM interceptors, al¬ though against higher altitude (semisynchronous and geosynchronous) targets the amount of collateral damage would probably not be so great. 18. For a comprehensive account of Soviet ABM capabilities, see Sayre Stevens, "The Soviet BMD Program,” in Ashton B. Carter and David N. Schwartz, eds., Ballistic Missile Defense (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1984), pp. 182-220. The modernization of the Moscow ABM system also includes the deployment of silo-based interceptors (designated SH-08 and code-named Gazelle) that are designed to intercept warheads within the atmosphere. See U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1985, p. 48. A combined total of one hundred launchers of both types is expected to be deployed. This number is permitted by the 1974 protocol to the 1972 ABM treaty. The treaty also allows for another fifteen interceptors to be stored for test purposes at the Sarv Shagan proving ground.

Paul B. Stares

Directed-energy weapons. In 1984 the U.S. Department of Defense de¬ clared for the first time that "the Soviets have two ground-based test lasers that could be used against satellites."19 Both are at the Sary Shagan proving ground. Another report cites a completely new laser facility under construction at Dushanbe in the Tadzhik Socialist Peo¬ ple's Republic near the Afghanistan border.20 Without more informa¬ tion (particularly on the wavelength, mirror size, and power output), it is hard to make a detailed assessment of the current and potential operational effectiveness of these laser systems. The Defense Depart¬ ment's assessment that they could be used to interfere with the sensors on some low-altitude U.S. satellites appears plausible, but anything more seems doubtful. Ground-based lasers need clear weather to oper¬ ate effectively, and targeted satellites must pass within their line of sight and at not too great a slant angle to avoid undue atmospheric distortion and attenuation of the beam. Moreover, to disable targets positioned at higher altitudes would require ground-based lasers of much greater power than those available today.21

Electronic countermeasures. In 1978 Air Force General Alton Slay de¬ clared that "the Soviet Union has electronic warfare facilities which could be employed against certain U.S. satellites."22 Similar statements have also appeared in the annual publication Soviet Military Power. Although no incidents of deliberate interference with U.S. satellites have been officially acknowledged, any radio transmitter broadcasting 19. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1984, p. 35. 20. Tom Diaz, "Soviets Lead in Laser Beam Weapons for Space Shield," Washington Times, February 10, 1986. See also Thomas K. Longstreth, John E. Pike, and John B. Rhinelander, The Impact of U.S. and Soviet Ballistic Missile Defense Programs on the ABM Treaty, 3d ed. (Washington, D.C.: National Campaign to Save the ABM Treaty, 1985), p. 22; Roger P. Main, "The ussr and Laser Weaponry: The View from Outside," Defense Systems Review 3 (March 1985): 67-80; and William J. Broad, "Experts Say Soviet Has Conducted Space Tests on Anti-Missile Weapons," New York Times, October 15, 1986. 21. See Donald L. Hafner, "Potential Negotiating Measures for asat Arms Control," in Joseph S. Nye, Jr., ed.. Seeking Stability in Space (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1987). Using the example of a deuterium flouride (DF) laser with a two-meter mirror and a sustained power output of two megawatts (roughly equivalent to current U.S. capabilities), Hafner calculates that the "energy deposited on a geosynchronous satellite by such a laser would be . . . less than one-third the energy deposed on the satellite by the sun. . . . The energy deposited on a satellite such as Navstar, at 20,000 km altitude, would be . . . still less than the solar flux." He goes on to argue that "such low levels of illumination could kill only if the laser dwelled long enough to build up heat on a satellite that was extraordinarily sensitive to overheating. Even then it might be hard to confirm that the satellite had been damaged. Getting quick, high confidence kills by burning through the skin of high-altitude satellites will require illumination levels hun¬ dreds or thousands of times higher than currently achievable" (p. 121). 22. Department of Defense Appropriations for Fiscal Year, iyyy, Hearings before a Subcom¬ mittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, 95th Cong., 2d sess. 1978, pt. 5, p. 407. [48]

The Threat to Space Systems

from the right position with the requisite power and at the appropriate frequency could interfere with a satellite's communication links. Given the large footprints of most U.S. military communication satellites, such high-powered jammers need not be located on Soviet territory. "Jam¬ ming sources might include shipborne facilities, ground-based facilities in places like Cuba, or jammers covertly operated inside U.S. terri¬ tory."23

Soviet space vehicles. Because of their demonstrated maneuvering and docking capabilities, the unmanned Progress space vehicles that are used to resupply the Salyut space station are sometimes categorized as potential as at devices. But because the Progress vehicle relies on a transponder system to dock with cooperative targets, its use as an asat weapon is at best limited and more likely nonexistent.24 Collectively, Soviet dedicated and residual asat capabilities pose a broad range of threats to U.S. space operations. At one end of the spectrum is the potential use of electronic countermeasures and lowpowered lasers, while at the other there is the possibility of nuclear attacks using modified icbms and antiballistic missiles. Lying in the middle is the dedicated satellite interceptor. Each method has its opera¬ tional shortcomings, however. Electronic countermeasures (ECM) and laser systems at current levels of development do not give the Soviets the ability to execute rapid, high-confidence "kills" in space, especially if the United States takes basic precautionary steps to reduce the vul¬ nerability of its satellites to threats like these. Using nuclear-armed ballistic missiles would provide a higher confidence asat capability, but, as discussed earlier, this approach entails the significant risk of unwelcome collateral damage and, if used in a conventional conflict, the sobering prospect of the war escalating to a nuclear conflict. Using the Soviet satellite interceptor would avoid these problems, but in its pres¬ ent configuration, it is limited to attacking satellites in low earth orbit. Again, with appropriate countermeasures such as warning sensors, emergency maneuvering systems, and decoys, this threat can be re¬ duced. U.S. ASAT

Capabilities and Soviet Vulnerabilities

The United States at present has no dedicated antisatellite system in operation, although the U.S. Air Force hopes to deploy one by the early 23. Bruce G. Blair, Strategic Command and Control: Redefining the Nuclear Threat (Wash¬ ington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1985), p. 205. 24. Johnson, Soviet Year in Space, 1984 (Colorado Springs: 1 eledyne Brown Engineering Corp., 1985), pp. 37-38. [49]

Paul B. Stares

1990s. This system is discussed below along with U.S. residual asat capabilities, which in many respects duplicate those available to the Soviet Union.

Planned Dedicated Systems Since 1977 the United States has been developing an air-launched missile with a heat-seeking warhead to intercept Soviet satellites in low earth orbit. Known officially as the air-launched miniature vehicle (almv), it consists of a terminal homing warhead that is boosted into space by a two-stage rocket made up of a modified first stage of the short-range attack missile (sram) and the altair iii booster taken from the Scout launch vehicle. The warhead, or miniature vehicle (MV), is an extremely complex and sophisticated device consisting of eight cryogenically cooled infrared telescopes, a laser gyro, and sixty-four small computer-controlled rockets used for final course adjustments before colliding with the target. All this is packed into a twelve-by-thirteeninch casing. After being guided to and released near the target, the miniature vehicle homes in on the heat emitted by the satellite and rams into it with sufficient force to destroy it.25 The F-15 fighter has been chosen as the launch platform for the almv, with each aircraft capable of carrying one missile. In time of war asat operations will be controlled from the Space Defense Operations Center (spadoc) at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (norad) in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Once a decision had been taken by the national command authorities to attack a Soviet satellite, spadoc would provide target attack coordinates to the asat Control Center at the F-15S air base. The targeting instruc¬ tions would then be loaded into the almv's on-board computer, which in turn would give flight instructions to the pilot through the head-up display instruments in the cockpit. The F-15 would then fly to a pre¬ determined launch box and enter it according to a flight profile that optimizes either the missile s altitude or range.2^ At the appropriate moment, determined by the on-board computer, the missile would be launched to intercept the satellite. A high-frequency radio data link has 25. For more details on how the almv works, see Craig Covault, “Antisatellite Weapon Design Advances," Aviation Week and Space Technology 112 (June 16, 1980): 243-47; Bruce A. Smith, Vought Tests Small Antisatellite System," Aviation Week and Space Technology 115 (November 9, 1981): 24-25; Eric Raiten, "Technologies for Conventional Anti-Satellite Weapons," in Kosta Tsipis and Penny Janeway, eds.. Review of U.S. Military Research and Development, 1984 (London: Pergamon Brasseys, 1984), pp. 51-57. 26. Maj. Gen. Bruce K. Brown, usaf, "New Initiative and Technology Thrusts," paper presented at Electronics Industries Association Conference, April 1983. See also Keith F. Mordoff, "Test asat Launched Autonomously from usaf F-15 Carrier Aircraft," Aviation Week and Space Technology 123 (October 7, 1986): 18-19.


The Threat to Space Systems

been fitted to the aircraft's wing tip to receive last-minute launch correc¬ tions or instructions to abort the mission.27 After the engagement, space surveillance sensors would help norad determine whether the attack was successful and, if required, prepare for further asat operations. The U.S. Air Force had originally planned to purchase 112 almvs and modify 40 dual-purpose air defense F-13 aircraft to perform the asat mission.28 It was also envisaged that the F-13S would operate from two airbases: Langley Air Force Base near Norfolk, Virginia, and McChord Air Force base near Tacoma, Washington. But as a result of a reassess¬ ment carried out by the air force in 1986 and announced in March 1987, the planned U.S. asat force has been drastically cut to just 18 converted F-15S and 33 missiles that will all be based at Langley.29 Several factors were responsible for the reassessment of the U.S. asat program. Foremost has been the program's escalating cost. Originally priced at roughly $1.4 billion in 1980, the estimated price of the unre¬ vised program had rocketed to $3.3 billion by 1986. Even with the latest restructuring, in March 1987, the final cost is expected to be $4.3 bil¬ lion.30 The cost overrun can be largely traced to technical problems in getting the chosen design to work as planned.31 The air force clearly underesti¬ mated the difficulty of building an air-launched homing hit-to-kill mis¬ sile system.32 On top of these problems. Congress has also imposed constraints on the testing of the system, which the air force claims added to its rising cost.33 For fiscal 1983, Congress mandated that no more than three tests against a target in space could take place, and then 27. Office of Technology Assessment, Anti-Satellite Weapon Countermeasures and Arms Control (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985), p. 59. Given the speed at which the target is traveling and the need for precise timing of the launch, it is unclear from public sources whether major retargeting of the missile's guidance system could take place after the F-15 has taken off. According to Major General Brown, "The pilot will have a keyboard in the cockpit to enter modest corrections" ("New Initative and Technology Thrusts," p. 167). 28. Department of Defense Authorization of Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1984, Hearings before the House Committee on Armed Services, 98th Cong., 1st sess., 1983, pt. 5, p. 310; and Department of Defense Appropriations for 1986, Hearings before a Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, 99th Cong., 1st sess., 1985/ pt- 2> P- 43129. David C. Morrison, "New asat Weapons, Old Worries," National Journal 19 (March 21, 1987): 797. 30. Ibid. See also David J. Lynch, "Cutbacks Don't Halt Cost Rise," Defense Week 7 (March 31, 1986): 2; Department of Defense Appropriations for 1986, Hearings, pt. 2, p. 431; and U.S. General Accounting Office, Status of the U.S. Antisatellite Program, gao/nsiad85104, June 14, 1985. 31. See Wayne Biddle, "Antisatellite Weapon Facing Delays and Sharp Cost In¬ creases," New York Times, May 16, 1985; and Wayne Biddle, Antisatellite Weapon Is Reported Sent Back to Its Maker for Repairs," New York Times, August 25, 1985. 32. Former Secretary of the Air Force Verne Orr admitted to Congress: I his, I am told, is one of the most complex problems we have tackled' (quoted in Wayne Biddle, Draw¬ ing a Bead on a Target in Space," New York Times, August 25, 1985). 33. General Accounting Office, Status of the U.S. Antisatellite Program, p. 3.


Paul B. Stares Table 2-6. U.S. Date Jan. 21, 1984


antisatellite tests, 1984-1986 Description Missile tested without

Outcome Success

miniature vehicle Nov. 13, 1984

Directed at a star with


miniature vehicle Sept. 13, 1985

Directed at Solwind


satellite Aug. 22, 1986

Directed at a star


Sept. 29, 1986

Directed at a star


only after the president had certified that the United States was endeav¬ oring in good faith to negotiate an asat arms control agreement with the Soviet Union.34 The next year it prohibited all testing against objects in space, a ban it later extended into fiscal 1987.35 A total of five tests have been carried out to date in a planned program of twelve (see Table 2-6). If the testing moratorium is lifted for fiscal 1988, the air force calculates that an initial operating capability (IOC) can be reached in the early 1990s.36 Understandably, details of the expected performance characteristics of the U.S. asat system remain classified. Perhaps the most important undisclosed fact is the maximum reach of the almv. This is obviously useful for determining which Soviet satellites would be vulnerable to attack. Though it was designed from the first to intercept targets in low earth orbit, the almv's capabilities have nevertheless been criticized both outside and apparently also within the air force. In 1983 the General Accounting Office (GAO) highlighted the almv's inability to meet the stated asat requirements of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), which consists of a "prioritized target list" of Soviet satel¬ lites, divided about equally between those in high- and low-altitude orbits.37 By 1981, when the JCS asat target list was revised, the pro¬ jected total had grown to 173, with 82 spacecraft in low earth orbit.38 34. There were other requirements also. For the full text of the certification provision, see Congressional Record, daily edition. May 24, 1985, p. S7174. 35. Making Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1987, Conference Report 99-1005, House of Representatives, 99th Cong., 2d sess., 1986, p. 186. 36. Department of Defense news briefing by Brig. Gen. Robert Rankine, usaf, director, space systems and command, control, and communications, March 10, 1987. 37. General Accounting Office, U.S. Antisatellite Program Needs a Fresh Look, Unclassi¬ fied Report by the Comptroller General of the United States, GAo/c-MASAD-83-5, January 27, 1983, p. i. See also Department of Defense Appropriations for 1980, Hearings before a Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, 96th Cong., 1st sess., 1979, pt. 6, p. 682. 38. Clarence A. Robinson, Jr., “usaf Will Begin Antisatellite Testing," Aviation Week and Space Technology 119 (December 19, 1983): 21. See also Jack Anderson, "Space Wars," Washington Post, August 16, 1981.


The Threat to Space Systems

According to leaked portions of the GAO report, however, the almv as currently configured would be able to attack only 30 percent of these 173 targets.39 The Defense Department responded by arguing that the JCS target list represented a "fiscally unconstrained" statement of require¬ ments and that given the exorbitant cost of building a system capable of attacking the entire target set, the Defense Department and the air force had decided "to apply available resources to only a subset of the JCS requirement."40 The U.S. Air Force has also not been happy with the almv's ca¬ pabilities. The former air force deputy chief of staff for planning at Space Command is on record as saying that the F-15 asat is "fine, necessary and needed, but has one limitation. The altitude it reaches is not all that great."41 This was later confirmed, albeit implicitly, when the air force announced in March 1987 that it intends to study ways to upgrade the altitude reach of the almv, either by improving the thrust capability of the lower-stage booster or by fitting the upper stage and the miniature vehicle to a ground-based Pershing II missile.42 From circumstantial information it is possible to get a more specific idea of the maximum altitude reach of the almv as presently config¬ ured. Since the missile successfully intercepted a defunct satellite at an altitude of 323 kilometers, this is at least its minimum capability. The instrumented test vehicles (ITV) launched on December 13, 1983, to serve as targets in the asat program pass the Western Test Range off California, where all the testing has taken place, at roughly 720 to 740 kilometers.43 At the press conference in March 1987 announcing the restructured program. Brigadier General Robert R. Rankine, the direc¬ tor of Space Systems and Command, Control and Communications for the U.S. Air Force, indicated that the altitude enhancement would take the MV "to about twice the level that we're capable of today." Later he also admitted that the Pershing II can "get to about the altitude to which the Soviets have already tested."44 Since the highest Soviet test was at 1,710 kilometers (see Table 2-1), it is possible to surmise that the max39. Robinson, "usaf Will Begin Antisatellite Testing." 40. Department of Defense Appropriations for 1984, Hearings before a Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, 98th Cong., 1st sess., 1983, pt. 8, p. 501. 41. Quoted in Edward H. Kolcum, "Dispute Grows over Shift of usaf Shuttle Pay¬ loads," Aviation Week and Space Technology 120 (April 30, 1984): 25. 42. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs, "Secretary of Defense Announces Details of Restructured Anti-Satellite Program," news release 100-87, Wash¬ ington, D.C., March 10, 1987. 43. Both figures were calculated using data supplied by nasa. The ITVs consist of inflatable metallic balloons launched two at a time by a single Scout booster from nasa s Wallops Island Flight Facility. Each ITV contains a controllable long-wave infrared system for simulating the different thermal signatures of Soviet satellites, as well as miss distance instrumentation and radio equipment to relay the data. 44. Department of Defense news briefing by Brig. Gen. Robert Rankine, March 10, 1987.


Paul B. Stares Table 2-7. Soviet satellites within reach of the current and potentially upgraded U.S. almv antisatellite system Number of Application



Up to 850 kilometers Photoreconnaissance



Signals intelligence


Ocean reconnaissance


7 1-2


Communications Manned space station Subtotal 850-1,700 kilometers Navigation Meteorology Subtotal Total

Kosmos Salyut, Mir

1-3 3 1 20



Meteor 2-3

3 13 33

imum ceiling for the current almv is probably no higher than 850 kilometers. On the basis of these calculations. Table 2-7 lists the Soviet satellites that will be placed at risk if the almv becomes operational. They are ordered into two target sets: those satellites operating up to 850 kilometers and those between 850 and 1,700 kilometers, which would become vulnerable if the altitude enhancement program goes ahead. As Table 2-7 indicates, there will be approximately twenty Soviet satellites within range of the presently configured U.S. as at. Several of these, notably the new class of signals intelligence satellites and three communication satellites, orbit at the almv's extreme range. Excluded from the table are the Soviet Molniya communication and early warning satellites that pass within range at the perigees of their highly elliptical orbits in the Southern Hemisphere. Though F-15 aircraft could probably be relocated to this region, the extreme velocity of the target satellites would almost certainly preclude interception. In fact, the Defense De¬ partment has admitted that the present asat system "will not have the capability to attack Soviet early warning satellites, even at a low point in their orbit."45 Doubling the reach of the almv brings a further thirteen or so satel¬ lites into range, essentially navigation and weather forecasting systems. Deliberately excluded from this target set is the constellation of approx¬ imately twenty-four "store-dump" communication satellites. Because 45. Department of Defense Appropriations for 1985, Hearings before a Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, 98th Cong., 2d sess., 1984, pt. 1, p. 513.


The Threat to Space Systems

these are quite small—weighing around 40 kilograms—they probably do not present a big enough target for the MV's sensor.46 In any case, the limited number of U.S. asat missiles does not make an attack on such a large constellation a profitable exercise. In executing an asat campaign, the American system has some sig¬ nificant operational advantages over its Soviet counterpart. Compared with the Soviet asat, which requires many hours to prepare for a launch, the U.S. F-15S can be activated more rapidly. Moreover, the intensity of Soviet asat operations is hindered by the limited avail¬ ability of launch pads and the time needed to refurbish them after use. Furthermore, the time taken to intercept a satellite is much shorter for the U.S. asat because it does not have to be launched into orbit like the Soviet interceptor but must merely pass sufficiently close to its quarry for the miniature vehicle to be effective. Because it is air launched it is also far more versatile in targeting satellites than the fixed-site Soviet system.47 Although the direct-ascent American asat differs markedly from its co-orbital Soviet counterpart, the methodology used earlier for evaluat¬ ing a Soviet asat campaign is applicable for a U.S. campaign as well. Conceivably the U.S. almv could have a single-shot kill probability higher than those assigned to the Soviet asat, but this advantage cannot be assumed. It is appropriate, therefore, to be conservative and use the same kill probability values. The most significant difference is the number of intercept attempts, or shots, feasible each day. Although eighteen aircraft will be converted to the asat mission, it is unlikely that asat

46. Johnson, Soviet Year in Space, 1983 (Colorado Springs: Teledyne Brown Engineering Corp., 1984), p. 16. . 47. In general it is unclear how easy it would be for the ASAT-capable F-15 aircratt either to perform extended missions or to relocate to other air bases. For example, a dedicated asat Command Center (ACC) is to be set up at Langley Air Force Base as well as a special cryogen storage and processing plant for the liquid helium and nitrogen necessary to cool the missile's guidance system during the flight. It also appears that the range and duration of each F-15 asat flight is constrained less by the amount of aircraft fuel and the endurance of the pilot than by the depletion of the same helium and nitrogen that is carried aloft. See Military Construction Appropriations for 1985, Hearings before a Subcom¬ mittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, 98th Cong., 2d sess., 1984, pt. 3, pp. 559-60; and Department of Defense Appropriations for 1983, Hearings before a Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, 98th Cong., 2d sess., 1984, pt. 2, p. 195. It might be possible to space at least two F-15S from Langley far enough apart under the expected path of the target satellite for the second aircraft to receive information on the success of the first engagement directly from ground-based surveillance radars and still have time to launch its own missile if required. To extend the F-15's operational radius to make this feasible would almost certainly require in-flight refueling or that the aircraft be “recovered" at another airbase. As noted earlier, the depletion of the cryogen liquid for the MV's sensor would be a critical factor; others would be the speed at which the groundbased radars could carry out asat damage assessment and relay it to the waiting aircraft, and how fast the pilot could reprogram the missile's guidance system, since the target might be in range for less than eight minutes.

Paul B. Stares

all will be available for use at any given moment because of routine maintenance.48 Fifteen operational aircraft is a more realistic figure. At a minimum each F-15 could attempt one intercept a day (for a daily rate of fifteen shots), and two sorties might be possible (for a daily rate of thirty shots).49 Twenty-two shots representing an average of 1.5 daily sorties per aircraft supplies a middle-range value. Four target sets have been chosen for the analysis, individually total¬ ing thirty, twenty, fifteen, and ten satellites. Though twenty seems to be the approximate number of Soviet satellites within reach of the unmodified almv, it is prudent to consider a larger target set for several reasons. For one, the Soviets may launch additional satellites as a precaution against U.S. as at operations. Operable launch pads permit¬ ting, they can also be expected to replace disabled satellites in wartime. Furthermore, if and when the almv becomes fully operational, its reach may have been extended to threaten more Soviet satellites. With the same effectiveness requirement (95 percent confidence of success, or 0.05 probability of survival). Tables 2-8 and 2-9 record the resultant estimates of U.S. asat operations using the above variables.50 Several important conclusions can be drawn from these two tables. Table 2-8 indicates that under best-case assumptions of an sspk of 0.75 the United States would nearly exhaust its planned inventory of almv's in attacking fifteen Soviet satellites with 95 percent confidence of suc¬ cess. If the U.S. Air Force plans to attack more targets, it must believe that the almv's performance will be better than assumed here, or it will have to purchase more missiles.51 Table 2-9 illustrates the superior 48. It is also unclear whether the U.S. Air Force will procure eighteen of the carrier aircraft equipment sets that are used to connect the almv to the airplane. 49- The actual sortie rate could be as many as three a day given the full provision of spares and personnel. See Defense Science Board, Report of the Defense Science Board 1981 Summer Study Panel on Operational Readiness with High Performance Systems (U.S. Depart¬ ment of Defense; distributed by Defense Technical Information Center, Alexandria, Va., 1982), p. 6-4. See also "F-15S Used for Air Defense Intercepts," Aviation Week and'Space Technology 116 (June 7, 1982): 69; and Epstein, Measuring Military Power, pp. 31-35. 50. Evidence suggests that 0.95 is indeed the U.S. Air Force's requirement for the almv. See U.S. Department of the Air Force, Supporting Data for Fiscal Year 1985 Budget Estimates, Descriptive Summaries: Research Development, Test and Evaluation (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Air Force, 1984), p. 317. 51. Though the U.S. Air Force has understandably not released its projected effective¬ ness figures for the almv, a 1986 GAO report on the program did caution against unrealistic expectations in this regard. Citing the air force's own Operational Test and Evaluation Center, it stated that "the original prediction of any weapon system's perfor¬ mance has historically been extremely optimistic. As the system matures during develop¬ ment, the performance prediction generally degrades gradually as subsystem shortcom¬ ings are countered by engineering redesign wherever possible. However, during opera¬ tional testing the performance can degrade drastically." See General Accounting Office, U.S. Antisatellite Program: Information on Operational Effectiveness, Cost, Schedules, and Test¬ ing, Unclassified contents of report B-219105, June 1986.


The Threat to Space Systems Table 2-8. Estimates of U.S. asat shots required to disable a range of Soviet satellite

target sets, by probability of kill Target set Single-shot probability of kill High (0.75) Moderate (0.65) Low (0.45)

20 satellites

1 satellite

10 satellites

13 satellites





22 29







30 satellites 65 86 150

Table 2-9. Estimates of days required to disable a range of Soviet satellite target sets, by

probability of kill Target set Single-shot probability of kill

10 satellites

High (0.75) Moderate (0.65) Low (0.45)

0.7 0.9

High (0.75) Moderate (0.65) Low (0.45)


High (0.75) Moderate (0.65) Low (0.45)

1.4 1.9


i-3 2-3


15 satellites

20 satellites

At thirty shots a day 1.1 1.4 1.4 1.9 2.5 3-3 At twenty-two shots a day 1.5 2.0 1.9 2.6 3.4 4.6 At fifteen shots a day 2.2 2.9 2.8 3.8 5.0 6.7

30 satellites

2.2 2.9 5.0 2-9 3-9

6.8 4-3 5-7


qualities of the F-15-ALMV system in performing intensive asat opera¬ tions. Again, under the best-case assumptions (an sspk of 0.75 and two sorties a day totaling thirty shots), the United States could disable fifteen Soviet satellites in just over a day. If the sortie rate or number of launch opportunities permit only one sortie per aircraft (for a total of fifteen shots a day), then the same campaign would still take only a day longer. Tables 2-8 and 2-9 are useful for estimating the force requirements for attacking an expanded target set with the same assumed performance parameters. Thus for the United States to consider a campaign against [57]

Paul B. Stares

thirty Soviet satellites would require nearly doubling the planned pur¬ chase of missiles even with the highest listed sspk. Under best-case assumptions a campaign of this size would take just over two days to complete and ten days under the worst assumptions. As in the earlier analysis of a hypothetical Soviet asat campaign, these estimates do not take into account potential impediments to U.S. asat operations. For example, demands on the same F-15 aircraft for continental air defense tasks could severely curtail asat operations, as would competing demands for the ground surveillance radars that provide the essential targeting data. One problem identified by the GAO is that when U.S. strategic forces are put on a Defense Condition (defcon) 3 alert, the task of detecting ballistic missiles dominates the priorities of the ground-based surveillance radars, with the result that the asat mission suffers from "reduced sensor coverage."52 What effect this would have is impossible to judge from the open literature. The Soviets can also be expected to develop countermeasures to defeat or at least complicate U.S. asat attacks. The three principal methods—maneuvering to evade interception, raising the altitude of a threatened satellite, and deploying decoys—were all addressed in the Reagan administration's 1984 report to Congress on asat arms control. As to maneuvering the report states: "It is not clear that the Soviets have the capability to determine which satellite would be the target of a given attack and thus would have to maneuver several of their satellites each time the U.S. launched or simulated the launch of an asat interceptor. Because repeated maneuvers would reduce Soviet satellite lifetimes, maneuver would be a costly countermeasure."53 This conclusion is probably true over an extended period, but buying such extra time at a crucial stage in the hostilities may be all that is needed until a replacement satellite is launched. The report went on to add, however, that Soviet satellite maneuvering could be offset by improvements to U.S. space-tracking capabilities. The most valuable addition would be the space-based surveillance system currently being considered for deployment. The Defense Department has also acknowl¬ edged that deploying this system "would enhance the capability of the [U.S.] asat system to engage the next generation of satellites if they used advanced survivability aids."54 As for the other possible Soviet 52. Ibid. 53. Ronald Reagan, Report to the Congress on U.S. Policy on ASAT Arms Control (Wash¬ ington, D.C.: The White House, 1984), p. 12. 54. Department of Defense Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1985, Hearings before a Subcom¬ mittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, 98th Cong., 2d sess., 1984, pt. 3, p. 364. The U.S. Air Force is also seeking to improve the solid propellant rockets on the MV to hedge against additional maneuvering capability an adversary might build into his satellites/7 See Department of Defense Appropriations for 1986, Hearings, pt. 2, p. 427. [58]

The Threat to Space Systems

countermeasures, raising the altitude of a threatened satellite might impair its ability to carry out its mission and be rejected by the Soviets on that ground, while decoys could be countered with changes to the MV's sensor logic.55 Deploying a space-based surveillance system might also make it pos¬ sible for the U.S. almv to destroy a Soviet co-orbital asat before it has a chance to complete its own mission. At present, with only information from ground-based surveillance radars to rely on, such a feat would be extremely difficult.56

U.S. Residual ASAT Capabilities In addition to the planned deployment of the F-15-ALMV, the United States like the ussr possesses some systems with residual antisatellite capabilities.

ABM systems. The United States does not now have an operational ABM capability, but the Spartan missiles developed for the SafeguardSentinel system are still in storage and presumably could be reactivated and modified for the asat role if required.57 These would need a new front end, however, because the original W-71 nuclear warheads are to be dismantled. If replaced with a similar warhead, they would suffer the same operational drawbacks for asat use that face the Moscow ABM system. As part of its ongoing ABM research program (now subsumed under the Strategic Defense Initiative), the U.S. Army conducted a series of tests with a modified Minuteman icbm to determine whether ballistic missile reentry vehicles could be intercepted by non-nuclear means outside the atmosphere. A successful test, known as the Homing Over¬ lay Experiment (HOE), was finally carried out on June 10, 1984“, after a series of failures.58 Using an infrared homing sensor like that in the miniature vehicle and an unfurlable umbrellalike metal net, the test Reagan, "Report to Congress on U.S. Policy on asat Arms Control,' p. 12. For a detailed discussion of the problems involved in such an operation and the possible Soviet countermeasures, see Donald L. Hafner, "Approaches to the Control of Antisatellite Weapons," in William J. Durch, ed., National Interests and the Militan/ Use of Space (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1984), pp. 251-52. 57. See Fiscal Year 1984 Arms Control Impact Statement, Joint Committee Print, 98th Cong., 1st sess., 1983, p. 126. The potential asat capability of the Spartan missile was admitted in 1969. See Stares, Militarization of Space, p. 120. Interestingly the launch facilities at Johnston Island in the Pacific, the site of an early U.S. asat program, are also maintained in a mothballed state in case atmospheric nuclear testing is resumed. See Department of Defense Appropriations for 1985, Hearings, pt. 3, p. 576. 58. Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs, "Successful Homing Over¬ lay Experiment Intercept Announced," news release 311-84, Washington, D.C., June 11, 55.



Paul B. Stares

interceptor destroyed a dummy warhead, launched by an icbm from Vandenberg Air Force Base, at an altitude of more than 100 kilome¬ ters.59 The U.S. Army is now pursuing more advanced techniques as part of the SDI. The HOE test nevertheless demonstrated a residual capability to intercept satellites in low earth orbit.

Long-range ballistic missiles. Just as the Soviet Union could modify some of its strategic weapons for the asat mission, so the United States has the same option at its disposal. The United States would have to confront the same problems: potential collateral effects on friendly sat¬ ellites and disrupted communications. But the advent of lightweight, low-yield devices, if they allow relatively discriminating nuclear asat attacks, might make this option more attractive.60

Electronic countermeasures. Given the widespread deployment of U.S. bases overseas, the United States has, if anything, a much greater opportunity to conduct satellite jamming operations than the Soviet Union has. The U.S. Navy is also believed to have developed operating procedures to jam Soviet ocean reconnaissance satellites. Understand¬ ably, little information is publicly available on overall U.S. ECM ca¬ pabilities and planning for such operations.

Laser facilities. The most powerful U.S. laser now in existence with a potential asat capability is the U.S. Navy's mid-infrared advanced chemical laser (miracl) at the joint-service High-Energy Laser Systems Test Facility in White Sands, New Mexico. Reportedly, it is a deuterium fluoride continuous wave laser operating at 3.8 microns with a power output of 2.2 megawatts.61 This wavelength has good atmospheric transmission properties, meaning that beam projection into space is not beyond its capacity. A special beam director taken from the navy's Sealite program at San Juan Capistrano, California, was added to miracl at the end of 1983, further improving its asat potential.62 59. Ibid.; Clarence A. Robinson, Jr., "BMD Homing Interceptor Destroys Reentry Vehicle," Aviation Week and Space Technology 120 (June 18, 1984): 19-20; and Charles Mohr, "Army Test Missile Is Said to Destroy a Dummy Warhead," New York Times, June 12,1984. 60. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has reportedly designed and tested low-yield nuclear devices that, according to the laboratory's brochure, "might serve as the warhead for an anti-satellite weapon." See Jack Cushman, "U.S. A-Bomb Could Wipe Out Satellites," Defense Week 5 (December 24, 1984): 1. 61. Defense Marketing Services, Inc., "Sealite/Navy HEL," DMS Market Intelligence Report (Greenwich, Conn.: Defense Marketing Services, 1984); and Michael A. Dornheim, "Missile Destroyed in First SDI Test at High-Energy Laser Facility," Aviation Week and Space Technology 123 (September 23, 1985): 17-19. 62. "Hughes Laser Beam Director Tests Planned at White Sands," Aviation Week and Space Technology 123 (October 7, 1985): 18.


The Threat to Space Systems

The space shuttle. The Soviet Union has long considered the U.S. space shuttle to be a potential asat device because its demonstrated ability to maneuver close to orbiting objects for inspection and retrieval means that the shuttle could tamper with and even capture Soviet satellites.63 Spacecraft up to about 600 kilometers are probably vulner¬ able to an operation of this kind,64 and under normal conditions, the shuttle's remote manipulator arm would be able to retrieve objects of around 14,500 kilograms.65 Because it would be relatively easy for the Soviets to attach antitampering devices, or booby traps, to their satel¬ lites, however, the United States would likely be deterred from carrying out such an operation. Capturing a single Soviet satellite is unlikely to be sufficiently important to tempt the United States into risking a shut¬ tle orbiter. The possible development of orbital maneuvering vehicles (OMVs), controlled from the shuttle orbiter and able to perform many of the same tasks but operating at a considerable distance from it, would reduce this concern, however.66



and Soviet



There are many potential U.S. and Soviet asat weapons. Whether such weapons are deployed will depend on several factors. One is how much support can be generated for pursuing research to a level at which the cost-effectiveness of the weapon can be demonstrated. Clearly, perceived advances by an adversary in certain key technologies such as non-nuclear kinetic-energy weapons and lasers would fuel such sup¬ port, as would new military threats posed by the adversary's space systems. Politico-military pressure to develop and deploy new asat weapons will also determine whether space arms control is considered desirable to pursue or, if already in place, to preserve. It seems appar¬ ent, however, that regardless of the merits of developing more ad¬ vanced antisatellite weapon systems than those being deployed or cur¬ rently planned, the key technologies are already being pursued as a result of the superpowers' growing interest in ballistic missile defense. 63. “Soviets See Shuttle as Killer Satellite," Aviation Week and Space Technology 108 (April iyf 1978): 17. The retrieval of a satellite was first demonstrated with the mission to return and repair the Solar Max satellite on April 12, 1984- See Craig Covault, Orbiter Crew Restores Solar Max," Aviation Week and Space Technology 120 (April 16, 1984V 18-20. 64. As of March 1987 the highest altitude shuttle mission was 51-J, in which the orbiter went as high as 515 kilometers. See "Military Shuttle Flight Sets Altitude Record, Aviation Week and Space Technology 123 (October 21, 1985): 26. 65. Rockwell International, Using the Space Shuttle: A Guide to Shuttle Utilization (Dow¬ ney, Calif.: Space Transportation and Systems Group, 1983), p. 11.1 he maximum weight of 29,500 kilograms may be possible in some cases. 66. See "Robotic Tug for Shuttle," Defense Electronics 16 (October 1984): 57-59. [61]

Paul B. Stares

Long before such defenses—even in their most limited form—become operational, the construction of prototype antimissile systems may pro¬ vide each side with additional and perhaps highly effective antisatellite weapons. At the very least, antimissile research will create a major stimulus to asat research and development. The overlap between the two missions is too great to avoid such cross-fertilization. Despite the uncertainties in predicting the pace at which weapons with asat capabilities could be deployed in the future, certain tech¬ nologies are plainly more mature than others. Table 2-10 maps out potential asat weaponry for the near term (to 1995) and the far term (1995 and beyond). As noted earlier, these weapons do not have to reach full operational deployment within these dates to provide some capability for asat operations. The development of these weapon systems will inevitably expand the range of threats to satellites. In particular, the opportunity to attack high-altitude satellites promptly and with greater confidence will al¬ most certainly grow. On the basis of today's research programs, it is possible to predict more specifically how the asat capabilities of both superpowers could evolve to the year 2000.

Future Soviet Systems At a minimum, it would not be surprising if the Soviets fielded an improved version of their current co-orbital interceptor. The use of a different booster to extend its altitude reach cannot be discounted ei¬ ther. Indeed, there is already speculation that the Soviets may use the Proton (SL-12) or a new heavy-lift launch vehicle that is presently under development.67 Both would permit attacks against U.S. satellites in the geosynchronous orbit although this would be a ponderous capability given the lengthy flight time to such altitudes. A possible candidate for a new low-altitude asat system would be one that emulates the U.S. almv. Potential carrier aircraft include the Backfire bomber, the Su-27 Flanker, MiG-25 Foxbat, and MiG-31 Fox¬ hound fighter interceptors.68 An alternative or complementary system would be ground-based conventionally armed direct-ascent missiles. These are most likely already under development for the next genera¬ tion of ground-based antiballistic missiles. Yet another option would be a system of orbital space mines. This 67. U S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1986, pp. 49, 52. The limitations of using the Proton booster for asat purposes are discussed in Durch, "Anti-Satellite Weapons," p. 13. S/ °ffT^ of Technology Assessment, Arms Control in Space: Workshop Proceedings, OTA-BP-ISC-28 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1984), p. 27.


The Threat to Space Systems

Table 2-10. Potential near term and far term asat weapons Near term (to 1995) Advanced air-launched kinetic-energy weapon sys¬ tem Ground-based direct-ascent nuclear-armed or kine¬ tic-energy7 weapon systems (for low- and high-al¬ titude use) Ground-based lasers Space-based kinetic-energy weapon systems (di¬ rected projectiles, railguns, space mines) High-powered radio frequency weapons

Far term (1995 and beyond) Ground-based lasers with orbiting or pop-up mirrors Space-based lasers Space-based neutral particle weapons Nuclear-pumped spacebased x-ray lasers

would not be too hard for the Soviets because their current asat system has many of the principal components of such a weapon. But maintain¬ ing operational space mines does present some significant problems, as was underlined by the former secretary of the air force, Verne Orr, before Congress: "Some of the principal drawbacks are the amount of propulsion capability and day-to-day ground controller effort required to keep a mine near its potential target; the risk of international reper¬ cussions from an inadvertent collision with the nearby target; and inter¬ national reaction to threatening visibly another nation's satellites over long periods of time."69 In the longer term, the most likely area of Soviet asat development is in the field of directed-energy weapons. The U.S. Department of De¬ fense has already warned that "in the late 1980s, [the Soviets] could have prototype space-based laser weapons for use against satellites. In addition, ongoing Soviet programs have progressed to the point where they could include construction of ground-based laser antisatellite (asat) facilities at operational sites. These could be available by the end of the 1980s and would greatly increase the Soviets' laser asat capability beyond that currently at their test site at Sary Shagan. They may deploy operational systems of space-based lasers for antisatellite purposes in the 1990s if their technology developments prove successful."70 Fur¬ thermore, "a prototype space-based particle beam weapon intended only to disrupt satellite electronic equipment could be tested in the early 1990s. One designed to destroy satellites could be tested in space in the mid-1990s."71 The U.S. Department of Defense has also stated that the 69. Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1986, Hearings before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, 99th Cong., 1st sess., 19^5, pt- 2> P1185. 70. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1985, P- 4471. Ibid., p. 45. See also testimony of Robert M. Gates and Lawrence Gershwin, in Soviet Strategic Force Developments.


Paul B. Stares

Soviet space shuttle under development may be used as an on's delivery platform.72



Future U.S. Systems Even though the U.S. almv has yet to reach operational deployment there has already been some initial research into possible follow-on systems. In 1984 the then undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, Richard D. DeLauer, informed Congress that "we have directed a comprehensive study to select a follow-on system with addi¬ tional capabilities to place a wider range of Soviet satellite vehicles at risk."73 As noted earlier, the near term options for improving U.S. antisatellite capabilities beyond those currently planned have been nar¬ rowed down to either an enhanced air-launched missile or the use of ground-based Pershing II missiles with miniature vehicle warheads. If the proposed study demonstrates feasibility, the U.S. Air Force believes that it can begin development in 1988, with deployment possible before the mid-1990s. For the longer term the air force has also requested roughly $100 million in the fiscal 1988 and 1989 budgets to study the possible uses of ground-based excimer lasers for the asat mission.74 Several demonstra¬ tions are expected to determine their feasibility before deployment could begin in the late 1990s. In announcing these long-term plans, the air force openly acknowledged that the laser research was designed to complement similar work being conducted under the Strategic Defense Initiative. A two-way relationship, in which SDI research nurtures the key technologies for asat weapons, while the asat program provides a useful outlet to fund and test antimissile-related systems, is expected to grow in coming years. Many of the prospective antimissile systems being developed under the SDI program will also have inherent anti¬ satellite capabilities. Under the SDI's kinetic-energy weapons program, several projects have this potential.73 The follow-on system to the Homing Overlay Experiment described earlier, known as the Exoatmospheric Reentry Vehicle Interception System (eris), is an obvious candidate. This will be a single-warhead device, although interceptors with multiple warheads 72. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 198s, p. 55. 73. Quoted in Fred Hiatt, Anti-Satellite Weapon Research Is Pressed," Washington Post, February 28, 1984. 6 74. Department of Defense news briefing by Brig. Gen. Robert Rankine, March 10 1987. 75. Details of the various programs being pursued under the SDI are from U.S. Depart¬ ment of Defense, Report to the Congress on the Strategic Defense Initiative (Washington D C ■ SDI Office, 1986). [64]

The Threat to Space Systems

are also under consideration. Besides deploying ground-based anti¬ missile systems, the SDI organization is also planning development work on orbital kinetic-energy weapons. One involves the use of a hypervelocity launcher, or "railgun" (known as Saggitar); another con¬ sists of a cluster of infrared-guided miniature homing vehicles similar to the almv. In the directed-energy weapons technology program, extensive re¬ search is being conducted on both ground-based and space-based la¬ sers. In addition to the miracl chemical laser, the United States is also constructing a free-electron laser at the White Sands test facility. Long¬ term plans will raise the power output of this facility to perhaps 100 megawatts, which, when wedded to the appropriate atmospheric com¬ pensation and beam control systems, may be able to threaten satellites out to geosynchronous orbit. With "pop-up" or space-based ' fighting mirrors," such lasers will also be able to attack targets over their hori¬ zon. A more ambitious project involves the use of nuclear weapons to generate x-ray lasers. Given the problem of propagating x-ray lasers through the atmosphere, such systems would need to be based in space. Work is also under way to examine the feasibility of space-based chemical lasers and neutral particle beam weapons, including proto¬ type demonstrations in space.76 Well before the effectiveness of many of these systems for ballistic missile defense can be demonstrated, they will have become de facto asat devices. Indeed, because of the treaty constraints against testing many of these projects "in an ABM mode," it appears as if the Reagan administration intends to test them in ways that resemble asat demon¬ strations to avoid accusations of noncompliance.77 For example, as part of the SDI program the United States launched two experimental satel¬ lites aboard a Delta rocket on September 5,1986. Part of the exercise was to track the launch of an Aries rocket from White Sands with an infrared sensor. At the end of the test one of the satellites, which incorporated a modified Phoenix missile radar guidance system, deliberately collided with the other. Thus though the conditions of the demonstration did not replicate the interception of a ballistic missile, they did nevertheless successfully test a rudimentary asat device. More such tests are planned in the near future.

The paradoxical drawback to many of these ASAT-capable ballistic missile defense systems is that they will ultimately undermine the survivability, and with it the feasibility, of space-based strategic de76. David J. Lynch, "Tests Planned for Particle Beam," Defense Week 7 (October 20, 1986): 5. 77. See Peter Didisheim, The SDI/ASAT Link, Papers on Strategic Defense (Washington, D.C.: Union of Concerned Scientists, 1985), p. 11. [65]

Paul B. Stares

fenses. Thus even if many of the technical obstacles to a workable spacebased antimissile system are surmounted, its inherent vulnerability to attack could ultimately discourage deployment. In the process, how¬ ever, a new, more lethal generation of asat weapons may have been created.


The current threat to space systems is both varied and considerable. Yet set against the dedicated asat systems that could be developed and deployed in the future, the threat is still relatively immature. Although the current Soviet satellite interceptor poses some threat, it suffers from significant operational constraints that limit its effective¬ ness. By adding such devices as attack warning sensors, emergency maneuvering aids, and decoys to American satellites within the inter¬ ceptor's reach, the United States can minimize their vulnerability to attack. Though still in the development stage, the U.S. air-launched minia¬ ture vehicle system promises to be an inherently superior asat weapon. The eventual deployment of the almv and its potential upgrading to a higher-altitude capability will surely spur the Soviets to develop more advanced and effective asats than the one they now possess. Accord¬ ing to the U.S. Defense Department, such weapons are already within the Soviets' reach. The so-called residual asat capabilities do pose a threat to space systems, but it should not be exaggerated. Without extensive testing "in an asat mode," most residual systems are incapable of rapid, highconfidence asat attacks. Some are also realistically limited to certain types of conflict and most, furthermore, can be countered by a variety of survivability measures to reduce their potential effectiveness in war¬ time. Unless checked, the asat threats of the future will be qualitatively different from, and considerably more potent than, those of today. Besides the development of new, more effective antisatellite weapons, antimissile systems capable of attacking satellites may also be deployed. Space systems in low earth orbit will become extremely costly and difficult to protect with even the most sophisticated survivability mea¬ sures. More ominous is the likelihood that satellites at higher altitudes, including those used for early warning and strategic communications, will steadily become more vulnerable.


[3l The Ballistic Missile Defense Debate The Office of Technology Assessment

The Presidential Challenge President Ronald Reagan's speech of March 23, 1983, renewed a national debate that had been intense in the late 1960s but more sub¬ dued since 1972. Would the United States be more secure attempting to defend its national territory against ballistic missiles while the Soviet Union did the same? Or would it be more secure attempting to keep such defenses largely banned by agreement with the Soviet Union? The president posed the question, "What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?"1 Calling upon the U.S. scientific community "to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete, he announced that he was "directing a comprehensive and intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program to begin to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles. This could pave the way for arms control measures to eliminate the weapons themselves." After that speech the president ordered studies to explore further the promise of ballistic missile defense, and in 1984 the Department of Defense established an organization to expand and accelerate research Excerpted from U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Ballistic Missile De¬ fense Technologies, OTA-ISC-254, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1985. 1. Transcript of televised speech, March 23, 1983.


The Office of Technology Assessment

in ballistic missile defense technologies. This research program was called the Strategic Defense Initiative. If there were a national consensus on the role, if any, ballistic missile defense should play in our national strategy, assessing the likelihood of attaining the necessary capabilities at an acceptable cost would be diffi¬ cult enough. There is extensive controversy over the potential of vari¬ ous BMD technologies and the possibilities for applying them in afford¬ able weapons systems that would be effective against a Soviet offensive threat, which includes countermeasures to our defenses. But there is also extensive controversy over whether various levels of ballistic mis¬ sile defense capability, if attainable, would be desirable. A fair assess¬ ment of the technological possibilities must weigh them against a range of strategic criteria, which are themselves matters of controversy. This report is intended to illuminate, rather than adjudicate, the BMD debate. It provides more questions than answers. But the questions will remain relevant in the years to come because their answers will affect national policies with or without ballistic missile defense. For the short term, the important questions have to do with what research the United States should conduct on BMD and with how future BMD technical possibilities affect current offensive force planning and diplomatic ac¬ tivities. For the longer term, the important questions have to do with what BMD system we could reasonably expect to deploy, whether we would want to, and what the consequences might be.



Research and Development Debate

The near term debate over BMD research and development (as op¬ posed to deployment) has focused on the following issues in particular: what are (or should be) the central goals of the U.S. BMD research and development program; the feasibility of reaching those goals; and the relationship between this research and arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. Participants in the debate over ballistic missile defense hold differing views on Soviet motivations, intentions, and capabilities; whether cur¬ rent U.S. nuclear strategy and nuclear forces are now, and will continue to be, adequate to deter Soviet threats and aggression; the past role and future prospects of arms control in contributing to U.S. national se¬ curity; and how optimistic or pessimistic one should be about the tech¬ nical feasibilities of rendering nuclear ballistic missiles "impotent and obsolete." These differing views have shaped the debates about both BMD research and deployment. [68]

The Ballistic Missile Defense Debate

Goals Strategic Defense Initiative goals. Few are comfortable with a situation in which U.S. security depends heavily on our ability to threaten mass destruction with nuclear weapons. Fewer still are comfortable with the vulnerability of the U.S. population to Soviet nuclear attack. President Reagan's speech appeared to offer a way of eventually escaping this condition. Although some people have interpreted some of President Reagan's statements to mean that he envisions development of a vir¬ tually perfect defense of the U.S. population against any nuclear attack, pursuit of defenses able to protect the U.S. population and that of its allies in the face of a determined Soviet effort to overcome them does not appear to be a goal of the Strategic Defense Initiative.2 Rather, some of the president's language and many subsequent pol¬ icy statements indicate that the administration envisions a more com¬ plex scenario that might eventually lead to deep reductions in the nuclear arsenals with which the United States and the Soviet Union now threaten each other. There are four steps in this scenario: (1) a research program to seek ballistic missile defenses that would be cheap¬ er to deploy than the offensive weapons needed to penetrate them; (2) a decision in the early or mid-1990s to develop such defenses for deploy¬ ment near the end of the century; (3) negotiations with the Soviet Union for agreed mutual deployment of defenses coupled with reductions in offensive weapons; during which time the threat of nuclear retaliation would play a still important, but presumably declining, role in deterring Soviet threats and aggression; and (4) an ultimate stage in which ballis¬ tic missile defenses, air defenses, and negotiated reductions of offen¬ sive weapons to extremely low levels have eliminated the ability of the United States and the Soviet Union to destroy each other's societies with nuclear weapons. Administration officials have stated, however, that negotiating with the Soviets does not mean giving them a veto over a U.S. decision to deploy BMD. In their view, if defenses become cheaper than the weap¬ ons they must intercept, the Soviets ought to see the rationality of the U.S. negotiating scenario. But if the Soviets refuse to negotiate, U.S. 2. According to the Department of Defense, Report to the Congress on the Strategic Defenst Initiative (1985), “The goal of the SDI is to conduct a program of vigorous research focused on advanced defensive technologies that may lead to strategic defense options that could. • support a better basis for deterring aggression; • strengthen strategic stability; • increase the security of the United States and its allies; and • eliminate the threat posed by ballistic missiles. The SDI seeks, therefore, to exploit emerging technologies that may provide options for a broader-based deterrence by turning to a greater reliance on defensive systems.


The Office of Technology Assessment

security would increase anyway because Soviet ballistic missiles would be less capable of achieving military objectives than they had been in the past, and if the Soviets and the United States spent equal amounts on strategic forces, the assumed cost advantage of the defense would lead to a continuing decline in the ability of Soviet offensive forces to pene¬ trate U.S. defenses. Although the pursuit of this scenario appears to be the central pur¬ pose of the Strategic Defense Initiative, other goals have also been ascribed to it. These include maintaining an ability to deploy U.S. ballistic missile defenses promptly in case the Soviets should "break out" of the ABM Treaty; hedging against Soviet unilateral development and deployment of advanced ballistic missile defense technologies by gaining an understanding of what is feasible (U.S. responses could include comparable defenses, more offensive weapons, offensive coun¬ termeasures, or all three); and developing new technologies that may or may not be applied ultimately to BMD but could have other military and civilian applications.

Other perspectives on goals. The differing views of BMD debate partici¬ pants cited above lead to support for differing research goals or different placements of research emphasis. Some approve of the SDI long-term goals but believe that there should be greater emphasis on moving toward near term deployment of land-based and space-based BMD systems. Others question the SDI goals on strategic or technical grounds. They suggest that the United States should emphasize tech¬ nology development and hedging against Soviet BMD potentials and that moving toward a deployment decision in the foreseeable future should not be a goal. Those who stress maintaining a base for quickly deploying BMD to deter or respond to a Soviet ABM Treaty breakout tend to favor research emphasis on "terminal" defenses, designed pri¬ marily (or, in some cases, exclusively) to protect U.S. icbm silos and probably using nuclear warheads. . . .

Technical Feasibility A second major focus of the debate over BMD is technical feasibility— the likelihood that the research will lead to the development of BMD systems that could achieve the administration's goals. (This issue is debated in depth in Part II of this book.) There are at least two layers of technical issues involved in this part of the debate. One is whether particular technology performance levels (for example, those of sensors, pointing and tracking systems, computers, chemical lasers, or electro¬ magnetic railguns) could be scaled up and integrated into effective

The Ballistic Missile Defense Debate

weapons systems. The second layer of technical issues is whether the weapon systems could operate effectively against determined Soviet efforts to counter them. Proponents of the SDI believe that the tech¬ nologies are sufficiently promising to be worth intensive research. In addition, they point out that for many years the Soviets have been conducting research in advanced BMD-related technologies (such as lasers) and that the SDI as a research program would be justified if on no other grounds than hedging against possible Soviet progress in these areas. Skeptics argue that offensive nuclear weapons are so likely-—unless offenses are tightly constrained in number and quality—to continue to dominate defensive weapons that pursuing the SDI goals is not justifi¬ able. They question whether Soviet research into advanced BMD-re¬ lated technologies is likely to lead to actual defensive systems that U.S. missiles could not penetrate. They believe that the best hedge against such Soviet programs is continuing or accelerating work on U.S. offen¬ sive penetration aids. They may support continued U.S. research on BMD, but they are concerned about the potential consequences of certain SDI demonstration experiments.

Arms Control Most BMD systems based on advanced technologies could not be developed, tested, or deployed under the ABM Treaty regime.3 One issue is whether our program of BMD research will be compatible with the ABM Treaty. (This issue is debated in depth in Part III.) A more fundamental issue, however, is whether the ABM Treaty continues to be compatible with our national interest. Differing views on the nature of the United States-Soviet strategic relationship come to the fore most strongly in debates over the interplay between the Strategic Defense Initiative and arms control. Supporters of the SDI tend to argue from the perspective that the Soviet Union has been relentless—and at least partly successful—in its pursuit of strate¬ gic nuclear superiority over the United States. In particular, the Soviets have obtained a first-strike capability against U.S. land-based icbms. In the future, the Soviets might conceivably find means of detecting and destroying U.S. missile-launching submarines as well. The Soviets can be expected to exploit such advantages by attempting to intimidate the United States and its allies. 3. Laboratory research into any BMD system is permitted under the treaty, but there are severe limitations on field testing and deployment of ABM systems. Only fixed landbased systems can be developed or tested, and only one specified fixed land-based system can be deployed.

The Office of Technology Assessment

Past arms control agreements have not successfully limited the Soviet offensive buildup. In particular, the ABM Treaty and the companion Interim Offensive Agreement, contrary to U.S. hopes, led to no signifi¬ cant Soviet offensive restraint. Instead, behaving as if nuclear war would be like other wars, only bigger, the Soviets have deployed far more weapons than they need for deterrence. The SDI has already caused the Soviets to return to arms control negotiations, which they had previously walked out of.4 The best prospect for future arms control agreements lies in persuading the Soviets that their first-strike icbms will become obsolete in the face of U.S. defenses and that the most promising way of adding to Soviet security is to negotiate the reduction of both U.S. and Soviet offensive weapons while both sides emphasize defenses. Failing such persuasion, a competition in which defensive weapons had an economic advantage over offensive weapons would be more in the U.S. interest than the current situation because in the long run it should reduce net Soviet offensive capabilities. Given the asym¬ metries between the societies and the strategic objectives of the United States and Soviet Union, the arms control process as it has been con¬ ducted to date may never be to the net benefit of the United States. BMD, however, may permit pursuit of a common interest in the "as¬ sured survival" of each society. Many critics of the SDI have another perspective. They believe that given the continuing mutual ability of the United States and the Soviet Union to destroy each other's societies with several kinds of nuclear delivery vehicles (icbm, slbm, cruise missile, bomber), the Soviets do not have and cannot reasonably hope to obtain an exploitable strategic nuclear advantage. Even the narrower possibility of destroying most U.S. land-based icbms in their silos is so fraught with uncertainties that the Soviets would be irrational to try it. Moreover, there are other potential means, such as mobile basing, to increase the survivability of the icbm leg of the nuclear triad. Although certain issues of Soviet compliance with past arms control agreements need to be resolved, by and large those agreements have kept Soviet offenses below the levels they might otherwise have reached. The ABM Treaty successfully limited Soviet deployment of antiballistic missile launchers and spared the United States the need to build countering offensive and defensive weapons. Abandonment of the treaty could lead to a more costly and more dangerous arms race. Rather than having driven the Soviets back to the negotiating table, the SDI might instead have merely provided them a face-saving way to 4. The official position of both the United States and the Soviet Union is that the ongoing Geneva talks are new negotiations and do not represent a resumption of pre¬ vious ones.


The Ballistic Missile Defense Debate

reverse their previous decision—which they now regret—to stay out of arms control talks until newly deployed nuclear weapons were removed from Europe. Even though negotiations have resumed, we should be¬ lieve the Soviets when they say that U.S. BMD research and deployment would lead them to seek and deploy more offensive weapons and countermeasures rather than to agree to offensive reductions. Negotia¬ tions offer a better chance of reducing the net Soviet offensive threat to the United States than does ballistic missile defense. Whatever value SDI does have in encouraging arms control can best be realized if we agree to constraints on BMD technology development, for example by clarifying or extending provisions in the ABM Treaty, in exchange for Soviet agreement to deep cuts in offensive forces. Over the longer term, the best hope for avoiding nuclear war lies not in new military strategies or technologies, but rather in maintaining a stable balance of invulner¬ able retaliatory forces until the political relationship between the two superpowers can be considerably improved.



Research Programs

The major near term issue for the U.S. BMD research program con¬ cerns the technologies for strategic defense. There is general agreement that these technologies merit investigation. Support for BMD research, however, does not necessarily imply support for the Strategic Defense Initiative. Possible BMD research programs can differ greatly from the SDI in emphasis, direction, and level of effort. Moreover, research programs having different perceived and intended purposes—even if they have similar technical content—can have very different conse¬ quences. SDI will have a significant effect in the following areas. . . .

Urgency. Research under the SDI is intended to proceed at a "tech¬ nology-limited7 7 pace to permit a decision to be made at the earliest possible date on whether to enter full-scale engineering development; entering such development would clearly be inconsistent with ABM Treaty constraints. The pre-SDI program had no such mandate for an early decision on maintaining or abandoning the ABM Treaty.

Visibility. The SDI has much higher visibility and a much higher level of presidential attention than the previous program of research in BMDrelevant technologies. The decision to spotlight BMD has already been made, and its consequences are already being felt. These consequences certainly include a decision by the Soviets at least to explore their options to respond to the increased probability of a U.S. BMD deploy¬ ment. [73]

The Office of Technology Assessment

Direction. Under the SDI, emphasis has shifted away from fairly wellunderstood, or "mature," technologies, which generally include use of nuclear-armed interceptors, toward non-nuclear defenses, which would use much more speculative but potentially more powerful tech¬ nologies.

Budget. Over the next decade, much more is to be spent on BMD research than would have been allocated in the absence of the SDI. . . .

Arms control policy. Instead of the pre-SDI approach of seeking deep reductions of offensive forces along with maintenance of the ABM Treaty ban on defenses against ballistic missiles, current arms control policy seeks "greatly reduced levels of nuclear arms and an enhanced ability to deter war based on an increasing contribution of non-nuclear defenses against offensive nuclear arms."5 Different approaches that can be taken toward ballistic missile de¬ fense research proceed from different sets of basic assessments of the consequences of pursuing BMD research. Five such approaches that can be distinguished are presented below. These approaches differ primarily in emphasis and urgency, rather than in which technologies are to be studied. Most BMD-relevant technologies would be investi¬ gated at some level, in all five. The first approach is the SDI as proposed by the Reagan administra¬ tion. The second approach would proceed to BMD deployment faster than the SDI would be able to, and the third approach would conduct BMD research and development at a slower rate than the SDI. Each of the last two approaches is further broken down into two suboptions, which differ in the emphasis given to existing versus near term tech¬ nologies (in the second approach) or near term versus far term tech¬ nologies (in the third). The five research suboptions are defined as follows:

The SDI approach. Vigorously investigate advanced BMD technolo¬ gies with the intent to decide in the 1990s on whether to enter full-scale engineering development and subsequent deployment. This approach assumes that although current technology is not good enough to be worth deploying, the potential of advanced BMD technologies is suffi¬ ciently promising that a technology-limited effort (i.e., a program lim¬ ited by what is technologically feasible rather than by funding con¬ straints) is warranted to develop that potential. It also assumes that if 5. Quoted from 'The U.S. Strategic Concept," an address by Ambassador Paul H. Nitze before the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, March 28, 1985.


The Ballistic Missile Defense Debate

successfully developed, such technologies could make possible a na¬ tional security regime (weapons systems and arms control) preferable to the current one. The early deployment approach. Emphasize early and incremental de¬ ployment of currently available BMD technology. This approach places high strategic value on the modest levels of defensive capability which could probably be obtained today. Although the ABM Treaty permits the United States to defend some icbms with a single, highly con¬ strained defensive deployment, most early deployment proposals go beyond these constraints and could not be pursued under the existing treaty regime. Intermediate deployment approach. Emphasize research on BMD tech¬ nologies advanced beyond those available today but which, unlike many SDI technologies, might be applicable to deployments in the early to mid-1990s. This approach assumes that investigations of longer-run technologies should not delay deployments in the nearer term. Funding-limited approach. Investigate advanced BMD technologies at a funding level well below that requested for the SDI and with a much reduced sense of urgency. Like the SDI, this approach would focus on advanced technologies that may eventually make a highly capable de¬ fense possible. Unlike the SDI, however, it does not assume that we will know in a few years whether we can achieve that goal. The program would not aim toward facilitating a development decision at a particular time, nor would it include tests or demonstrations that might raise questions of compliance with the ABM Treaty. Combination approach. Balance research in advanced BMD technolo¬ gies with the development of near term deployment options that would include "traditional" BMD technologies (nuclear-armed, radar-guided interceptors) of the sort specifically mentioned in the ABM Treaty. This program, conducted at a funding level well below that requested for the SDI, would aim to deter Soviet abandonment of the ABM Treaty; to hedge against future Soviet BMD developments; to prevent technologi¬ cal surprise; and to investigate the long-term potential of advanced BMD technologies. Like the funding-limited approach, it would not include demonstrations or development work that might raise ques¬ tions of compliance with the ABM Treaty. Important issues that will be relevant to a decision among these alternative research approaches are discussed below. [75]

The Office of Technology Assessment Issues for Research and Development Programs

Maintenance of the ABM Treaty Each of the five research options cited above has different implications for the ABM Treaty. Administration policy is that the SDI approach is intended to remain within treaty bounds until a decision is made to develop BMD systems for deployment. But proposed technology ex¬ periments raise technical questions concerning compliance with treaty constraints on BMD development and testing.6 Moreover, the sense of urgency and the high visibility imparted to the SDI also raise political questions concerning the degree to which the United States is com¬ mitted to maintaining the ABM Treaty regime. Early or intermediate deployment would probably imply abandonment of the treaty, though intermediate deployment might allow time for attempts at reaching agreement with the Soviet Union on treaty revisions to permit limited deployments. The funding-limited and combination approaches would relax the urgency of BMD research, easing the political questions; to the extent that technology demonstrations were deemphasized, the techni¬ cal questions of treaty compliance would be relaxed as well. Advocates of these approaches would strive not to damage the treaty regime before we had identified a preference alternative which we were confident of attaining. The United States can plan for revision of or withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, or it can attempt to make the treaty more effective. The middle course—trying to bolster the effectiveness of the ABM Treaty in the short run (thereby preventing short-term Soviet BMD testing and deployment) while explicitly and publicly preparing to decide whether to abandon it in the future—may be the most difficult to implement. If we choose to maintain the treaty in the near term, an important issue to consider is how we can carry out our BMD research program so that it does not either prematurely compromise the ABM Treaty by encourag¬ ing Soviet exploitation of technical ambiguities or stimulate the Soviets to begin deploying BMD and enhanced offensive forces at a time more advantageous to them than to us. If we were to allow the ABM Treaty regime to erode and then find at the end of our BMD research program that the new BMD technologies did not fulfill expectations, we could end up with the worst of both worlds: no arms control to limit BMD, Soviet BMD deployment, no effective U.S. BMD, and, quite possibly, augmented Soviet offensive forces intended to overcome an anticipated U.S. BMD.


The Reagan administration has stated that it will abide by the traditional interpreta¬ tion of the ABM Treaty, though it finds the less restrictive “reinterpretation" to be legally valid. The differences between the two are especially important with regard to develop¬ ment and testing of “exotic technology" and nonfixed land-based ABM systems. See Part III for further information.


The Ballistic Missile Defense Debate

At the same time, current issues of Soviet noncompliance with the treaty must be addressed as well. If they cannot be satisfactorily re¬ solved, the United States in effect would have adopted stricter stan¬ dards of compliance than those observed by the Soviets, which might put us at a competitive disadvantage. Congress may wish to review the standards and the procedures by which U.S. activities are judged to comply with existing treaty commitments—perhaps by establishing an independent and nonpartisan com¬ mission to review Soviet BMD activities and to advise Congress and the president on compliance questions associated with BMD activities pro¬ posed by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Requirements for Arms Control In addition to their differing effects on the ABM Treaty, the alterna¬ tive BMD research approaches pose different requirements for arms control. The role of arms control under the SDI approach would be to facilitate a safe transition to a state of highly constrained offenses coupled with highly effective defenses. Such a transition agreement would have to be negotiated before actual deployments began. And it might need to take effect during the research and development stages so as to regulate offensive and defensive developments. The negotiability of any such agreement is very much in question. Nobody has yet suggested how the problems of measuring, comparing, and monitoring disparate stra¬ tegic forces—problems that have plagued past arms control negotia¬ tions—could be satisfactorily resolved in the far more difficult situation in which both offensive and defensive forces must be included. By deploying BMD in excess of ABM Treaty limits without waiting for the establishment of a replacement arms control regime, most early deployment approaches imply abandonment not only of the ABM Trea¬ ty but of the entire arms control process. Not content with the condition of strategic parity prerequisite to arms control (or, alternatively, believ¬ ing that the Soviets are not willing to settle for such a state), supporters of these approaches would instead attempt to attain and maintain a lead over the Soviets in strategic forces. Supporters of the intermediate deployment approach might see the possibility of negotiating with the Soviets over a transition not to "de¬ fense dominance" but to agreed force postures with an increased role for defenses relative to offenses. On balance, however, if such an agree¬ ment could not be reached, they would probably see uncoordinated deployments by the two sides as being more in the U.S. interest than the current ABM Treaty regime. Under the funding-limited and combination approaches, negotia-

The Office of Technology Assessment

tions with the Soviets in an attempt to establish the boundaries between permitted and proscribed BMD research would be desirable for the purpose of clarifying activities on both sides. If the prospect of the United States developing advanced technologies under the SDI ap¬ proach sufficiently concerns the Soviets, Soviet desires for limitations that would have the effect of constraining U.S. research and technology development might give the United States considerable bargaining le¬ verage. Such an agreement would almost certainly have to permit labo¬ ratory research, which would be extremely difficult to ban verifiably, but it might constrain more observable activities such as demonstra¬ tions of ABM "subcomponents" and other field experiments which the Department of Defense argues are currently not prohibited by the ABM Treaty. Although it might be difficult to construct a verifiable and equitable agreement of this sort, the task might be easier than reaching agreement on the mutual introduction of strategic defenses. Antisatellite Weapon Arms Control At the spring 1985 U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations in Geneva, the Soviets emphasized the importance they attach to limiting weapons deployed in or directed at space. . . . Antisatellite weapon technologies and BMD weapon technologies are closely related. Therefore, those favoring uninhibited research on BMD would find arms control mea¬ sures limiting antisatellite weapon testing highly constrictive. Indeed, to attempt to remain compliant with the ABM Treaty, some technology demonstrations now planned under the SDI would be conducted as antisatellite tests. On the other hand, those interested in strengthening the testing limitations in the ABM Treaty would find antisatellite weap¬ on test restrictions a useful tool in further constraining BMD develop¬ ment. R&D/Deployment Coupling There is an inherent conflict between seeking the ability to make deployment decisions in the near term and seeking to keep control over whether and when such a deployment might be made. Vigorous U.S. R&D programs could lead the Soviets to infer an intent to deploy and might stimulate them to preempt such a deployment. Therefore, pro¬ posals for a vigorous R&D program should demonstrate the ability to cope with a Soviet defensive breakout and associated Soviet offensive actions in a timely way. Offensive countermeasures would probably contribute more than defensive actions toward our ability to respond to Soviet defensive breakout. If our research program is not to be presumed to be a prelude to deployment, there must be a clearly perceived threshold that requires a [78]

The Ballistic Missile Defense Debate

positive decision—not merely the lack of a negative one—to cross. The limitations posed by the ABM Treaty provide such a threshold. Also required, however, is a clear set of decision criteria that must be met before BMD development continues past the point requiring re¬ negotiation or abrogation of the ABM Treaty. As the level of effort devoted to BMD research increases, a momentum or constituency will be created that will favor continuing and enlarging the research effort and then moving from research to demonstrations to deployment. For this reason, it would be easier to establish decision criteria before a few more years of BMD research growth has occurred and before the time comes to make the actual decision.

Technology Experiments Technology demonstration experiments are the most expensive and one of the most controversial aspects of a BMD program. Demonstra¬ tions may be useful to gauge technical progress or to provide public evidence that the technology effort in general is succeeding. Moreover, demonstrations will be needed sooner or later to determine whether some system components are feasible. On the other hand, advancing our understanding of basic principles and technologies may be prefer¬ able to demonstrating the existing state of the art. There is a risk that demonstrations may "lock in" suboptimal levels of technology and divert resources that would otherwise go toward developing improved options. Demonstrations of BMD technology are also complicated by ABM Treaty constraints on developing and testing ABM components or sys¬ tems. Experiments that raise questions of compliance with the treaty run the risk of provoking a Soviet reaction that could eliminate the option of deferring BMD deployment until technology has advanced further. One possible way to assess whether this risk is worth taking might be to require that before such experiments are approved there should be developed both a plausible system architecture that would use the particular technologies to be demonstrated and a corresponding arms control approach. Congress may wish to satisfy itself beforehand that, if the technologies prove feasible, such an architecture and arms control regime appear likely to meet satisfactorily whatever criteria are established for proceeding with BMD.

Research and Development of Offensive Forces In the absence of an agreement to forgo or drastically reduce them, there will be a role for U.S. strategic offensive nuclear forces for the foreseeable future. To ensure their effectiveness in the event that the [79]

The Office of Technology Assessment

Soviets deploy defenses, the United States will need to continue its development of penetration aids and other offensive countermeasures. Such countermeasures would minimize the potential effectiveness of Soviet defense and help deter the Soviets from abrogating the ABM Treaty or any subsequent agreement limiting defenses. Prudence dictates, however, that we assume that any offensive coun¬ termeasure the United States might develop could also be available to the Soviets, and we therefore must consider the effect of such counter¬ measures if deployed against our defenses. Development by either side of powerful offensive countermeasures conflicts with the long-term goal of minimizing the role of offenses—a problem that will be exacer¬ bated if defensive technologies have applications in offensive roles (e.g., attacking satellites or aircraft, or, particularly, attacking enemy defenses).

Relations with Allies Beyond its effects on the ABM Treaty, the U.S. BMD research pro¬ gram can have other foreign policy consequences that should be taken into account in evaluating options. Most of our allies support United States BMD research as a counter to Soviet research, and some have inquired how they can participate in this research. For the most part, however, they have deep reservations about the wisdom of deploying a strategic defense. Whether the U.S. BMD research program now, and any deployment in the future, can be conducted so as to avoid endan¬ gering the cohesion of our alliances is an important issue.

Technology Transfer The ABM Treaty prohibits the "transfer to other states" of "ABM systems or their components," or of "technical descriptions or blue prints" worked out for their construction. These provisions prohibit the signatory nations from using their allies to circumvent ABM Treaty constraints. As a result, allied participation in a treaty-compliant re¬ search program would have to be limited to research that had not reached the "system" or "component" level. More of a problem for research at this stage would be restrictions the United States itself might impose, as it does now, on the transfer of military technology to its allies for fear that such technologies may eventually reach the Soviet Union. In some discussions of BMD research or deployment approaches it has been suggested that the United States might intentionally transfer BMD technologies to the Soviet Union to prove that the United States did not seek military superiority. Any such transfer would raise two


The Ballistic Missile Defense Debate

very significant issues. First, if BMD plans or devices are transferred, potential adversaries might be able to study them to discover vul¬ nerabilities, enabling them to circumvent or destroy our own such components. Second, if technological capability is transferred, rather than specific devices, the American advantage, which enabled us to develop that technology first, would necessarily be compromised. Fur¬ thermore, many BMD-relevant technologies have applications in other military areas that we may not want to help the Soviets develop. Ap¬ proaches toward BMD that assume that we can and should maintain technological supremacy over the Soviets would not be consistent with transfer of U.S. BMD technology to them. . . .



[4] The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

Presidential Foreword

Since the advent of nuclear weapons, every president has sought to minimize the risk of nuclear destruction by maintaining effective forces to deter aggression and by pursuing complementary arms control agreements. This approach has worked. We and our allies have suc¬ ceeded in preventing nuclear war while protecting Western security for nearly four decades. Originally, we relied on balanced defensive and offensive forces to deter. But over the last twenty years, the United States has nearly abandoned efforts to develop and deploy defenses against nuclear weapons, relying instead almost exclusively on the threat of nuclear retaliation. We accepted the notion that if both we and the Soviet Union were able to retaliate with devastating power even after absorbing a first strike, stable deterrence would endure. That rather novel concept seemed at the time to be sensible for two reasons. First, the Soviets stated that they believed that both sides should have roughly equal forces and neither side should seek to alter the balance to gain unilateral advantage. Second, there did not seem to be any alternative. The state of the art in defensive systems did not permit an effective defensive system. Today both of these basic assumptions are being called into question. The pace of the Soviet offensive and defensive buildup has upset the balance in the areas of greatest importance during crises. Furthermore, new technologies are now at hand which may make possible a truly effective non-nuclear defense. Reprinted with slight modifications from The President's Strategic Defense Initiative (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 1985).


The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

For these reasons and because of the awesome destructive potential of nuclear weapons, we must seek another means of deterring war. It is both militarily and morally necessary. Certainly, there should be a better way to strengthen peace and stability, a way to move away from a future that relies so heavily on the prospect of rapid and massive nuclear retaliation and toward greater reliance on defensive systems which threaten no one. On March 23, 1983, I announced my decision to take an important first step toward this goal by directing the establishment of a com¬ prehensive and intensive research program, the Strategic Defense Ini¬ tiative, aimed at eventually eliminating the threat posed by nuclear armed ballistic missiles. The Strategic Defense Initiative is a program of vigorous research focused on advanced defensive technologies with the aim of finding ways to provide a better basis for deterring aggression, strengthening stability, and increasing the security of the United States and our allies. The SDI research program will provide to a future president and a future Congress the technical knowledge required to support a decision on whether to develop and later deploy advanced defensive systems. At the same time, the United States is committed to the negotiation of equal and verifiable agreements that bring real reductions in the power of the nuclear arsenals of both sides. To this end, my administration has proposed to the Soviet Union a comprehensive set of arms control proposals. We are working tirelessly for the success of these efforts, but we can and must go further in trying to strengthen the peace. Our research under the Strategic Defense Initiative complements our arms reduction efforts and helps to pave the way for creating a more stable and secure world. The research that we are undertaking is consis¬ tent with all of our treaty obligations, including the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In the near term, the SDI research program also responds to the ongoing and extensive Soviet antiballistic missile effort, which includes actual deployments. It provides a powerful deterrent to any Soviet decision to expand its ballistic missile defense capability beyond that permitted by the ABM Treaty. And, in the long term, we have confi¬ dence that SDI will be a crucial means by which both the United States and the Soviet Union can safely agree to very deep reductions and, eventually, even the elimination of ballistic missiles and the nuclear weapons they carry. Our vital interests and those of our allies are inextricably linked. Their safety and ours are one. They, too, rely upon our nuclear forces to deter attack against them. Therefore, as we pursue the promise offered by the Strategic Defense Initiative, we will continue to work closely with our friends and allies. We will ensure that, in the event of a future decision [83]

The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

to develop and deploy defensive systems—a decision in which con¬ sultation with our allies will play an important part—allied as well as U.S. security against aggression would be enhanced. Through the SDI research program, I have called upon the great scientific talents of our country to turn to the cause of strengthening world peace by rendering ballistic missiles impotent and obsolete. In short, I propose to channel our technological prowess toward building a more secure and stable world. And I want to emphasize that in carrying out this research program, the United States seeks neither military superiority nor political advantage. Our only purpose is to search for ways to reduce the danger of nuclear war. As you review the following pages, I would ask you to remember that the quality of our future is at stake and to reflect on what we are trying to achieve—the strengthening of our ability to preserve the peace while shifting away from our current dependence upon the threat of nuclear retaliation. I would also ask you to consider the SDI research program in light of both the Soviet Union's extensive, ongoing efforts in this area and our government's constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense. I hope that you will conclude by lending your own strong and continuing support to this research effort—an effort which could prove to be critical to our nation's future. Ronald Reagan

The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?—from President Reagan's March 23, 1983, speech

The President's Vision In his March 23 address to the nation, the president described his vision of a world free of its overwhelming dependence on nuclear weapons, a world free once and for all of the threat of nuclear war. The Strategic Defense Initiative, by itself, cannot fully realize this vision or solve all the security challenges we and our allies will face in the future; for this we will need to seek many solutions—political as well as tech¬ nological. A long road with much hard work lies ahead of us. The president believes we must begin now. The Strategic Defense Initiative takes a crucial first step. [84]

The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

The basic security of the United States and our allies rests on our collective ability to deter aggression. Our nuclear retaliatory forces help achieve this security and have deterred war for nearly forty years. Since World War II, nuclear weapons have not been used; there has been no direct military conflict between the two largest world powers; and Europe has not seen such an extended period of peace since the last century. The fact is, however, that we have no defense against nuclear ballistic missile attack. And as the Soviet building program widens the imbalance in key offensive capability, introducing systems whose sta¬ tus and characteristics are increasingly difficult to confirm, our vul¬ nerability and that of our allies to blackmail becomes quite high. In the event deterrence failed, a president's only recourse would be to sur¬ render or to retaliate. Nuclear retaliation, whether massive or limited, would result in the loss of millions of lives. The president believes strongly that we must find a better way to assure credible deterrence. If we apply our great scientific and engineer¬ ing talent to the problem of defending against ballistic missiles, there is a very real possibility that future presidents will be able to deter war by means other than threatening devastation to any aggressor—and by a means that threatens no one. The president's goal, and his challenge to our scientists and engi¬ neers, is to identify the technological problems and to find the technical solutions so that we have the option of using the potential of strategic defenses to provide a more effective, more stable means of keeping the United States and our allies secure from aggression and coercion. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, many respected scientists, and other experts be¬ lieve that, with firm leadership and adequate funding, recent advances in defensive technologies could make such defenses achievable.

What Is the President's Strategic Defense Initiative? The president announced his Strategic Defense Initiative in his March 23, 1983, address to the nation. Its purpose is to identify ways to exploit recent advances in ballistic missile defense technologies that have po¬ tential for strengthening deterrence—and thereby increasing our se¬ curity and that of our allies. The program is designed to answer a number of fundamental scientific and engineering questions that must be fully assessed. The SDI research program will provide to a future president and a future Congress the technical knowledge necessary to support a decision in the early 1990s on whether to develop and deploy such advanced defensive systems. As a broad research program, the SDI is not based on any single or preconceived notion of what an effective defense system would look [85]

The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

like. A number of different concepts, involving a wide range of tech¬ nologies, are being examined. No single concept or technology has been identified as the best or the most appropriate. A number of non-nuclear technologies hold promise for dealing effectively with ballistic missiles. We do feel, however, that the technologies that are becoming avail¬ able today may offer the possibility of providing a layered defense—a defense that uses various technologies to destroy attacking missiles during each phase of their flight. . . . The concept of a layered defense could be extremely effective because the progressive layers would be able to work together to provide many opportunities to destroy attack¬ ing nuclear warheads well before they approach our territory or that of our allies. An opponent facing several separate layers of defense would find it difficult to redesign his missiles and their nuclear warheads to penetrate all of the layers. Moreover, defenses during the boost, post¬ boost, and midcourse phases of ballistic missile flight make no distinc¬ tion in the targets of the attacking missiles—they simply destroy attack¬ ing nuclear warheads, and in the process protect people and our country. The combined effectiveness of the defense provided by the multiple layers need not provide 100 percent protection to enhance deterrence significantly. It need only create sufficient uncertainty in the mind of a potential aggressor concerning his ability to succeed in the purposes of his attack. The concept of a layered defense certainly will help do this. There have been considerable advances in technology since U.S. ballistic missile defenses were first developed in the 1960s. At the time the ABM Treaty was signed (1972), prospects for defense against ballis¬ tic missiles were largely confined to attacking nuclear warheads during the terminal phase of their flight using nuclear-tipped interceptor mis¬ siles. Since that time, emerging technologies offer the possibility of non¬ nuclear options for destroying missiles and the nuclear warheads they carry in all phases of their flight. New technologies may be able to permit a layered defense by providing sensors for identifying and track¬ ing missiles and nuclear warheads; advanced ground and space-borne interceptors and directed energy weapons to destroy both missiles and nuclear warheads; and the technology to permit the command, control, and communications necessary to operate a layered defense. In the planning that went into the SDI research program, we con¬ sciously chose to look broadly at defense against ballistic missiles as it could be applied across all these phases of missile flight: boost, post¬ boost, midcourse, and terminal. Although it is too early to define fully those individual technologies or applications that will ultimately prove to be most effective, such a layered approach maximizes the application of emerging technology and holds out the possibility of destroying


The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

nuclear warheads well before they reach the territory of the United States or our allies. As President Reagan made clear at the start of this effort, the SDI research program will be consistent with all U.S. treaty obligations, including the ABM Treaty. The Soviets, who have and are improving the world's only existing antiballistic missile system (deployed around Moscow), are continuing a program of research on both traditional and advanced antiballistic missile technologies that has been under way for many years. But while the president has directed that the United States effort be conducted in a manner that is consistent with the ABM Treaty, the Soviet Union almost certainly is violating that treaty by constructing a large ballistic missile early warning radar in Siberia (at Krasnoyarsk), which is located and oriented in a manner prohibited by the treaty. This radar could contribute significantly to the Soviet Union's considerable potential rapidly to expand its deployed ballistic missile defense ca¬ pability. The United States has offered to discuss with the Soviet Union the implications of defensive technologies being explored by both coun¬ tries. Such a discussion would be useful in helping to clarify both sides' understanding of the relationship between offensive and defensive forces and in clarifying the purposes that underlie the United States and Soviet programs. Further, this dialogue could lead to agreement to work together toward a more stable relationship than exists today.

Why SDI? SDI and deterrence. The primary responsibility of a government is to provide for the security of its people. Deterrence of aggression is the most certain path to ensure that we and our allies survive as free and independent nations. Providing a better, more stable basis for en¬ hanced deterrence is the central purpose of SDI. Under the SDI program, we are conducting intensive research fo¬ cused on advanced defensive technologies with the aim of enhancing the basis of deterrence, strengthening stability, and thereby increasing the security of the United States and our allies. On many occasions, the president has stated his strong belief that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." U.S. policy has always been to deter aggres¬ sion and will remain so even if a decision is made in the future to deploy defensive systems. The purpose of SDI is to strengthen deterrence and lower the level of nuclear forces. Defensive systems are consistent with a policy of deterrence both historically and theoretically. Today we rely almost exclusively on the threat of retaliation with offensive forces for our strategic deterrence. [87]

The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

but this has not always been the case. Throughout the 1950s and most of the 1960s, the United States maintained an extensive air defense net¬ work to protect North America from attack by Soviet bomber forces. At that time, this network formed an important part of our deterrent capability. It was allowed to decline only when the Soviet emphasis shifted to intercontinental ballistic missiles, a threat for which there was previously no effective defense. Recent advances in ballistic missile defense technologies, however, provide more than sufficient reason to believe that defensive systems could eventually provide a better and more stable basis for deterrence. Effective defenses against ballistic missiles have potential for enhanc¬ ing deterrence in the future in several ways. They could significantly increase an aggressor's uncertainties regarding whether his weapons would penetrate the defenses and destroy our missiles and other mili¬ tary targets. It would be very difficult for a potential aggressor to predict his own vulnerability in the face of such uncertainties. It would restore the condition that attacking could never leave him better off. An ag¬ gressor will be less likely to contemplate initiating a nuclear conflict, even in crisis circumstances, if he lacks confidence in his ability to succeed. Such uncertainties also would serve to reduce or eliminate the incen¬ tive for first-strike attack. Modern, accurate icbms carrying multiple nuclear warheads—if deployed in sufficiently large numbers relative to the size of an opponent's force structure, as the Soviets have done with their icbm force—could be used in a rapid first strike to undercut an opponent s ability to retaliate effectively. By significantly reducing or eliminating the ability of ballistic missiles to attack military forces effec¬ tively, and thereby rendering them impotent and obsolete as a means of supporting aggression, advanced defenses could remove this potential major source of instability. Finally, in conjunction with air defenses, very effective defenses against ballistic missiles could help reduce or eliminate the apparent military value of nuclear attack to an aggressor. If an aggressor were prevented from destroying a significant portion of our country, he would have gained nothing by attacking. In this way, very effective defenses could reduce substantially the possibility of nuclear conflict. If we take the prudent and necessary steps to maintain strong, cred¬ ible military forces, there is every reason to believe that deterrence will continue to preserve the peace. Even with the utmost vigilance, how¬ ever, few things in this world are absolutely certain, and responsible government must consider the remote possibility that deterrence could fail. Today, the United States and our allies have no defense against ballistic missile attack. We also have very limited capability to defend


The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

the United States against an attack by enemy bombers. If deterrence were to fail, without a shield of any kind, most of our population would die and our nation as we know it would be destroyed. The SDI program provides our only long-term hope to change this situation. Defenses also could provide insurance against either accidental ballis¬ tic missile launches or launches by some future irrational leader in possession of a nuclear armed missile. Such events are improbable but not inconceivable. The United States and other nuclear-capable powers have instituted appropriate safeguards against inadvertent launches by their own forces and together have formulated policies to preclude the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, it is difficult to predict the future course of events. Although we hope and expect that our best efforts will continue to be successful, our national security interests will be well served by a vigorous SDI research program that could provide an additional safeguard against such potentially catastrophic events. Today our retaliatory forces provide a strong sword to deter aggres¬ sion. The president, however, seeks a better way of maintaining deter¬ rence. For the future, the SDI program strives to provide a defensive shield but will do more than simply make that deterrence stronger. It will allow us to build a better, more stable basis for deterrence. And at the same time, that same shield will provide necessary protection should an aggressor not be deterred.

Insurance against Soviet defensive technology program. Although we refer to our program as the President's Strategic Defense Initiative, some have the misconception that the United States alone is pursuing an increased emphasis on defensive systems—a unilateral U.S. action that will alter the strategic balance. This is not the case. The Soviet Union has always considered defense to be a central and natural part of its national security policy. The extensive, advanced Soviet air defense network and large civil defense program are obvious examples of this priority. But in addition, the Soviets have for many years been working on a number of technologies, both traditional and advanced, with potential for defending against ballistic missiles. For example, while within the constraints of the ABM Treaty, the Soviet Union currently is upgrading the capability of the only operational ABM system in the world today the Moscow ABM defense system. The Soviets are also engaged in research and development on a rapidly deployable ABM system that raises concerns about their poten¬ tial ability to break out of the ABM Treaty and deploy a nationwide ABM defense system within the next ten years should they choose to do so. Were they to do so, as they could, deterrence would collapse, and we would have no choices between surrender and suicide.


The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

In addition to these ABM efforts, some of the Soviet Union's air defense missiles and radars are also of particular concern. The Soviet Union already possesses an extensive air defense network. Continued improvements to this network could also provide some degree of ABM protection for the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies—and do so all nominally within the bounds prescribed by the ABM Treaty. Since the late 1960s, the Soviet Union has also been pursuing a substantial advanced defensive technologies program—a program which has been exploring many of the same technologies of interest to the United States in the SDI program. In addition to covering a wide range of advanced technologies, including various laser and neutral particle beams, the Soviet program apparently has been much larger than the U.S. effort in terms of resources invested—plant, capital, and manpower. In fact, over the last two decades, the Soviet Union has spent roughly as much on defense as it has on its massive offensive program. The SDI program is a prudent response to the very active Soviet research and development activities in this field and provides insurance against Soviet efforts to develop and deploy unilaterally an advanced defensive system. A unilateral Soviet deployment of such advanced defenses, in concert with the Soviet Union's massive offensive forces and its already impressive air and passive defense capabilities, would destroy the foundation on which deterrence has rested for twenty years. In pursuing the Strategic Defense Initiative, the United States is striving to fashion a future environment that serves the security inter¬ ests of the United States and our allies, as well as the Soviet Union. Consequently, should it prove possible to develop a highly capable defense against ballistic missiles, we would envision parallel United States and Soviet deployments, with the outcome being enhanced mu¬ tual security and international stability.

Requirements for an Effective Defense

To achieve the benefits which advanced defensive technologies could offer, they must, at a minimum, be able to destroy a sufficient portion of an aggressor's attacking forces to deny him confidence in the outcome of an attack or deny him the ability to destroy a militarily significant portion of the target base he wishes to attack. The level of defense system capability required to achieve these ends cannot be determined at this time, depending as it does on the size, composition, effective¬ ness, and passive survivability of U.S. forces relative to those of the Soviet Union. Any effective defensive system must, of course, be survivable and cost-effective.

The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

To achieve the required level of survivability, the defensive system need not be invulnerable, but it must be able to maintain a sufficient degree of effectiveness to fulfill its mission, even in the face of deter¬ mined attacks against it. This characteristic is essential not only to maintain the effectiveness of a defense system but to maintain stability. Finally, in the interest of discouraging the proliferation of ballistic missile forces, the defensive system must be able to maintain its effec¬ tiveness against the offense at less cost than it would take to develop offensive countermeasures and proliferate the ballistic missiles neces¬ sary to overcome it. ABM systems of the past have lacked this essential capability, but the newly emerging technologies being pursued under the SDI program have great potential in this regard. Current Programs

Today, deterrent against Soviet aggression is grounded almost exclu¬ sively in the capabilities of our offensive retaliatory forces, and this is likely to remain true for some time. Consequently, the SDI program in no way signals a near term shift away from the modernization of our strategic and intermediate-range nuclear systems and our conventional military forces. Such modernization is essential to the maintenance of deterrence while we are pursuing the generation of technologically feasible defensive options. In addition, in the event a decision to deploy a defensive system were made by a future president, having a modern and capable retaliatory deterrent force would be essential to the preser¬ vation of a stable environment while the shift is made to a different and enhanced basis for deterrence. Arms Control

As directed by the president, the SDI research program will be con¬ ducted in a manner fully consistent with all U.S. treaty obligations, including the 1972 ABM Treaty. The ABM Treaty prohibits the develop¬ ment, testing, and deployment of ABM systems and components that are space-based, sea-based, or mobile land-based. As Gerard Smith, chief U.S. negotiator of the ABM Treaty, reported to the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1972, that agreement does permit research short of field testing of a prototype ABM system or component. I his is the type of research that will be conducted under the SDI program. Any future national decision to deploy defensive systems would, of course, lead to an important change in the structure of United States and Soviet forces. We are examining ways in which the offense-defense relationship can be managed to achieve a more stable balance through strategic arms control. Above all, we seek to ensure that the interaction [91]

The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

of offensive and defensive forces removes first-strike options from ei¬ ther side's capability. The United States does not view defensive measures as a means of establishing military superiority. Because we have no ambitions in this regard, deployments of defensive systems would most usefully be done in the context of a cooperative, equitable, and verifiable arms control environment that regulates the offensive and defensive developments and deployments of the United States and the Soviet Union. Such an environment could be particularly useful in the period of transition from a deterrent based on the threat of nuclear retaliation, through deterrence based on a balance of offensive and defensive forces, to the period when adjustments to the basis of deterrence are complete and advanced defensive systems are fully deployed. During the transition, arms control agreements could help to manage and establish guidelines for the deployment of defensive systems. The SDI research program will complement and support U.S. efforts to seek equitable, verifiable reductions in offensive nuclear forces through arms control negotiations. Such reductions would make a use¬ ful contribution to stability, whether in today's deterrence environment or in a potential future deterrence environment in which defenses played a leading role. A future decision to develop and deploy effective defenses against ballistic missiles could support our policy of pursuing significant reduc¬ tions in ballistic missile forces. To the extent that defensive systems could reduce the effectiveness and, thus, the value of ballistic missiles, they also could increase the incentives for negotiated reductions. Signif¬ icant reductions in turn would serve to increase the effectiveness and deterrent potential of the defensive system.

SDI and the Allies

Because our security is inextricably linked to that of our friends and allies, the SDI program will not confine itself solely to an exploitation of technologies with potential against icbms and slbms, but will also care¬ fully examine technologies with potential against shorter-range ballistic missiles. An effective defense against shorter range ballistic missiles could have a significant impact on deterring aggression in Europe. Soviet SS-20S, Scaleboards, and other shorter-range ballistic missiles provide overlapping capabilities to strike all of nato Europe. Moreover, Soviet doctrine stresses the use of conventionally armed ballistic missiles to initiate rapid and wide-ranging attacks on crucial nato military targets throughout Europe. The purpose of this tactic would be to reduce [92]

The President's Strategic Defense Initiative

significantly nato's ability to resist the initial thrust of a Soviet conven¬ tional force attack and to impede nato's ability to resupply and rein¬ force its combatants from outside Europe. By reducing or eliminating the military effectiveness of such ballistic missiles, defensive systems have the potential for enhancing deterrence not only against strategic nuclear war but against nuclear and conventional attacks on our allies as well. Over the next several years, we will work closely with our allies to ensure that, in the event of any future decision to deploy defensive systems (a decision in which consultation with our allies will play an important part), allied as well as U.S. security against aggression would be enhanced.


[5] The Soviet BMD Program Sayre Stevens

The Soviet Union and the United States are partners in the ABM Treaty that limits the BMD deployment activities each nation can pur¬ sue. Consequently, the fate of BMD development in either country depends to some extent on the direction both partners want that course to lead. The need to look Soviet BMD in the face derives more vitally, how¬ ever, from the tremendous power of the BMD factor in affecting percep¬ tions of the strategic balance between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was recognition of these effects that generated much of the support for the ABM Treaty. A means was sought to tamp down the arms race instabilities caused by perceptions of a hostile defense that could undermine deterrence by preventing the penetration of retalia¬ ting ballistic missiles. To be sure, that argument has become less com¬ pelling with the development of multiple independently targetable re¬ entry vehicles (mirvs) and the great increase in the number of missiledelivered weapons now available to both sides. Moreover, in the ab¬ sence of offensive arms limitations (or reductions, as in the strategic arms reductions talks), even larger numbers, apt to overwhelm any near term defense, could be deployed. But reducing the number of offensive weapons is on the agenda of both the United States and the ussr, and overwhelming offensive force capabilities may not be avail¬ able in all circumstances. The unsettling effect of an extensive Soviet BMD deployment on U.S. thinking is encapsulated in the possibility of having to retaliate after a Reprinted with slight modifications with permission from Ballistic Missile Defense, ed. Ashton B. Carter and David Schwartz (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, © 1984). [94]

The Soviet BMD Program

Soviet first strike, when many of our land-based intercontinental ballis¬ tic missiles have been lost, command and control are uncertain, and generating a tailored attack against the Soviet BMD is no longer possi¬ ble. BMD deployments that threaten to deny the workings of assured retaliatory response—and hence deterrence—are of course unsettling and tend to force both sides to react. The reactions are complex and involve the full range of strategic forces; this feature makes the consid¬ eration of Soviet BMD essential in any broader strategic analysis. The ABM Treaty has served to diminish these concerns, but its con¬ tinued credibility depends heavily upon the nature of Soviet BMD activities and the threats that they may pose now and in future years. Heavy emphasis is being given to reducing offensive arms arsenals to substantially lower levels in the ongoing Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (start) negotiations. Success in this endeavor can only once again heighten the significance of any disparities in the two sides' defenses and increase the importance of the perception of a balance in defensive forces. Whether the ABM Treaty can by itself maintain this perception depends on its ability to contain the pressures for change that are almost certainly building both in the United States and in the ussr as improv¬ ing technology makes effective BMD appear more feasible and easier missions such as hard target defense grow in importance. Two other factors serve to amplify the importance of Soviet BMD activities. The first of these is the threatening growth of Soviet strategic capabilities in general. Now that the Soviet Union has improved the capabilities of its counterforce weapons, the U.S. retaliatory forces ha\ e become increasingly vulnerable. This effort has been pursued with commitment and persistence over the years. A Soviet first strike might result from a judgment by leaders in the ussr in a mounting crisis that nuclear war was imminent and inevitable and that preemption was essential if important strategic advantage was not to be lost. Soviet doctrine calls for the disruption of command and control along with the destruction of offensive nuclear forces in the critical first stages of nuclear war. In these circumstances, as noted above, Soviet BMD forces could weaken the deterrent effect of a much reduced and ragged retaliatory attack. The second factor has to do with the large gaps in what we know about Soviet BMD activities. There are and always have been many uncertainties about the Soviet BMD program, its achievements, techni¬ cal objectives, and overall intent. As a result, our judgments about Soviet activities and the threat they embody are far more often a matter of conjecture than of established fact. 1 he discussion that follows will make this condition amply clear. The characteristics ascribed to the Soviet BMD program can affect perceptions of the overall strategic

Sayre Stevens

balance; also, characterization of the program can be the result of per¬ ceptions of the balance. For the pessimist anxious to support conten¬ tions of U.S. inferiority, bleak perceptions are a useful device. For those more sanguine about the balance or less concerned about its state than about provocative U.S. initiatives likely to fuel the arms race, a far less alarming interpretation of Soviet BMD activities serves a useful pur¬ pose. What is alarming to one set of viewers is perfectly explainable in benign terms to another. Uncertainties allow latitude for both persua¬ sions and prevent one group from conclusively gainsaying the other. As a result of this uncertainty, it is important that the differing per¬ ceptions of the Soviet BMD program, and their excursions from some central point, be laid out for those who are considering the future of BMD for the United States. The questions to be asked involve not only the characteristics and capabilities of the deployed Soviet BMD systems but also Soviet intentions in developing new ones and plans for ul¬ timately deploying them. Questions also arise about their augmenta¬ tion with other weapons systems—principally air defense systems— that might serve to enhance ballistic missile defenses limited by treaty. There are also questions about Soviet perceptions of U.S. technology and the capability of the United States to gear itself up to take on the BMD job once again, forcing the Soviet Union into a defensive weapon systems race. What the Soviet Union is doing in ballistic missile defense development is important to the United States not only in making decisions about its own BMD program but also in decisions about other forces and policies it might use to face the Soviet threat.


in Soviet Strategic Thinking

The Soviet BMD program is but a part of a much broader effort by the Soviet Union to develop the capabilities to pursue major strategic objec¬ tives. The BMD program must thus be considered against this broader backdrop.1 For the most part, Soviet strategic objectives are political. The Soviet Union wishes to sustain the regime, to maintain its superpower status, and to expand its influence. It tends to see the value of military power and strategic forces in their contribution to an overall, favorable "cor¬ relation of forces" (that is, a concatenation of military, economic, politi¬ cal, and social circumstances giving the Soviet Union the latitude to pursue its international goals) that will help the ussr dominate a crisis i. This treatment of Soviet strategic thinking benefits from access to unpublished work of Howard Stoertz and Mark Miller, longtime students of and writers about the strategic balance and Soviet perceptions of it. [96]

The Soviet BMD Program

or a local conflict, and, most important, deter the imperialists the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—from initiat¬ ing strategic nuclear war. Although the Soviet Union believes the ability to wage nuclear war is essential, it does not see nuclear war as desirable. The Soviet Union is averse to war but is determined that we shall be even more averse to it. Moreover, mutual vulnerability appears to be unsatisfying to the Soviet Union because such a doctrine leaves its fate in the hands of others. To accompany these political objectives, a body of doctrine has been developed providing guidelines for the conduct of strategic nuclear war. It is important to realize that Soviet doctrine is almost entirely the product of the military. Thus it is not surprising that it supports the provision of the weapons the military wants. Soviet doctrine has a much narrower and more military focus than that of the United States, whose doctrinal approaches tend to be defined in broader terms by commentators outside of the military forces. As a result, Soviet military doctrine seeks to fulfill objectives that are significant to the military and to the military mission. Broader considerations, economic consider¬ ations, for example, do not play as significant a role in Soviet military doctrine as they do in that of the United States. Compatibility of military equipment with the demands of overall strategic doctrine and weapons acquisition requirements are defined by the same community. Soviet national security policy thus has two distinct aspects. One constitutes an effort to prepare to fight and to survive a nuclear war: this is the domain of the military and produces the "military science" or doctrine underlying the selection of strategic weapons and plans for their use. The other, the domain of the political leadership, is the conduct of a peace policy intended to prevent war and limit the threat to Soviet national security through political means. It is the responsibility of the political leaders to preserve peace and that of the military to ensure the capability to punish an aggressor and survive war. Viewed in this light, the often conflicting statements about strategic policy that emerge from the ussr are easier to understand.2 In these circumstances, it is not surprising that there is some conten¬ tion in the West as to the significance of the substance of Soviet military doctrine. Some believe that although it may reflect the thinking of the military, it is not a good guide to the thinking of the Soviet political leadership, which has been far more circumspect in its views of nuclear war. But there is evidence, too, that the Soviet political leadership has been more influenced by the views of the military than has the political leadership of the United States and that the Soviet leadership has 2. David Holloway, The Soviet Union and the Arms Race (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), pp. 29-58.


Sayre Stevens

tended to defer to the military on technical defense issues.3 Thus the military's own doctrine is a significant consideration in searching for an understanding of Soviet BMD activities. Soviet strategic doctrine is predicated on having the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war to deter the imperialists.4 The Soviet Union takes the possibility of nuclear war seriously, seeking to endure the conse¬ quences of strategic nuclear warfare if it should occur. In such circum¬ stances the Soviet Union would employ all of the strategic means avail¬ able: both tactical and strategic military forces and political, diplomatic, and economic means. Principal among defined Soviet military goals of nuclear conflict would be destruction of the enemy's capacity and will to fight, maintenance of firm control over the Soviet state and its forces, preservation of a basis for military and economic reconstitution, and domination of the postwar era. The capability to achieve such goals is believed to constitute the best deterrent. Although deterrence might be less costly, the Soviet Union appears to be highly confident that, if it can meet these warfighting requirements, it will indeed deter war. Unques¬ tioned capabilities in this regard would be best, but it recognizes that full confidence can only be achieved in the future. The continuing improvement and extension of forces-in-being provide the route for getting there. Since all the goals of Soviet doctrine are not yet fulfilled and deter¬ rence is uncertain, the Soviet Union has given high value to a capacity to preempt and to launch on warning or launch under attack should it fail to preempt an enemy attack. The Soviet view of preemption is neither one of preventive war nor one associated with a "bolt-from-the-blue" attack. The Soviet Union sees general nuclear war emerging from a long period of crisis in which local conflicts may be under way in various parts of the world. War is most likely to emerge as the natural out¬ growth of such a crisis and conflict, and the problem is not so much one of choosing between peace and war as of recognizing the point at which the failure of deterrence becomes inevitable. The Soviet Union would expect to monitor the emerging situation and detect signals indicating that the United States was preparing to attack. 3. John Newhouse, Cold Dawn: The Story of SALT (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1973), p. 105; Carnegie Panel on U.S. Security and the Future of Arms Control,

Challenges for U.S. National Security: The Soviet Approach to Arms Control; Verification; Prob¬ lems and Prospects; Conclusions (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1983), p. 8. 4. Much has been written on Soviet military doctrine. For its particular relationship to BMD, see Sidney Graybeal and Daniel Goure, "Soviet Ballistic Missile Defense Objec¬ tives: Past, Present, and Future," in Ballistic Missile Defense Advanced Technology Center, U.S. Army Control Objectives and the Implications for Ballistic Missile Defense, Pro¬ ceedings of a Symposium at the Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, November 1-2, 1979 (San Jose, Calif.: Puritan Press, 1980), pp. 69-90.


The Soviet BMD Program

Because the Soviet Union has adopted a combined-arms approach not only in the use of ground forces but also in planning for the use of strategic forces in the early stage of a war, all elements of military force would become involved. It is critical in Soviet thinking to dominate this early phase of the war, to sow confusion, to interfere with the lines of command and control, to employ surprise in the hope of achieving quick success, and, finally, to limit damage to the Soviet Union from U.S. retaliation to a Soviet preemptive strike. Even with successful preemption, the Soviet Union could not escape all damage. But damage might indeed be reduced. The Soviet approach to the reduction of damage is to use not only the counterforce capability of offensive weap¬ on systems, but air defenses, civil and passive defenses, and ballistic missile defenses. The role of these strategic elements would be to limit the damage to the Soviet Union that would be caused by the forces remaining to the United States after a preemptive strike. Such a mission could significantly reduce the technical requirement put on a BMD system. BMD does not have to carry the entire brunt of thwarting an enemy attack. It also enjoys the benefits of other, complementary de¬ fenses. Air defenses reduce the consequences of aerodynamic attack; passive measures such as dispersal make targeting uncertain if not impossible; other passive civil defenses provide protection to the lead¬ ership and to vital military and industrial cadres. Because BMD has to contribute only to the limitation of damage, whatever job it can do is worthwhile; absolute effectiveness may be sought but is not essential. Any reduction of damage is seen to have value, fitting into a picture of nuclear war in which the consequences are recognized but the conflict is nevertheless seen as a real possibility. Because that possibility is taken seriously, plans must be made to endure the consequences of a war. Thus when one side buys a BMD system, it does not buy total defense in Soviet eyes, but instead some limitation of damage in circumstances that virtually deny the possibility of surviving unscathed. What might appear useless to the United States, with its much more demanding perceptions of what ballistic missile defense must provide, might ha\ e significant incremental value in Soviet military eyes. A system that is fully effective but can be made even more effective over time would not be so ridiculous an investment as it might appear to us. Unless this \ itw is understood, many aspects of the Soviet BMD program appear to be remarkable, if not incomprehensible. Although the Soviet Union has been committed for some time to the development and deployment of active defenses, it has concluded that, in general, the offense will overpower the defense. In a sense, So\iet achievements in establishing such defensive momentum are the more noteworthy because of the view embodied in Marshal V. D. Sokolov-

Sayre Stevens

sky's definitive work on Soviet doctrine that "one must recognize that present instrumentalities of nuclear attack are undoubtedly superior to the instrumentalities of defense against them." This perception serves to heighten the importance of counterforce weapons in "destroying the enemy's nuclear weapons where they are based."5 In summary, Soviet strategic thinking cannot be explained by focus¬ ing only on the effects of BMD, but these effects must be seen in conjunction with strategic counterforce strike capability and with pas¬ sive defenses that play their own part in reducing the effects of nuclear attack. This view allows the Soviet Union to recognize the predominant significance of offensive forces in the nuclear era and at the same time to establish the need for active defenses as part of its overall strategic force capabilities. The Soviet Union enjoys as well some advantages in weapons ac¬ quisition and defense expenditures that the United States does not. Because of different priorities, different methods of defining them, and a different degree of openness in the debate, the United States and the Soviet Union face different imperatives in making weapons acquisition choices. In the United States, major defense initiatives must be justified in terms that are significant to the public debate that will ensue over most large problems. In the Soviet Union this is obviously not the case. Moreover, the doctrine that has been discussed here greatly reduces the justification required for deploying and continually improving weapons systems of initially limited effectiveness. Soviet success in persistently deploying new and modified weapons systems year after year reflects this doctrinal predisposition.

Early Days in the Soviet



Quite apart from all these doctrinal trappings, it appears that the Soviet Union took to BMD research and development like a duck takes to water. It is now clear that shortly after the end of World War II, the Soviet Union first began to investigate the possibility of ballistic missile defense. In many respects this decision is not surprising. The terrible air raids that the Russian people suffered during World War II, particularly in Moscow and Leningrad, made it clear that the technical means for coping with attack from above would be an essential part of war in the future. This judgment was coupled with the commitment by the Soviet leadership to protect the homeland from the terrible ravages that it had 5. Thomas W. Wolfe, Soviet Strategy at the Crossroads, RM-4085-PR, prepared for the U.S. Air Force Project Rand (Santa Monica, Calif: Rand Corporation, 1964), pp. 243-46, quote on p. 243.


The Soviet BMD Program

suffered in World War II, a commitment probably made stronger by perceptions of Soviet unpreparedness at the outset of the war. The concern about air attack was accompanied by a growing awareness of the impact of the V-i and V-2 weapons developed by Germany and used against Britain in the latter stages of the war. There was little doubt that these weapons represented a glimpse of the future. Clearly the Soviet Union felt the need to provide itself with defenses against such threats. An opportunity to develop a technical approach was provided by the German scientists who had been rounded up in the aftermath of the war and sent to the ussr to work on Soviet systems. These were the same scientists who had developed the V-i, the V-2, and advanced German aerodynamic systems. Most important, the group also included scien¬ tists who had worked on Germany's Wasserfall antibomber missile system. Upon their return to Germany many years later, they con¬ firmed other indications that Soviet efforts to develop an air defense missile system of its own had become a very high priority. The exten¬ sion of capabilities against bombers to a capability against ballistic mis¬ siles in space became an obvious goal. The fruits of early efforts to design air defenses were fairly quick in coming. First came a remarkable deployment of jet aircraft interceptors and antiaircraft artillery. The latter development is perhaps more im¬ portant because it established a basic tie between the air defense forces and the Russian artillery, which has a long heritage. The air defense forces PVO Strany (Protivovozhdushnaya Oborana Strany) in large part grew out of the artillery forces. The PVO, which now is responsible for all aspects of air, antisatellite, and ballistic missile defense, has become a major branch of the armed services, a separate service in its own right.6 7 This development established an institutionalized military ser¬ vice dedicated to the development and operation of active defenses. The PVO was not a Johnny-come-lately but an accepted, credible player with important military credentials. Over the years, the PVO has been extremely effective in getting a large share of the military budget and acquiring more than its share of new weapons systems/ By 1952 surface-to-air missile (SAM) technology was reportedly avail¬ able to the PVO. The SA-i SAM system was under deployment around 6. Johan J. Holst, “Missile Defense: The Soviet Union and the Arms Race/' in Johan J. Holst and William Schneider, Jr., eds.. Why ABM? Policy Issues in the Missile Defense Controversy (Elmsford, N.Y.: Pergamon, 1969), pp. 146-47; Harriet Fast Scott and William F. Scott, The Armed Forces of the U.S.S.R. (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, i979)> PP- 14/ ~ 53. 7. For comparisons of strategic defense expenditures with those of other mission areas, see U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, A Dollar Cost Comparison of Soviet and U.S. Defense Activities, 1966-1976, SR77-10001 U (Washington, D.C.: CIA, 1977). [101]

Sayre Stevens

Moscow by 1956 and was capable of providing defense against mass raids on Moscow by contemporary bombers using the same tactics that were employed in World War II. The SA-2 SAM system soon followed and was widely deployed throughout the ussr in the 1960s and early 1970s. Subsequently a series of improvements and new surface-to-air missile systems have been fielded in great numbers across the Soviet Union. Together with the extensive air-warning and command-andcontrol network that supports them, these SAM systems and a vast inventory of interceptor aircraft make up the most formidable air de¬ fense system in the world.8 In the early stages of this development there could have been little debate within the Soviet Union about the value of defense or of its significance in broader strategic terms. To a people who had gone through World War II, the importance and the basic justice of having defenses in place were obvious. Work on an actual BMD program evidently began in the late 1940s or early 1950s.9 Claims have been made that the decision to pursue icbms was accompanied by the deci¬ sion to develop ballistic missile defenses.10 Whether so simple-mind¬ edly rational an approach was in fact taken can be questioned, but it is clear that by the mid-1950s the Soviet Union must have begun the development of its first BMD.11 German scientists and engineers returning to the West reported that such activities were under way and that their Soviet counterparts were working hard. The United States officially recognized the existence of such a program before i960. Moreover, there were reports that the Soviet Union was developing a major missile test range where these activities would be conducted when they reached the testing stage. In what must be considered a stroke of extreme good fortune, the West had its first clear look at these BMD activities in April i960 when a U-2 reconnaissance plane was able to take pictures of the activity under way in the region of Sary Shagan, a small village on the edge of Lake Balkash in central Asia.12 It was the next U-2 mission, one month later, that ended in the shooting down of Gary Powers and that marked the end of all U-2 overflights of the Soviet Union. It was clear from the pictures returned in April that a major program 8. Holst, “Missile Defense," pp. 147-48. 9. Raymond L. Garthoff, Soviet Strategy in the Nuclear Age (New York: Praeger, 1958), pp. 228-31. 10. C. L. Sulzberger, "Khrushchev Says in Interview He Is Ready to Meet Kennedy," New York Times, September 8, 1961, cited in Michael J. Deane, The Role of Strategic Defense in Soviet Strategy, Advanced International Studies Institute, University of Miami (Wash¬ ington, D.C.: Current Affairs Press, 1980), p. 26. 11. Graybeal and Goure, "Soviet Ballistic Missile Defense Objectives," p. 70. 12. Lawrence Freedman, U.S. Intelligence and the Soviet Strategic Threat (London: Mac¬ millan, 1977), p. 87. [102]

The Soviet BMD Program

was indeed under way and that a considerable amount of progress toward the development of BMD components had already occurred. Most striking perhaps was the Hen House radar, a very large radar whose size prevented it from being identified as a radar for some time.13 But a number of other installations as well gave evidence of the intensity and commitment of the Soviet program. The size and scope of the entire undertaking impressed everyone who saw the pictures with the prog¬ ress the Soviet Union had made in its BMD endeavor. Sary Shagan proved to be the development and testing center of the PVO. Although it was early labeled as a BMD center and was long associated principally with BMD development, it also supports the development of advanced strategic air defense systems and probably antisatellite systems as well. Its early identification as a BMD range later complicated the sorting out of the missions of new weapons systems developed there.14 Sary Shagan was a natural choice for a test range for BMD systems. It lies about a thousand miles downrange from Kapustin Yar, the Soviet Union's first ballistic missile test range, and provides coverage of the impact area for missiles launched from there. It is accessible by way of the Trans-Siberian Railroad line but at the same time is in a remote region of the Soviet Union, off the beaten track for Soviet citizens, let alone for foreign visitors. It lies deeply enough within the ussr to make it difficult to monitor from peripheral intelligence-gathering sites along the border. Because flight test operations at Sary Shagan can be con¬ ducted well below the radio horizon from such external monitoring locations, the Soviet Union has been able to conceal the details of its activities there for many years. Among the disparate elements of BMD activities that were seen at Sary Shagan in April i960 were pieces of at least three systems that were later to have BMD implications.15 These included a system (Griffon) that later appeared briefly at Leningrad and that may well have had BMD capabilities designed into it; the beginnings of the system that was to go around Moscow and is now known as the Moscow or Galosh BMD system; and finally a progenitor of one or the other of these two systems (precisely which one still remains a matter of debate). This early coverage of Sary Shagan was important in providing a basis for understanding other developments that were beginning to emerge in the 1960s. One was the beginning of deployment of a network of Hen House radars providing coverage of space to monitor satellites in orbit 13. Ibid. 14. John Prados, The Soviet Estimate: U.S. Intelligence Analysis and Russian Military Strength (New York: Dial, 1982), p. 155. 15. Ibid., pp. 152-55-

Sayre Stevens

and to provide early warning (and some tracking information ) of icbms launched from the United States.16 As the system grew, it provided a span of radar coverage that could provide a foundation of long-range acquisition sensors for a nationwide BMD system involving terminal or local defenses. This radar infrastructure is the basis of much of the concern about "rapidly deployable" Soviet BMD capabilities. It has also been contended that the network may provide necessary radar support to less capable systems such as air defense SAMs upgraded so as to have some BMD capabilities. The next occurrence of significance for Soviet BMD in the early 1960s was the series of nuclear tests that occurred at the Sary Shagan-Kapustin Yar test ranges in October 1961 and again a year later. During these tests, missiles were launched from Kapustin Yar into the impact area in conjunction with BMD activities at Sary Shagan.17 Also associ¬ ated with these events was the detonation of a number of nuclear weapons at high altitude, presumably to assess the effectiveness of BMD systems in a nuclear environment. In the same general time period, a beginning was made on the de¬ ployment of a defensive missile system around Leningrad; the elements of this system had been seen at Sary Shagan in i960 and it was believed to be the beginning of a nationwide Soviet BMD deployment.18 More will be said about that system shortly. Within several years a second deployment effort began in the Mos¬ cow area. Critical components of this system were related to installa¬ tions that had been seen at Sary Shagan. With these activities, Soviet BMD efforts more or less came out of the closet. There was much commentary in the Soviet press about the BMD program, and promi¬ nent spokesmen indicated that the Soviet Union was on its way to the actual deployment of a BMD system. In October 1961, at the TwentySecond Party Congress, Marshal Rodion Malinovsky noted that "the problem of destroying enemy missiles in flight has been successfully resolved.19 Shortly thereafter. Chairman Nikita Khrushchev made his famous statement that the Soviet missile defense forces could "hit a fly" in space.20 Given this lead, the popular press on defense technology was filled with articles both tutorial and hortatory dealing with the 16. Freedman, U.S. Intelligence, p. 157. For the coverage currently provided by this early warning network as it has been extended and improved over the years, see U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1983, 2d ed. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1983). 17. Freedman, U.S. Intelligence, p. 87; Prados, Soviet Estimate, pp. 152-53. 18. Freedman, U.S. Intelligence, p. 91. 19. Pravda, October 25, 1961. 20. Theodore Shabad, “Khrushchev Says Missile Can 'Hit a Fly' in Space," New York Times, July 17, 1962.


The Soviet BMD Program

problems of ballistic missile defense in general and the accomplish¬ ments of the Soviet Union in particular.21 Even in the early days, some conclusions could be drawn about Soviet BMD design proclivities. One of the most remarkable was the clear difference between the approach taken by those who designed the system around Moscow and those working on the Leningrad system and it successors in later years. The Moscow system used very large components, particularly large radars with a large power-aperture product that enabled them to search for and track missile reentry vehicles at very long ranges. Although adequate for dealing with individual targets, the radars lacked the sophistication to deal with many targets at one time. When we first saw the Galosh missile (the interceptor used with the Moscow ABM system) paraded in 1964, we found it to be huge,22 in fact, the Galosh interceptor was larger than the Minuteman icbm it was presumably to counter. Thus one Soviet approach to BMD, perhaps the product of one develop¬ ment group, addressed the problem by building equipment that was especially designed to deal with the extraordinary difficulties of inter¬ cepting small missile reentry vehicles at very long ranges. The other development line took a very different approach, character¬ ized by the attempt to improve air defense technology to the point that it could cope with missile intercepts. Whether the early products of this design approach had significant BMD capabilities has long been de¬ bated.23 In any event, this line of development has continued to the present day.24 All of the systems produced by this approach have a strong air defense look and seem to seek an antiballistic missile ca¬ pability through the strengthening of a basic antiaircraft approach. Other characteristics of Soviet BMD technology were evident in this early period; it was clearly limited and unsophisticated by U.S. stan¬ dards. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union had made a genuine commit¬ ment to the development, testing, and even deployment of the systems it produced. These systems were Tadar heavy ; the Soviet Union was not at all reluctant to add whatever elements were required to do the job, proliferating radars at heavy cost. In the Moscow system in particu¬ lar, the costs associated with the very large radars must have been

21. There were a large number of such articles. A serious contribution to popular articles in this general line was that of Major General Nikolai Talensky, Anti-Missile Systems and the Problems of Disarmament," Mezhdunarodnaya zhizti , no. 10 (October 1964), pp. 28-34. See Deane, The Role of Strategic Defense in Soviet Strategy. 22. Freedman, U.S. Intelligence, p. 89. 23. Ibid., p. 91. 24. The "rapidly deployable" ABM-X-3 system shows a greater similarity to more recent Soviet SAM system developments than to the Moscow system.

Sayre Stevens

monumental. The Soviet Union was willing to meet that radar challenge without a visible flinch. It was also evident that the Soviet Union was concerned about deal¬ ing with the operational realities of BMD. The nuclear tests of 1961 and 1962 revealed a concern for the operation of the system in conditions representative of nuclear war. This attempt to replicate the conditions under which the systems might be used went far beyond the U.S. approach of gathering data in the hope that a wide range of specific operational conditions could then be derived from more basic data. The Leningrad system with its Griffon missile constituted the first deployment effort of the group approaching BMD along the air defense line; whether the system actually included a BMD capability remains uncertain. The first indications of its deployment occurred in the form of clearings that appeared in the early 1960s.25 A number of elements went in. By 1962 as many as thirty launch positions had been observed in the process of deployment. The elements used were similar to those first seen at Sary Shagan. Moreover, they were deployed in a position not only to give protection to Leningrad as part of the Russian center and a key target area within the Soviet Union, but also to cover the flight paths into the western ussr of missiles or aircraft launched from the United States. There was, from the start, a good deal of skepticism about whether the system had a significant BMD role, but its origins at Sary Shagan and its association in time with the rash of Soviet statements about new-found BMD capabilities fueled the first of those who argued in favor of such a role. Nonetheless, the elements that went into the system showed little promise of being able to cope with the rapidly developing offensive missile threat. Whatever the case, the Soviet Union quickly concluded that the system lacked the capabilities it sought, and deployment was stopped a year or so after it had begun.26 The system was never to be seen again. Such a decision was not as surprising as it might appear, for in that period the Soviet Union on occasion undertook the concurrent deployment and development flight testing of strategic weapons systems. The Leningrad system might be left in historical peace had it not become a significant element in the later debate about whether new strategic defensive weapons systems that appeared to have an air de¬ fense role also embodied by design a capability for dealing with some ballistic missiles. This debate first centered on the Leningrad system itself and set the stage for later debates about other systems.27 There 25. Graybeal and Goure, "Soviet Ballistic Missile Defense Objectives," p. 70. 26. Prados, Soviet Estimate, pp. 153-54; Graybeal and Goure, "Soviet Ballistic Missile Defense Objectives," p. 72. 27. Prados, Soviet Estimate, pp. 155-71; Freedman, U.S. Intelligence, pp. 90-96. [106]

The Soviet BMD Program

were those who argued on the basis of its capabilities as derived from the analysis of imperfectly seen and understood system components, and those who put greater importance on early Sary Shagan connec¬ tions, its deployment location, and so on. In neither case was sufficient information available to make a conclusive argument. It may never be known for sure whether the system did have a designed BMD role. It is possible that under pressure from Khrushchev, who was not unwilling to demand the fulfillment of his bluffs by his military forces, the design¬ ers were obliged to produce a system with nominal BMD capabilities, and did the best they could, but that they were unable to complete deployment when the greater capabilities of the Moscow system became available. If such were the case, it is likely that the Leningrad system was designed to intercept high-altitude aircraft targets and given a limited capability against ballistic missiles. The ballistic missile intercept ca¬ pability might have given promise against a very limited threat, but it was incapable of dealing with emerging new icbm developments. The system at Leningrad might have been dismantled because of dissatisfac¬ tion with its capability as a high-altitude air defense system as well. In the aftermath of the U-2 experience, the demands for such a defense were beginning to wane, and it may have appeared wise to wait until the follow-on SA-5 system, which by that time was being developed, came on the scene.


Moscow ABM


Whatever uncertainty may have existed about the Leningrad system and its Griffon missile, there was never any doubt about the design intentions of the Moscow system. On the eve of the conclusion of the ABM Treaty, the system consisted of the Hen House, Dog House, and Cat House search and target acquisition radars; mechanically steered dish antennas for tracking targets and for tracking the interceptor mis¬ siles and guiding them to their targets; and Galosh nuclear-armed inter¬ ceptor missiles. The broad network of Hen House radars around the periphery of the Soviet Union was capable of providing early warning and missile acquisition information to the defenses around Moscow. The Hen House network was vulnerable to nuclear attack itself, chiefly because its operation in the very high frequency (VHF) region made it susceptible to nuclear blackout.28 The installations themselves were very soft, indeed, they were so large as to make nuclear hardening unthinkable. Nevertheless, they did provide a base for detecting incom28. Mark B. Schneider, "Russia and the ABM," Ordnance 56 (March-April



Sayre Stevens

ing ballistic missiles at extremely long ranges and could characterize, at least roughly, the approaching attack. A very large A-frame radar (which came to be known as the Dog House) was built in the Moscow area. It is believed to provide battle management for the totality of the Moscow defense, assigning targets to the tracking radars and intercep¬ tors and providing target acquisition information to the tracking radars. In the 1970s, a second battle management radar much like the first and imaginatively labeled the Cat House was added to the system.29 It provided coverage in additional sectors, though it still did not close all of the attack corridors to Moscow. Both the Dog House and the Cat House are immense phased-array radars capable of handling several targets simultaneously. The exact number is not known, but the use of phased-array technology to provide this coverage was almost surely dictated by the need for multiple-target-handling capability. Since the principal limitation on target handling is probably the data-processing capacity available, which is virtually impossible to deduce, the uncer¬ tainty is not likely to be removed. Undoubtedly the system incorporates a large computing center able to process the data taken and to provide battle management guidance to the terminal defensive locations. Standing behind this impressive radar front end were the defenses themselves. When finally developed, each of the four defense com¬ plexes consisted of a set of two identical installations, each containing a large target-tracking radar, two smaller but similar missile-tracking radars, and launching facilities for eight Galosh interceptors. The tar¬ get-tracking radars were large dishes designed after the antennas used in earlier years for radio astronomy. Similar installations were later seen at satellite communications ground stations. The use of mechanical steering limited their effectiveness to the tracking of one or possibly two targets at one time.30 It was also clear that the radars had to be given target acquisition information by either the Hen House network or the Dog House or Cat House battle management radars, which were able to scan electronically. Without acquisition by these radars, the capabilities of the Moscow system were limited. The missile-tracking radars were similar to but smaller than the target-tracking radars. That they could track and guide only a limited number of intercepting missiles simultaneously probably explains why there were two in association with each target-tracking radar and eight Galosh interceptor missiles. The arrangement suggested that two Gal¬ osh missiles could be launched against a single target and tracked by the 29. Jacquelyn K. Davis et al.. The Soviet Union and Ballistic Missile Defense (Cambridge, Mass.: Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, 1980), p. 55. 30. Freedman, U.S. Intelligence, pp. 88-90; Gerard Smith, Doubletalk: The Story of the First Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980), p. 302. [108]

The Soviet BMD Program

two missile-tracking radars. The computer center at the facility would calculate the guidance required by the interceptors so as to close with the incoming target reentry vehicle. The Galosh missile was first seen in the November 1964 parade. Its very size indicated it was an exoatmospheric interceptor capable of carrying out engagements at extremely long ranges. The Soviet Union announced this capability to be in the range of hundreds of miles from the launch point.31 For intercepts at such ranges, the use of a nuclear weapon was required to ensure kill. The Galosh was able to carry a weapon of very large yield.32 The range of the Galosh and the capabilities of the radars associated with the system enabled the Moscow ABM system to cover an area of many thousands of square miles. Its footprint of coverage extended well beyond the limits of Moscow. When operating at its outermost limit, the system could in effect provide defense for much of the European ussr, though such calculations ignore operational requirements that might have constrained the actual performance of the system. The defensive complexes themselves were located around a ring some forty to fifty miles from the center of Moscow.33 The extremely long range of the system made it possible to use a shoot-look-shoot tactic of defense. One Galosh could attempt an inter¬ cept at very long ranges, the radar could detect the success or failure of that intercept, and a second intercept could be attempted in the high endoatmospheric region. Such tactics would, of course, make fairly high-confidence intercepts possible, a capability of some significance in dealing with third-country or accidental attacks. For taking on the full brunt of a U.S. attack, however, the Moscow system was extremely limited. Saturating the radars with more targets than they could handle was an obvious penetration tactic. By the time the ABM Treaty was signed, the United States had been deploying mirvs on its icbms for two years, thus increasing the number of weap¬ ons available for saturation. The system was also vulnerable to the use of exoatmospheric decoys and particularly to the use of chaff to conceal the location of actual reentry vehicles from radars required to detect and track them at long ranges while they were still outside the atmosphere. Long trains of chaff clouds, each of which might contain an RV, effec¬ tively saturated the system. Finally, the system as a whole was ex¬ tremely vulnerable to nuclear effects. Any leakage of attacking missiles 31. Freedman, U.S. Intelligence, pp. 89-90. 32. Norman Polmar, Strategic Weapons: An Introduction (New York: Crane, Russak, 1975), p. 60; Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, Scope, Magnitude, and Implications of the United States Antiballistic Missile Program, 90th Cong., 1st sess., 1968, p. 66. 33. Freedman, U.S. Intelligence, p. 88. [109]

Sayre Stevens

through the defense might eliminate the Hen House radars on the periphery of the Soviet Union and the Dog House and Cat House radars, which were vital elements to the effective working of the de¬ fense. Perhaps even more important, those radars were susceptible to blackout caused by bursts within their viewing sectors. The defensive interceptor complexes themselves were (and are) also soft, though the tracking radars operate at higher frequencies and in locations that could reduce blackout effects. As noted above, some attack corridors were not entirely closed by the forward radars. Ballistic missiles could be fired into the Moscow area without being detected by the defenses unless the target-tracking radars were able to operate in a very clumsy mechanical scan mode. Were they to do this, they would be occupied with the search function and would be unavailable for intercept operations against attacks in other corridors. The question of why the Soviet Union chose to deploy the system in view of all these limitations is an interesting one. No fully satisfying answer can be given. Early Soviet enthusiasm was followed by later doubts. It was clearly a major decision and one that involved substantial costs. The Soviet Union was nevertheless undeterred either by the shortcomings or by the high costs. It chose to deploy and to maintain the system until recently, when it undertook a program of improve¬ ment.34 The Moscow system did have some importance in coping with accidental launches or, perhaps, with very limited attacks from the United States. It had some utility against the Force de Frappe of France and the British deterrent force, providing a limited defense to the target that obviously counted most, Moscow. It would have been effective against the small portion of the Chinese missile force able to reach Moscow. The Moscow ABM deployment decision is by and large compatible with the Soviet weapons acquisition approach. High premium is given to forces in being—that is, forces in the field, even those with limited capabilities. Such forces are a base upon which improvements can be made so as to provide in the long run a capability that could not have been obtained without making a modest start. It is compatible as well with the Soviet damage-limiting doctrinal mentality discussed above. Most important, it would limit damage to the area that is essential to the continuation of the Soviet political regime—Moscow, the heart of the motherland and an economic, military, industrial, and political center. Construction of the Moscow system began in the early 1960s. It was clear by 1965 that the Soviet Union was deploying a BMD. The elements of the system once again could be related to some seen at Sary Shagan. 34. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1983, p. 28.


The Soviet BMD Program

Work on the system continued, accelerating during 1966 and 1967. Originally, it appeared that the defenses were to involve eight com¬ plexes accounting for a total of 128 interceptor missiles. In 1967, how¬ ever, only six of the eight were under active construction. Work con¬ tinued, and initial operational capability of the system was probably achieved in the late 1960s. In 1968 work on two of the six complexes stopped, leaving the system with a total of four complexes and 64 interceptor missiles. By 1970 or 1971, the system was probably fully operational.35 The termination of two of the six planned complexes can only have indicated a change in heart by the Soviet Union with regard to the efficacy of the Moscow system. At the same time, there was a general shift in the treatment of BMD by the Soviet press, and the earlier glowing accounts of the BMD capabilities of the ussr were toned down. Debates about the costs and benefits and effectiveness of BMD systems also appeared to be under way.36 The question of whether the Moscow system would be extended beyond Moscow undoubtedly had been debated, and a decision was made not to do so. This decision was probably the result of a growing recognition of the shortcomings of the Moscow system, particularly with the appearance of MiRved icbms in the U.S. arsenal. The high cost of the radars and the installation must have had an effect as well. On the eve of the ABM Treaty it appeared that the Soviet Union was waiting for significant improvements in technology before proceeding further with BMD deployments. In 1972 the Soviet Union and the United States signed the ABM Treaty con¬ straining the deployment of BMD to two hundred interceptors at two locations. In 1974 an agreement reduced this to one hundred intercep¬ tors at one location in each country. The United States deployed the Safeguard BMD at Grand Forks, deactivating it as soon as it had become operational in 1975- There was never any serious doubt that the Soviet location would remain at Moscow.

The Soviet Union and the



It is not the purpose of this chapter to unravel the intricacies of the first round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (salt i) that led to the conclusion of the ABM Treaty in 1972. That has been done elsewhere 35. Freedman, U.S. Intelligence, pp. 88, 90. 36. There are indications of a running debate within the Soviet Union relating to the efficacy of ballistic missile defense. These seem to have existed as early as 1963-64 and as late as 1973-74. See Wolfe, Soviet Strategy at the Crossroads, p. 242; Thomas W. Wolfe, Soviet Power and Europe, 1945—1970 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970), pp. 43^41; and Holloway, The Soviet Union and the Anns Race, p. 167.


Sayre Stevens

and in far better fashion than this author could possibly do.37 But the treaty and Soviet adherence to it raise a number of interesting ques¬ tions. The significance of BMD to the Soviet Union and to its underlying doctrine of damage limitation has been discussed at some length here. The question left, then, is: Why was the Soviet Union so anxious to reach agreement on an ABM Treaty with the United States? Certainly the Soviet Union started out on its ABM venture in the aftermath of World War II with great insouciance. It seemed a natural course to take in light of a long-standing Soviet proclivity toward the development of massive defenses. Little thought surely was given in those early days to the destabilizing effects of BMD, which later became a central part of the debate surrounding salt i and the ABM Treaty. The Soviet Union resisted U.S. enthusiasm for limiting arms control to defensive systems in 1967. Nevertheless, it did give a generally positive response conditioned on linking offensive and defensive con¬ trols in proposed arms limitations talks. It came as a real surprise to some when, at the first session of salt i in Helsinki in November 1969, the Soviet representatives spoke enthusiastically about a limitation of BMD systems. They even began to speak of the destabilizing effects of BMD in terms that had become popular in the United States. At Helsin¬ ki in 1969 they took the initiative to note the possibility of a total ban on deploying BMD systems. Most Americans assumed that the Soviet Union would be unwilling to give up the Moscow defense, and this contributed to the decision to adopt a position giving the Soviet Union the opportunity to preserve the defense elements already in place. Thus in the next round of salt i in 1970 the United States proposed limiting deployment to a single site for defense of the National Command Authority (NCA) in Washington or Moscow. The Soviet delegates quickly accepted the proposed NCA defense, permitting retention of the Moscow system. In all too typical fashion, the United States then had second thoughts, fearing that the lack of congressional enthusiasm for ABM deployment in populated1 areas would, in effect, prevent the United States from implementing that option itself. As a result, the Soviet Union would emerge from the negotiations with the Moscow defense and the United States with none at all. The United States then proposed a complete ABM ban as an alternative. When the Soviet Union reaffirmed its acceptance of the NCA-level ABM limits, the United States replied to the Soviet Union, in effect, "We've given you a choice but you made the wrong one—now pick again." The Soviet delegates continued to express a preference for NCA defense. Later, the United States introduced still other ABM 37. Newhouse, Cold Dawn; Smith, Doubletalk.

The Soviet BMD Program

deployment options, including a disparity of four to one (then three to one, then two to one) in favor of a U.S. defense deployment to protect its ballistic missiles. In the end, the treaty allowed for two deployments on each side, one to protect the National Command Authority and one to protect a limited portion of its icbm forces. In 1974 that agreement was modified to allow each side only one site. With the ABM Treaty, the Soviet Union accepted constraints that would limit its opportunities to carry its BMD program beyond the deployment at Moscow. What had begun several years before as Soviet objection to the suggestion of constraining defensive weapons system deployment alone in the interest of stability and an appropriate strategic balance had now become a vigorous Soviet effort to "snare the cher¬ ished ABM agreement."38 Alternative explanations for the change have been offered. On one hand, the Soviet Union may have been respond¬ ing to the interests of expediency, limiting the capabilities of the United States to pursue its better BMD technology. On the other hand, the Soviet Union might, indeed, have been convinced by the strategic concept of mutual assured destruction and the destabilizing effects of widespread BMD deployment.39 There seems to this author to be little doubt that the Soviet Union was, in fact, behaving in an expedient manner.40 The Safeguard and the Site Defense BMD programs, well under way in the United States in the early 1970s, embodied substantially more sophisticated and powerful technology than did the Moscow system. Moreover, there were clear indications on the part of the United States that, despite a lack of public acceptance, the defense community had plans for the fairly broad ex¬ pansion of BMD deployments in the future. Possession of such a BMD capability by the United States would constitute a threat to important elements of Soviet doctrine. The deployment of defenses to protect U.S. icbm sites would threaten the Soviet Union's capability to acquire the preemptive counterforce capability that was the key to its damagelimitation doctrine and the element of that doctrine that seemed most achievable in the near term. Other factors were important in this decision as well. Undoubtedly, it was a difficult and pragmatic decision that the Soviet Union had to make. A political rationale for the decision could be found in a belief that the time was right to make gains through detente. From a military point 38. Newhouse, Cold Dawn, p. 214. 39. Thomas W. Wolfe, The SALT Experience: Its Impact on U.S. and Soviet Strategic Policy and Decisionmaking, R-i686-PR, prepared for the U.S. Air Force Project Rand (Santa Monica, Calif: Rand Corporation, 1975), pp. 116-21, for a discussion of these differing explanations of the causes for change in Soviet views toward BMD limitation. 40. For a different view, see Chapter 8 below. [113] I

Sayre Stevens

of view, it was important to avert the threat to Soviet strategies that might emerge from giving U.S. icbms carrying mirvs BMD protection against a preemptive strike. The ABM Treaty ensured penetration by the Soviet Union's own future mirvs to meet damage limitation objec¬ tives. It might well have seen the other defenses—which it alone was establishing in depth, such as air defenses, civil defenses, and dispersal practices—as providing partial compensation for the limitation of BMD that resulted. It seems clear that the Soviet Union had by this time a growing appreciation of the weaknesses of the BMD technology it had available and had concluded that the Moscow system was not suitable for wide¬ spread deployment throughout the ussr. Assessments of Soviet BMD technology in this period showed that it lagged behind that of the United States by about ten years. The decision to accept the ABM Treaty avoided the very heavy expenses associated with widespread deploy¬ ment of the Moscow system. The treaty was undoubtedly easier for the United States to accept, particularly in the aftermath of the bitter ABM debate of the 1960s, which made it clear that widespread ABM deploy¬ ment was going to find rough sledding. salt 1 served to focus one of the great debates relating to Soviet BMD activities. This debate involved the so-called SAM upgrade controversy turning on whether the Soviet Union could somehow enable its widely deployed SAM air defenses to serve a useful BMD role. The Soviet Union had at the time nearly ten thousand surface-to-air missiles de¬ ployed throughout the country, which unquestionably provided a for¬ midable base could such a weapon be "upgraded." This matter had a peculiar significance for the U.S. perception of the Soviet ABM threat.41 The origins of the debate lay with the inability of the intelligence community to establish conclusively the mission of the SA-5 system being deployed throughout the Soviet Union during this period. Known in the West as the Tallinn system because of its initial deploy¬ ment near the capital of Estonia, it represented a substantially improved weapons system that appeared at the outset to be either a product of the "Leningrad approach" to achieving BMD through air defense technol¬ ogy, or to be an improved air defense system somewhat more capable than the SA-2, or to be some combination of the two.42 That the SA-5 was developed at Sary Shagan constituted something like prima facie evidence of a BMD role. The SA-5 missile appeared to have some relationship with the Griffon interceptor used by the Lenin¬ grad system. Moreover, a relationship between these two systems had 41. Newhouse, Cold Dawn, pp. 11-12. 42. This debate is discussed in detail in Freedman, U.S. Intelligence, pp. 90-96, and Prados, Soviet Estimate, pp. 164-71.

The Soviet BMD Program

been noted at Sary Shagan. Some U.S. analysts further argued that the location of the early deployment of the system, in the Baltic region, was in the corridor of attacking U.S. missiles.43 On the other side of the question, the SA-5 system looked very much like an air defense system, not unlike the SA-2 and SA-3 systems in many respects. Moreover, an assessment of the capabilities of the system (as it was so imperfectly seen and understood) raised serious doubts that it had the capacity to do a significant BMD job. The debate between those who emphasized one or the other set of considerations raged for many years and is not yet entirely dead. There are many who still believe that some BMD capability is embodied in the SA-3 or could be achieved rather easily if the Soviet Union chose to do so. Most, however, recognize the SA-3 as a widely deployed surface-to-air missile system providing defense against aircraft at long ranges and up to very high altitudes. One difficulty in making the air defense story for the SA-3 was that there simply was no requirement for an air defense with these ca¬ pabilities at the time it was deployed. It could be shown, however, that when the SA-3 was being conceived and developed, the United States was preparing to develop and had in its defense plan the B-70 bomber, a high-altitude bomber that was to replace the B-32. The long lead time to deployment that characterized Soviet systems and the inertia of the Soviet weapons acquisition process might explain the continuing com¬ mitment to the SA-3 after the B-yo's demise. In broader terms, the entire SA-3 debate served to focus attention on the possible use of air defense systems to provide BMD protection. Many in the United States were deeply concerned that, because of its extensive SAM deployment, the Soviet Union would have actual ABM capability despite the ABM Treaty, while the United States had none. There was no broadly deployed SAM defense in the United States that could provide the basis for a comparable upgrade. In the course of investigating the validity of these concerns, the SA-2 and even the SA-i systems were examined in detail to establish what capabilities the Soviet Union had in dealing with U.S. icbms. For any SAM system there are some major problems in performing the BMD mission. Searching for and detecting reentry vehicles (which even by 1970 were able to achieve very low radar cross sections) at long enough range to effect intercept was a serious problem for a surface-to-air missile radar designed to operate against much larger aircraft. Acquir¬ ing the target was another problem, as the acquisition radars used with SAM systems also normally operate against targets with higher radar cross sections flying at much lower speeds. Circularly scanning radars. 43. Prados, Soviet Estimate, p. 160.

Sayre Stevens

requiring several scans to detect the target in its approach to the de¬ fenses, were simply inadequate to detect strategic ballistic missiles that could come from almost any direction. Quite apart from the radar problems, the surface-to-air missiles that were used for air defense generally were not fast enough to deal with the high speeds of reenter¬ ing missile warheads. To achieve a kill at all they almost certainly required a nuclear warhead, and it was not so clear in that period that nuclear warheads were available for these SAM missiles. Finally, the intercept time lines and the limitations on missiles and radars resulted in a requirement for extremely rapid reaction times, which normally can be accomplished only through automated processing and decision mak¬ ing. Soviet SAMs used a manual system with reaction times substan¬ tially longer than were suitable for coping with the ballistic missile threat. The general view was that SAM systems were marginal at best. Even so, there were always reasons why they could function against specific U.S. reentry vehicle targets. It was characteristic of some U.S. icbms, for example, that the tank closely followed the reentry vehicle, so that the problem of acquiring very small reentry vehicles was obviated by the opportunity simply to track the very large tank. Like the accompanying tanks, the higher cross sections of reentry vehicles at particular stages of reentry—such as the windshield burnoff point for the Mark II reentry vehicle—might serve to ease the radar problem as well. Other compara¬ ble difficulties with the U.S. force turned out to have similar effects; and so the debate raged as each side developed new arguments to overcome the objection of the other. The peripheral Hen House radars, for exam¬ ple, conceivably could have reduced significantly the acquisition prob¬ lem for widely deployed SAM systems by providing handover data that would have enabled them to avoid having to search for incoming RVs. The density of deployed Soviet air defense radars and SAM systems was such that the coordinated use of several radars within a cluster of SAM sites could provide another mechanism for acquiring targets. The underlying concern in all of this discussion of the SAM upgrade problem was that the improvements at issue could be made to particular SAM sites without being detected. One could not, for example, provide assurance to those who were worrying about this problem that the SA-2 had not been specially configured in some locations to provide the engagement radar with greater power, automated target-handling equipment, and so on. In these circumstances there simply was no way to rule out the possibility that the widely deployed Soviet SAMs could not offer some degree of protection against a ballistic missile attack. Most who worked on the problem thought the likelihood of this was low and that indeed the systems could have provided very marginal

The Soviet BMD Program

protection at best. But their numbers were large enough to have made a significant contribution, particularly in view of the Soviet doctrinal commitment to damage limitation. Concerns about SAM upgrade had a substantial effect on the ABM Treaty negotiations. A number of provisions were sought that would protect the United States against the possibility. The most important of these provisions established a basis for the identification of ABM radars and limited both their number and their allowable radiated power. They also limited the radiated power of most non-ABM phased-array radars that might be widely deployed. The objective of these provisions was to prevent the widespread deployment of a radar base that might be used in conjunction with other missile systems. A provision of the treaty specifically prohibited the testing of air defense weapons systems in an ABM mode, though no precise definition of "testing in an ABM mode" could be agreed upon. Most important, each party undertook "not to give missiles, launchers, or radars, other than ABM interceptor mis¬ siles, ABM launchers, or ABM radars, capabilities to counter strategic ballistic missiles or their elements in flight trajectory, and not to test them in an ABM mode."44 A significant loophole was left in the protections against SAM up¬ grade: antitactical ballistic missile (atbm)—as opposed to strategic bal¬ listic missile—defenses. Because the United States was in the process of developing the SAM-D air defense for deployment with ground forces in Europe, and it was hoped that SAM-D could be given the capability of intercepting short-range Soviet ballistic missiles deployed with their tactical forces, no specific constraints against this class of BMD system were included in the treaty provisions. More must be said about the whole problem of SAM upgrade below, but the SAM-D safety net that was employed during the negotiations of the ABM Treaty may prove to be one of our more worrisome problems in the future. The Soviet negotiators were tough in salt i and in the ABM Treaty discussions. The negotiations were adversarial, and it was understood by both sides that they were acting in pursuit of their own national interests. Thus it is not surprising that the Soviet Union has employed a strict and literal interpretation of the treaty in developing a pattern of compliance with its provisions. The Soviet delegates were not forth¬ coming with the technical details of their systems or their plans about future ones. The United States had little reason to expect anything else. In the aftermath of the treaty, however, it is notable that the Soviet Union and the United States have had substantially different attitudes 44. Article VI of the ABM Treaty, in U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Arms Control and Disarmament Agreements: Texts and Histories of Negotiations, usacda I ub. No. 105 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982), p. 141.


Sayre Stevens

with regard to compliance with the treaty. As noted above, the Soviet Union has approached the problem of compliance in a narrow, legalistic way in which the letter of the treaty has been interpreted to Soviet advantage. The Soviet Union has operated in such a way as to be constrained only by positively expressed prohibitions included in the basic language of the treaty. It has felt little compunction in pursuing BMD-related activities not specifically excluded by explicit and unam¬ biguous treaty provisions. For its part, the United States has tended to be affected far more by the spirit of the treaty. The sense of urgency in investigating the technology of ballistic missile defense, in gaining ex¬ perience in the operation of BMD systems, and in preparing for the possibility that the treaty may at some point become untenable has given way to the cautious avoidance of setting in motion BMD activities that might threaten the treaty in years ahead. In the Soviet case, there have been no indications that the political leadership has restrained the military in the pursuit of its defensive weapons developments well short of the bounds of treaty compliance as has occurred in the United States. There was little doubt at the time the treaty was signed that the Soviet Union would not forgo the research and development program that it had maintained for so long. During the Supreme Soviet session that ratified the treaty. Minister of Defense Andrei A. Grechko noted that the treaty "does not place any limitations on carrying out research and experimental work directed towards solv¬ ing the problems of defense of the country against nuclear attack."45 The Soviet Union continues to work in that direction. The disparity between the approaches of the two countries in dealing with the prob¬ lems and opportunities of ballistic missile defense in the aftermath of the treaty has now become a significant factor in perceptions of the strategic balance.



in the Aftermath of the Treaty

In the years since the signing of the ABM Treaty, the Soviet Union has substantially improved both its offensive and defensive strategic forces. During this period, Soviet overall strategic goals have remained very much the same. The Soviet Union has worked hard and with great success at improving its quick-reaction counterforce capabilities by de¬ ploying the fourth generation of icbms, arming them with MiRved warheads and providing some with significantly improved accuracy. As a result of this accomplishment, the Soviet Union appears to have 45. Pravda, September 30, 1972. [118]

The Soviet BMD Program

put the entire U.S. icbm force at risk. At the same time it has preserved the survivability of its own offensive forces through silo hardening and through the development, and recently the testing, of mobile icbms46 that could become available as soon as the mx icbm with its improved counterforce capabilities enters the U.S. force. Through an aggressive program of steadily expanding the use of passive defenses, population and industrial dispersion, and hardening, the Soviet Union has en¬ hanced the endurance of strategic command and control elements and reserve military forces. Bunkers have been built in many locations for the political and military leadership as part of the civil defense pro¬ gram.47 Increased emphasis on civil defense has strengthened the ca¬ pabilities for postattack reconstitution by protecting vital industrial cad¬ res and segments of the population. The goal of damage limitation runs through all these activities. Nor has the Soviet Union ignored active defenses. In its relentless way, the Soviet Union has continued to improve its air defenses and to introduce new systems. The SA-io is now being widely deployed throughout the country to provide strategic air defense against lowaltitude bombers and cruise missiles. This process of continual air de¬ fense improvements and augmentation includes interceptor aircraft as well. In the past ten years many new aircraft have been introduced with increasingly sophisticated technology, including more recently a lookdown, shoot-down capability. The massive radar infrastructure sup¬ porting air defenses has been maintained and enlarged; new and improved radars have been fielded. A Soviet non-nuclear, orbital anti¬ satellite system has been repeatedly refined and tested attacking lowaltitude satellite targets under various circumstances. It is now presum¬ ably in an operational status.48 It is not so surprising, then, that the Soviet Union has continued to seek improved antiballistic missile defenses. It appears to have been little deterred by concerns that the BMDs it develops could not be widely deployed, as seemed to be the case in the United States. The treaty provisions do indeed allow the Soviet Union to undertake such an effort. The wonder is that it has done so with such apparent pur¬ posefulness and direction in the presence of a treaty that precludes the ultimate payoff. But in so dynamic an arena as strategic force develop¬ ment, an agreement reached about appropriate behavior at one time 46. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1983, pp. 18-21. 47. "1983 U.S. Air Force Posture Statement," quoted in Soviet Aerospace 37 (February 28, 1983): 55; Central Intelligence Agency, Soviet Civil Defense, N178-10003 (Washington, D.C.: CIA, 1978), p. 1; Davis et al.. The Soviet Union ami Ballistic Missile Defense, pp. 6-7. 48. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1983/ PP- 28—30, 67—68; and U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1982 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982), p. 68.

Sayre Stevens

cannot be expected to remain acceptable in changing circumstances for so long into the future as to obviate the need to press ahead with R&D. This dichotomy of views about compliance with the ABM Treaty reflects a more basic difference of opinion between the Soviet Union and the United States about the meaning of such agreements. Hugh SetonWatson has urged that Western democrats understand that though they are likely to look upon treaties as the solution of a dispute achieved through bargaining and ultimate compromise, the Soviet Union, reject¬ ing compromise, sees them as but a half or momentary retreat "in an unending, unrelenting march."49 Soviet BMD activities are compatible with this observation. Much has been made in the literature about alleged Soviet violations of the ABM Treaty. Certainly there are many who genuinely believe that these violations occurred with deliberate intent. Most seem to believe, however, that the activities objectionable to the United States were slips that occurred in the working of a huge mechanism not everywhere attuned to the esoteric demands of the ABM Treaty. The level of activities at Sary Shagan continued much the same as before the treaty was signed. The Moscow system has been filled out to become an operational system of sixty-four interceptors with four de¬ fensive complexes, each containing two sets of engagement radars and eight missiles. The apparent shortcomings of the Moscow system sug¬ gested to many that it would soon be improved and the vulnerable, mechanically scanned radars replaced. The Soviet Union made no moves in the 1970s to do so, however, despite a decision to maintain the current system. Neither did it make any effort to increase the number of interceptors associated with the system up to the limit of one hundred allowed by treaty provisions. Work on the peripheral network of early warning and acquisition radars continued. Slowly but surely the Soviet Union continued to fill existing gaps in the coverage it provided. In general, this activity had a flavor of steady, unfrenzied progress toward defined development goals. Some new BMD equipment began to emerge by the end of the 1970s. It included a new transportable, phased-array radar that seemed to be a product of the air defense technology approach rather than of the approach employed in the design of the Moscow system. In this case, however, there was no doubt at all that the radar had a BMD role. New BMD interceptors were also tested. They included a long-range missile that appeared to be an improvement over the Galosh and, more impor¬ tant, a high-acceleration missile very much like the U.S. Sprint.50 With 49. Hugh Seton-Watson, “The Long View from Red Square, Washington Post, April 3, 1983. 50. Davis et al.. The Soviet Union and Ballistic Missile Defense, p. 13. [120]

The Soviet BMD Program

this missile, the Soviet Union was for the first time in a position to employ atmospheric sorting to discriminate real reentry vehicles from penetration aids. Without such an interceptor, it had previously been forced to make the launch commitment while the attacking reentry vehicle was still outside or in the very upper reaches of the atmosphere. The combination of the new radar and one or the other (or both) of the missiles would seem to constitute a BMD system (now designated the ABM-X-3 system) suitable for fairly rapid deployment because of the transportable nature of its components.51 To those who perceive the Soviet BMD program as a vigorous undertaking searching only for the right technology and the right strategic opportunity to abandon the treaty, this development appeared provocative indeed. To those less persuaded about the capabilities of the new system, it appeared that the Soviet Union still had a long way to go before it would be ready to make a choice for further deployment. But from either point of view, the Soviet Union had made a significant step forward: it now had a system that appeared to have characteristics appropriate for widespread de¬ ployment. In addition, some of the basic shortcomings of the Moscow system had been addressed. The use of a phased array as the engage¬ ment radar relieved the single-target constraint of the Moscow tracking radars. A high-acceleration interceptor allowed launch commitment to be delayed until atmospheric sorting of penetration aids could occur. Little can be said, however, about how the data-processing capacity incorporated in the system affects the degree to which both of these improvements can be exploited. It is unlikely that a truly transportable radar can do an adequate job of long-range search and acquisition against the very low radar cross sections that characterize newer U.S. icbm reentry vehicles. Presum¬ ably, wide deployment of the system would require the addition of search and acquisition radars like the Dog House or Cat House radars in the Moscow area. Failing that, the job of handing over incoming targets to individual ABM-X-3 sites might be able to provide pointing data to guide the search of the ABM-X-3 radar, but it is doubtful that the Hen House can predict reentry vehicle trajectories with enough precision to make a direct handover of incoming targets to the ABM-X-3 transport¬ able engagement radars. But the peripheral network has been improved through the addition of new, large, phased-array radars to augment the old Hen Houses, which might result in substantially improved tracking.52 1 hese radars might strengthen the ability of the peripheral radars to provide target 51. U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, i9$3> P52. Ibid., p. 68. [121]

Sayre Stevens

acquisition support to a large number of defenses that could be de¬ ployed behind them. The major shortcoming of such an arrangement would remain, however: these large VHF radars are vulnerable to black¬ out and destruction. To ensure their neutralization would nevertheless require a tailored attack that might be difficult to mount with U.S. icbms after a Soviet counterforce strike. The recitation of theoretically derived implications of the ABM-X-3 is simply that—theoretical. Whether the Soviet Union has in mind using the ABM-X-3 in the form of deployment described is not known. Nor is it known whether the system really has the capabilities to perform all the functions ascribed to it here, though it certainly can be expected to have some significant BMD capabilities if suitable acquisition informa¬ tion can be made available. The likelihood of Soviet deployment of the ABM-X-3 in the presence of the ABM Treaty is discussed below. As yet it apparently remains in the development test stage. In addition to developing the ABM-X-3 system in "rapidly deploy¬ able" form, the Soviet Union has begun to upgrade the deployed Mos¬ cow system.53 This step appears to be overdue. The removal of half of the sixty-four Galosh launchers at the Moscow BMD sites in 1980 marked the beginning of the upgrading program. It can only be as¬ sumed that the remaining thirty-two Galosh missiles and their associ¬ ated fish radars will remain a part of the modified system. The main feature of this improvement effort—the Pushkino radar— has been portrayed in remarkably dramatic pictorial form in the U.S. Defense Department's most recent popularized publication on the So¬ viet threat, in which it appears as a strong competitor for the the Eighth Wonder of the World.54 It is a very large, pyramidal radar structure some 300 feet long on a side and 120 feet high, looking very much like the missile site radar (MSR) developed for the U.S. Safeguard system. Each of the four faces of the huge structure contains a circular phase array about 60 feet in diameter. Presumably the Pushkino radar will perform the engagement radar function for a major part of the Moscow system. It must be assumed that with these modifications to the Moscow defense, the Soviet Union will bring the interceptor component up to the one hundred allowed by the ABM Treaty. The type of missiles to be added is a matter of conjecture. The deployment of the high-accelera¬ tion missile associated with ABM-X-3 would seem to be a good choice. It would provide the Moscow system with an endoatmospheric capability that could function as a second defensive layer below the long-range. 53. Ibid., p. 28. 54. Ibid., p. 5.


The Soviet BMD Program

exoatmospheric Galosh. Whatever missiles are deployed, it is clear that the three large radars now emplaced within the Moscow defenses— Dog House, Cat House, and Pushkino—will themselves have to be defended by the system, since without them the system would be crippled. Although these improvements to the Moscow system will signifi¬ cantly enhance its limited capability, these defenses cannot seriously hinder a U.S. attack on Moscow, given the very large weapons invento¬ ries that currently exist. The susceptibility of the large radars to leakage attack and saturation of the system with large numbers of attacking RVs remain key areas of vulnerability. Against more limited attacks, how¬ ever, the military value of the Moscow system could be significantly improved. Moreover, the upgrading of the Moscow system represents a significant step in strengthening the base of defenses in the Moscow region; these might be augmented in the future. Substantial expansion of the Moscow defenses beyond treaty limits could occur rapidly. If such an expansion could allow a preferential defense of certain critical components such as hardened command bunkers, a militarily signifi¬ cant capability could be achieved. In a less conventional vein, continuing Soviet work on strategic de¬ fenses appears to have included research, development, and possibly the testing of directed-energy weapons, almost certainly with an eye toward their possible future utility for BMD purposes. Reportedly, both high-energy lasers and particle beams have been investigated."" The uncertainties in this area are great. They are uncertainties about what the Soviet Union is doing, but also about the likelihood of finding real BMD utility in these technologies, about which concepts are likely to have the greatest payoff, and even about how best to go about resolving these uncertainties. Finally, in bringing Soviet BMD activities up to date, another word must be said on the subject of SAM upgrade. In some respects, develop¬ ments in this area constitute the most disturbing change in the balance of U.S. and Soviet strategic defenses. Continuing Soviet efforts at im¬ proving air defenses have been emphasized earlier. An aggressi\ e U.S. program to improve strategic aerodynamic attack capabilities has bttn responsible for the vigor with which the Soviet Union has sought in¬ creasingly capable air defenses. A series of U.S. weapons systems, progressive from Hound Dog through the short-range attack missile, and now low-observable aerodynamic attack vehicles, has put incieas¬ ing pressure on Soviet air defense technology. SAM upgrade was worrisome at the time of salt i; that worr\ has 55. Ibid., p. 75. [123]

Sayre Stevens

grown and become more credible with the improvement of Soviet SAMs. U.S. improvements to its aerodynamic weapons have stressed the reduction of radar cross sections and the use of flight profiles that generate difficult intercept conditions, especially reduced reaction times available to the defenses. As Soviet designers have responded to these improvements, they have built into new SAM systems the at¬ tributes required to counter them. These SAM improvements are in substantial measure—though not entirely—applicable to the BMD in¬ tercept problem. This means that the likelihood of newer Soviet SAMs having some embodied BMD capability is higher than it was for earlier systems and that the route to providing greater capabilities through improvements is shorter. The density and extent of Soviet SAM deploy¬ ment remain high, and the improvements to the peripheral radar net¬ work have increased its capability to provide acquisition support. All of these points suggest that the problem of SAM upgrade is substantially more credible than it was ten years ago. The Soviet Union could have, with its new SAMs, a BMD capability able to enhance damage limitation that is not controlled by the ABM Treaty, whereas the United States, with no strategic SAMs, has none. Reports that the Soviet Union is now developing an atbm system give cause for even greater concern.56 Such systems, designed to handle short-range ballistic missiles, must include in their design many of the features apt to be missing and requiring upgrade in SAM systems. Very short reaction times and automated launch commitment processes, for example, must be included in atbm systems. Soviet development of such systems constitutes a qualitative change in the nature of SAM upgrade concerns, for although these weapons systems are not specifi¬ cally constrained by the ABM Treaty, they will almost surely possess some significant capability against long-range strategic ballistic mis¬ siles. This is particularly true in the case of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the RVs of which generally have larger radar cross sections and reenter at lower speeds than icbms. Defense against slbms is, of course, particularly important to the Soviet Union since those at sea are not subject to counterforce attack. The widespread deployment of atbms to Soviet tactical forces in the future could only produce a serious concern about their possible em¬ ployment by the PVO in a strategic role. Soviet tactical defensive forces are normally mobile, so it can be assumed that atbm systems will be mobile as well. If so, their rapid deployment in large numbers (possibly from covert storage) would constitute another means whereby the So¬ viet Union could extend its defensive forces, very possibly within the 56. "Report of the President's Commission on Strategic Forces," April 1983, p. 3.


The Soviet BMD Program

provisions of the ABM Treaty. Although the treaty does prohibit giving non-ABM systems the capability to intercept strategic ballistic missiles, it would be extremely difficult to make an airtight case that it had occurred if the Soviet Union denied the allegation.

Whither Soviet BMD?

The previous section outlined a number of opportunities apparently available to the Soviet Union for improving its strategic position relative to that of the United States. These opportunities derive from the signifi¬ cant disparity in the momentum of strategic defensive activities in the two countries. None of these opportunities can be exploited by the Soviet Union, however, without cost or without concern about the reaction it may generate. Although there might be some military appeal to taking one or another of the BMD initiatives, that appeal is not likely to carry the day by itself. A key factor in assessing the likelihood of a major Soviet BMD initiative is its impact on the ABM Treaty. Most of the initiatives discussed here would require the Soviet Union to take the major step of abandoning the treaty—or at least of threatening to do so in the case of SAM upgrade or the strategic use of atbms—and of beginning the long and costly course of widespread BMD deployment and competition with the United States. Consideration of all the factors likely to influence a Soviet decision to abandon the ABM Treaty reveals few powerful incentives for them to do it in the near term.57 The Soviet BMD program has momentum and has made significant technological progress over the past decade, but it has only now achieved the level of technology that was available to the United States ten years ago. The major difference now is that Soviet technology is much closer to application. The Soviet Union continues to fear the consequences of turning U.S. technology loose and probably still finds the ABM Treaty desirable as a means of constraining the application of U.S. prowess to BMD. It is noteworthy that areas in which the United States has more or less clear superiority (for example, microelectronics in general, large-scale integrated circuits, phased-array radars, compact and high-speed data processors, and the like) are particularly important to the development of advanced BMD systems. Expressions of U.S. concern about the vulnerability of its icbm forces have surely led the Soviet Union to expect that any near term deploy¬ ment of BMD in the United States would be for icbm defense. As in salt 57. A debt is again owed to Howard Stoertz for his work on possible Soviet BMD initiatives.

Sayre Stevens

i, the Soviet Union would view this as an undesirable threat to its preemptive counterforce capabilities. From a political perspective, abandoning the ABM Treaty in the near term would seem to threaten a vigorous Soviet propaganda effort to weaken Western European commitment to a revitalized nato armed with intermediate-range nuclear forces. Nonetheless, the Soviet belief that there are gains to be made through the reestablishment of detente is likely to be weakening as U.S. and Soviet rhetoric becomes increas¬ ingly harsh. The heavy costs of extensive BMD deployment could pose a problem for the Soviet Union at a time when its economy is under much tougher strains that it was ten years ago. Finally, the Soviet Union enjoys some advantages in the current situation. The treaty regime has left it running virtually alone in the pursuit of effective BMD systems, as the United States has allowed its own efforts to diminish and be buf¬ feted by changes in direction during the search for an acceptable basing scheme for the MX missile. Certainly this is a better arrangement than having to compete. Moreover, the Soviet Union enjoys an unparalleled opportunity both to preserve the ABM Treaty and to establish a dam¬ age-limiting force through SAM or atbm deployment. However unlikely, some military imperatives for BMD could conceiv¬ ably carry the day. One possibility is that the Soviet Union might conclude that the situation is ripe—because of the vulnerability of U.S. icbms, the hiatus before new U.S. forces come on line, and a significant Soviet advantage in lead time to BMD deployment—to effect a dramatic shift in the strategic balance that would produce great political leverage. That initiative might consist of a nationwide deployment of several thousand interceptors. Although such a move might trigger a U.S. response, it could not be a rapid one. The Soviet Union might also feel the need to deploy offenses if it sees Pershing II, MX, and Trident D-5 threatening its offensive forces in ways that it finds unacceptable. A more likely possibility is that, though the Soviet Union may consider its current BMD systems not yet effective enough to warrant a major deployment, further efforts to improve them might result at some point in strategic advantages that outweigh those of the treaty regime. Although all of these represent nontrivial possibilities, none appears to be likely in the near term. The advantages enjoyed under the ABM Treaty, Soviet concerns about energizing the application of U.S. technology to the BMD problem, the economic and political advantages of avoiding such an effort now, and fear of an all-out arms race with the United States all argue to this effect. An entirely different possibility is that U.S. initiative might trigger a Soviet deployment response. President Ronald Reagan's BMD an¬ nouncement urging the search for an answer to the threat of ballistic [126]

The Soviet BMD Program

missiles might be interpreted by the Soviet Union as the inception of a major BMD program that will ultimately lead to U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. Even with this perception, however, no near term Soviet response is likely. In fact, it is not at all clear that defining so long-range a goal in the United States has not had the effect of driving a final stake through the heart of the U.S. Army's small BMD system development program, as it becomes subordinated to the search for the grand solu¬ tion. In any event, major effects of such a U.S. program are not likely to be felt for many years. Since the Soviet Union apparently is pursuing such solutions in its own right, it is not apt to have illusions about the ease with which such a goal can be reached. U.S. deployment of a treaty-limited defense for the protection of a clustered icbm deployment, such as the closely spaced basing or Densepack scheme, would not be likely to evoke a Soviet position that would weaken the ABM Treaty. Rather, the Soviet Union will be difficult in demanding strict and literal treaty compliance when faced with such issues as moving the single allowed U.S. BMD site from Grand Forks to another location. It is less clear how the Soviet Union would react to a U.S. proposal for treaty modification. The Soviet Union has indicated that it sees no need for modification, though undoubtedly there are modifications in which it would have an interest. A modest increase in the number of allowed interceptors might strike a receptive chord, for example, because it would provide an opportunity for thickening the Moscow defenses. If the proposal allowed the United States to deploy a fairly effective de¬ fense of its icbm force, however, the Soviet Union would face a difficult choice. It is likely to conclude that preserving the current treaty regime and a predictable future is the preferable option. In the event of deployment beyond treaty limits, it is clear that Soviet and U.S. priorities in the choice of targets to be protected will differ. In general, the Soviet Union will want to defend clusters of high-value leadership, communications, military, and economic targets, striving to limit damage and preserve those elements important to the achieve¬ ment of those goals. The Soviet Union appears to have little interest in icbm defense. The United States, on the other hand, currently puts highest priority on defending strategic retaliatory forces, principally icbms but also other critical military targets such as command-andcontrol centers. Strategic Air Command reconstitution bases, and so on. Because the United States has thus far not viewed damage limiting as an adequate objective and lacks the complementary passive and air de¬ fenses to support it, defense of cities and their incorporated soft targets can be achieved only through the development of multiple-layered, very low-leakage systems like that called for by President Reagan.

Sayre Stevens

Given the opportunity to improve its defenses, the Soviet Union is likely to put highest priority on augmenting the Moscow system. Next, it is likely to seek a regional defense of military and industrial concentra¬ tions in the western ussr. Such a choice is consistent with the long¬ standing focus of air defenses. Defenses in this region would greatly complicate targeting of the region by the United States and other coun¬ tries, would preserve essential facilities in the area most critical to warfighting, and would add to overall damage limitation. The next step would be to extend this approach throughout the nation. Defense of icbms is a possible but not very likely choice. Such de¬ fenses have not been a focus of Soviet BMD R&D. Moreover, other options are available to provide protection for these weapons: harden¬ ing, mobility, preemption, and launch on warning (or under attack). Some icbm protection is provided by the long-range Galosh interceptors of the Moscow system, but that is at best a very thin defense. With the exception of the SS-i8s, which are deployed in central Asia, Soviet icbms would probably enjoy some protection in any nationwide deploy¬ ment because they are generally near the industrial concentrations that would be defended. The defense mission most likely to be chosen by the Soviet Union is a difficult one to implement—more difficult than the defense of clustered hard targets like icbms—and will require large numbers of interceptors and radars. Leakage will remain a problem, particularly if penetration aids are employed. But since damage limitation is the goal, and comple¬ mentary passive and air defenses can augment the effects of BMD, Soviet doctrinal preferences attach significance even to a technically limited defense. This portrayal of Soviet BMD activities and predilections emphasizes their disturbing characteristics. The purpose is not to assert that such forbidding futures are certain to ensue but to make clear the provocative interpretations that can be given to Soviet BMD efforts uncertainly perceived and understood. It is one thing to take comfort in the greater likelihood of less upsetting outcomes when one is an observer, but quite another to bear responsibility for ensuring that the less likely possibili¬ ties do not result in strategic disadvantage. Those in the latter category7 are designing the BMD programs of both the United States and the Soviet Union. A Soviet paper on the U.S. BMD program would surely find worrisome activities under way. Ballistic missile defense is intrin¬ sically unsettling to the strategic balance, but it is much more unsettling in the context of our current uncertainties.



Evaluating SDI Technology


W. Thomas Wander The chapters in Part II of this book focus on the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative. First, the government's description of the program's goals and the technology under consideration to achieve them are presented, followed by the views of several skeptics or critics of SDI. As a prelude to these discussions, we will review the possible purposes and goals of SDI; the BMD technology under study by the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (sdio); and some of the other key issues that may affect the cost and effectiveness of SDI such as space launch capacity and costs, the requirements of a battle management and command, control, and com¬ munications (BM/C3) system, and possible Soviet countermeasures.

Goals of the Strategic Defense Initiative

It is important, if sometimes confusing, to note at the beginning of any discussion of SDI that there is no single, consistently adhered-to goal or purpose for the program on which every proponent or opponent agrees. As a result, discussions about the relative merits of SDI often suffer because each participant is talking about a different program. In fact, several purposes have been offered by its supporters to justify the SDI, and other goals are implicit in the technology itself.

President Reagan's Vision Although the United States, like the Soviet Union, has been conduct¬ ing BMD research for several decades, that effort moved to the top of the public policy agenda only with the oft-quoted March 23, 1983, [129]

W. Thomas Wander speech of President Reagan. In that nationwide television address, the president spoke of a future when offensive ballistic missiles would become "impotent and obsolete." In outlining the characteristics of a world in which the relative positions of offense and defense are re¬ versed, with strategic defense dominating strategic offense, he asked: "What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?" In those words, he captured the essence of his vision. In this view, the United States would embark upon a concentrated research program to try to develop a layered security shield that would destroy strategic nuclear missiles before they reached their target. To the degree that this vision was realized, the strategic relationship of the two superpowers, based for decades on the notion of nuclear deterrence, would be altered in a fundamental way.

Deterrence Replacement versus Deterrence Enhancement From the U.S. perspective, the notion of nuclear deterrence suggests that the Soviet Union is dissuaded from initiating a nuclear first strike against the United States because the Soviets fear the unacceptable damage that would be inflicted on their society by U.S. retaliatory forces. This has been described as a mutual hostage relationship—each superpower holding hostage the population of the other—and the doctrine underlying it has often been called mutual assured destruction or MAD. In proposing and pursuing SDI, President Reagan has raised at least three objections to the current doctrine of deterrence. First, it is, at its foundation, immoral because it is based on revenge that will be wreaked on the innocent. Second, although nuclear deterrence has apparently prevented major armed conflict between the world's major military powers for more than forty years, it is still true that ultimately the security of the United States is not under its direct control but rather depends on the restraint, the cost-benefit calculations, of the Soviet Union. Finally, it has been said that extended deterrence is based on the irrational assumption that the United States will initiate a devastating nuclear exchange in response to, for example, a Soviet invasion in Europe or the Persian Gulf, leaving the nation, indeed much of the world, in ruins. In this context, Henry Kissinger once criticized Euro¬ peans for "asking us to multiply strategic assurances that we could not possibly mean, or if we do mean, we should not want to execute because

Evaluating SDI Technology: Introduction

if we execute, we risk the destruction of civilization."1 A deterrent posture based on such an irrational threat, the president argues, is not credible and will eventually break down. Given this orientation, one of the principal goals given for the pursuit of SDI is to transcend the traditional doctrine of deterrence—to base our security not on Soviet forbearance or on the certain revenge to be exacted by our offensive forces but on the effectiveness of the defensive shield that is under our own control. As President Reagan told a class of graduating high school seniors in 1985: "Let us leave behind . . . the defense policy of Mutual Assured Destruction—or MAD, as it's called— and seek to put in its place a defense that truly defends. Even now we are performing research as part of our Strategic Defense Initiative that might one day enable us to put in space a shield that missiles could not penetrate—a shield that could protect us from nuclear missiles just as a roof protects a family from rain."2 Although there has been considerable emphasis in the president's statements and in those of others in the administration about transcend¬ ing traditional notions of deterrence, another purpose of SDI research is to develop a defensive capability that will enhance rather than replace deterrence. The key to a credible deterrent is a survivable retaliatory or second-strike force. Antiballistic missile defenses configured to protect that retaliatory force and the U.S. command and control system that directs it can greatly affect the calculations of any Soviet military plan¬ ner who may be contemplating a first strike against the United States. In other words, the certain survival of even a portion of the U.S. retaliatory force enhances deterrence by assuring the capability to inflict unaccept¬ able damage on the Soviet Union. As the 1985 DOD report to Congress on SDI announced, "With defenses, the U.S. seeks not to replace deter¬ rence, but to enhance it."

Defense of Population versus Sites Related to the question of whether SDI would transcend or enhance deterrence is the question of whether it is intended to defend the population as a whole or primarily to protect only selected high-value military targets such as missile silos, command and control centers, and 1. Quoted in Jane M. O. Sharp, “The Reliability of the U.S. Nuclear and Conventional Guarantee: Now and in the Future/ in W. I homas Wander, ed., Niulear and c onet utional Forces in Europe: Implications for Arms Control and Security (Washington, D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1987), p. 17. 2. Quoted in Arms Control Association, Star Wars Quotes (Washington, D.C.: Arms Control Association, 1986), p. 3.

W. Thomas Wander the like. The image of a defensive shield that would deflect nuclear missiles as a roof deflects raindrops suggests that the goal of SDI is area defense—keeping our entire population and ultimately the populations of our allies and perhaps even our adversaries safe from strategic mis¬ sile attack. As Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger has remarked, "The defensive systems the President is talking about ... are not de¬ signed to be partial. What we want to try to get is a system which will develop a defense that is thoroughly reliable and total . . . and I don't see any reason why that can't be done."3 This notion of a total or population defense, of course, fits comfortably with the goal of tran¬ scending deterrence. If the goal of SDI is simply to enhance deterrence, however, then the missile defense need not be total or perfect or even designed to protect populations per se at all. In fact, it is argued, deterrence would be strengthened considerably if the retaliatory force and the command and control centers that direct it could be effectively defended. If such a partial, site defense were effective, the Soviet Union would know with certainty that a first strike launched against the United States would be responded to by a U.S. nuclear force that was virtually intact and therefore could be counted on to inflict unacceptable damage. Even if it would stop only 20 to 30 percent of the Soviet warheads, a partial defense would still enhance deterrence, its supporters contend, because the Soviet planners could never be sure which warheads would reach their targets. Faced with such uncertainty about the success of their attack plans, Soviet leaders would be deterred from initiating a nuclear exchange.4

Additional Objectives of BMD Although these may be the major conflicts about goals surrounding SDI, analysts of the program have identified several other goals or purposes as well. A nonexhaustive list would include the following:

Hedge against Soviet breakout from the ABM Treaty. Most analysts, both proponents and opponents of BMD deployment, argue that some level of research in this field is required if only to prevent the Soviet Union from surprising the United States with advances in BMD technology 3. Weinberger's remarks were made on NBC's “Meet the Press," March 27, 1983, quoted in ibid. 4. Opponents of SDI contend that a partial defense of land-based missiles would add little to deterrence. Soviet leaders are fully deterred, they argue, by the virtually invulner¬ able sea-based leg of the triad, which could be expected to wreak unacceptable damage on the Soviet Union. [132]

Evaluating SDI Technology: Introduction

and perhaps breaking out of the ABM Treaty regime with the deploy¬ ment of a nationwide defense. Opponents of the current SDI program, however, insist that this goal can be achieved with significantly fewer resources than the almost $6 billion requested in the administration's fiscal year (FY) 1988 budget. Research spin-offs. Proponents of the program argue that military re¬

search programs such as SDI strengthen the civilian R&D effort and can produce technologies that have direct civilian, as well as conventional military, applications. For instance, a recent director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (darpa) has argued that "SDI, like every other high-risk research program this country has ever under¬ taken, will yield tremendous technological benefits, directly and through spinoffs. This will be true in both the military and civilian sectors."5 Opponents contend, however, that R&D resources chan¬ neled directly toward civilian applications would provide equal or greater benefits at considerably lower cost. Bargaining chip. One of the most important roles claimed for SDI by

some of its supporters (although, significantly, not by President Rea¬ gan) is as a bargaining chip at the negotiating table. In this view, SDI causes so many potential military, technological, and economic prob¬ lems for the Soviet Union that it will make significant concessions in other areas—for example, deep cuts in strategic nuclear weapons—to impose further, clearly defined limits on the development and testing of ABM technologies. Critics of this notion contend that historically many weapons justified as bargaining chips such as the MX missile and cruise missiles were never cashed in. Rather, they were developed at great cost and deployed by the United States; their counterparts were de¬ ployed by the Soviet Union; and the inventory of nuclear weapons in the world continued to increase. Many of the technologies being developed for a BMD mission would be effective as asat weapons, even though that is not an explicit goal of the sdio. As Ashton B.Carter has suggested, for instance, "Whatever one's views of the potential of directed energy weapons for boost-phase BMD, they should be taken much more seriously for asat.


5. The remarks of Robert Clifford Duncan were made at the Colloquium on Science, Arms Control, and National Security, "Science and Security: Nuclear and Conventional Forces in Europe," September 28, 1987, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. For a brief synopsis of military spin-offs, particularly in the area of conventional arms, see "Defense Department Releases Report on SDI Spinoffs, Avia¬ tion Week and Space Technology 126 (May 11, 1987): 356. Ashton B. Carter, "Satellites and Anti-Satellites," International Security 10 (Spring 1986): 87.

W. Thomas Wander

First-strike adjunct. Like

capability, this is certainly not an ex¬ plicit goal of the sdio. Nevertheless, the possession of even a partial defense would be much more effective as part of a first-strike strategy than as a defense against a Soviet first strike. In other words, after a U.S. first strike against Soviet strategic forces using extremely accurate stra¬ tegic weapons, such as the land-based MX and the sea-based D-5 mis¬ siles, the job of the defense would be simplified. Rather than defending against the entire Soviet arsenal, the defense would only have to defend against a weakened, ragged, retaliatory force. asat

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

The organization charged with sorting out all of these goals, estab¬ lishing research priorities, and exploring the effectiveness of BMD tech¬ nologies is the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. The sdio was created in 1984 to manage and coordinate the DOD's efforts in the ABM arena. Its mission is to investigate principally non-nuclear technologies for defense against ballistic missiles. It also examines nuclear-pumped directed energy weapons to understand their potential and to guard against surprise developments by the Soviet Union. Funding for the sdio has been either generous or constricting de¬ pending upon the relative weight one places on ABM research com¬ pared to other competitors for the scarce federal research dollar. In FY 1985, for instance, sdio requested $1.78 billion, a 79 percent increase over the previous year's funding level. Congress actually appropriated $1.4 billion, a 41 percent increase. For FY 1986, $3.72 billion was re¬ quested by the administration, an increase of 166 percent. Congress approved $2.76 billion, a 97 percent increase. In FY 1987, the admin¬ istration asked for $4.8 billion for SDI, a 74 percent increase, and Con¬ gress approved $3.2 billion, a 16 percent increase.7 Finally, in FY 1988, Congress approved $3.6 billion of the administration's $3.2 billion re¬ quest, an increase of 12.3 percent.8 Again one can interpret those data in at least two ways. One might say that Congress is unduly restricting the progress of SDI research by not providing funds the sdio deems necessary to carry out its research mission.9 On the other hand, one can argue that in a time of great 7. These figures appear in Douglas C. Waller and Jones T. Bruce, "SDI: Progress and Challenges," staff report submitted to Senators William Proxmire and J. Bennett John¬ ston, March 19, 1987. 8. The FY 1988 figures and a more detailed account of sdio spending can be found in Trish Gilmartin, "SDI Organization Releases Complete Itemized Budget," Defense News 3 (March 7, 1988): 50. 9. For instance, see "sdio Begins Program Cutbacks in Response to Budget Limits," Aviation Week and Space Technology 129 (January 25, 1988): 33.

Evaluating SDI Technology: Introduction

budget uncertainties and large federal deficits that exert tremendous pressure to hold down spending, sdio has consistently received from the Congress generous increases allowing the SDI budget to more than triple since its inception. SDI Technologies

The mission of the sdio is to conduct a vigorous research program into ABM technologies that will enable a president in the next decade to make an informed decision about the advisability of deploying some form of ballistic missile defense. Central to this pursuit is the notion of the layered defense in which several sets of sensors and weapons would operate during the different phases of the trajectory of a ballistic missile. Thus the goal is to destroy hostile missiles in one of the four phases of their trajectories. Boost phase. This initial phase lasts from two to five minutes. Boosters

accelerate the payload to its final velocity at an altitude of approximately 200 to 400 kilometers, and powered flight ends. The missile is a rela¬ tively large, vulnerable, and easily tracked target with its rocket plume providing a readily identifiable infrared signature. Because each missile may carry ten or more warheads and a hundred decoys, effective boostphase interception is a critical, high-leverage component in any robust BMD system. That is, every successful kill in the boost phase would destroy a hundred or more potential targets that would otherwise ha\ e to be tracked and evaluated. Conversely, for every missile that escapes the boost phase, scores of potential targets would be released, which in turn would help to overwhelm the remaining elements of the ABM system. To achieve effective boost-phase defense, several difficult tasks would have to be accomplished. First, sensors would have to detect an attack and estimate its size and the trajectories of the launched missiles. Second, the analyzed data from these sensors would have to be pro¬ vided to the pointing and tracking sensors associated with each weapon system used for the intercept. Several weapons technologies are under study tor boost- phase inter¬ cept. Of these, kinetic-energy weapons (KEWs) are the most mature. KEWs would use high-speed, guided projectiles, often with built-in homing devices, to destroy their target either through direct impact or by exploding a device within range of that target. Space-based intercep¬ tors (SBIs) are the KEWs designed to attack missiles in the boost phase. Directed-energy weapons (DEWs) are also being examined tor a boost-phase intercept role, although they are not likely to be available

W. Thomas Wander

for a decade or more.10 DEWs consist of technologies such as neutral particle beams and the various laser technologies—chemical, free-electron, x-ray, and excimer lasers. Traveling at the speed of light, intense beams from the laser weapons could be used to knock out enemy missiles in the boost phase. Such beams could be focused on their targets directly from battle stations in space or from weapons that "pop up" from the United States on notification of an attack. Alternatively, the beams from ground-based lasers could be redirected to their boostphase targets by orbiting mirrors. Finally, for greatest effectiveness, sensors should evaluate the perfor¬ mance of the boost-phase weapons (kill assessment) and "hand off" that information along with target "track files" to the sensors involved in the postboost and later phases. Postboost phase. The postboost phase begins when the final rocket

booster separates from the bus carrying the warheads and decoys. It lasts for two or three minutes while the warheads and decoys are ejected. As in the boost phase, a high-leverage kill would be possible at this point if the BMD system could destroy the bus with a number of its warheads and decoys still on board. The technologies potentially effective for the postboost-phase mis¬ sion would be similar to those applied to the boost phase. The job of the surveillance and acquisition sensors, however, would be considerably more difficult. In this phase, the sizes, masses, and radar cross sections of the threatening objects would be smaller and the infrared emissions of the bus would be significantly smaller than the rocket booster in the boost phase. It is likely that SBIs would be the only technology available for postboost-phase intercept in this century; space-based or groundbased DEWs might be available for this mission further in future. Midcourse. This is the longest phase, lasting fifteen to twenty minutes

as the elements of the "threat cloud"—RVs and decoys (and the re¬ mains of the booster and the bus)—travel in ballistic trajectories through space before reentering the atmosphere above the intended targets. Although there would be much greater time in this phase for the BMD system to search out and destroy the threatening warheads, the task would be severely complicated by the presence of several thousand warheads and hundreds of thousands of decoys that would be almost indistinguishable in this environment. Moreover, unlike the boost and postboost phases, there would be no high-leverage kills in 10. For a recent review of DEWs, see the Report to the American Physical Society of the Study Group on Science and Technology of Directed Energy Weapons (New York: American Physical Society, 1987), hereinafter referred to as the APS Directed Energy Weapons Study.

Evaluating SD1 Technology: Introduction

the midcourse and no sources of heat from rockets to guide the infrared sensors. The midcourse system would receive data from postboost-phase sur¬ veillance, process it to target its own interceptors, assess the damage those interceptors have inflicted, and in turn, hand off its information to the surveillance and tracking system of the terminal phase. It would have to do all this while constantly scanning space to detect and re¬ spond to threats to its own survival. Assuming successful solutions are found to the problem of identify¬ ing RVs in the threat cloud, several weapon systems could eventually be deployed for the midcourse mission. In the early to middle stages of the midcourse, neutral particle beams might be used. Particle beam weapons are similar to lasers, but they damage targets with an intense beam of atomic or subatomic particles instead of light. Unlike the laser, particle beams can penetrate the target surface and destroy its inner workings. In this way, they might be capable of an electronic kill as well as a hard kill. In the mid- to late midcourse phase, the ground-based exoatmospheric reentry vehicle interception system (eris), a KEW that is the most mature of the ground-based interceptor technologies currently under consideration, would intercept Soviet warheads by colliding with them. Terminal. The final phase occurs as the RVs reenter the earth's atmo¬

sphere at an altitude of approximately 130 kilometers. Fortunately for the defense, the atmosphere would act as a filter, slowing down or burning up the lighter decoys, thereby making the actual warheads more readily identifiable. Unfortunately for the defense, it would have less than a minute to destroy those warheads. The terminal phase surveillance system of ground-based radars and airborne detectors could accept data provided by the midcourse phase system. As just mentioned, the atmosphere simplifies considerably the task of identifying and tracking targets in the terminal phase, although nuclear precursor bursts could help to "blind" the defense. Any infor¬ mation gained about the attack would be used to target the groundlaunched KEWs with responsibility for intercepting Soviet RVs surviv¬ ing to the terminal phase—the high endoatmospheric defense intercep¬ tor (hedi).

Complicating Factors

In many cases, the technologies just reviewed and discussed in more detail in the chapters of this section are not mature. If all goes well, it [137]

W. Thomas Wander will be years and in some cases decades before systems based on them would even be potentially deployable. In addition, research and even¬ tual development would not occur in a vacuum. There are many vari¬ ables that will determine their effectiveness. Three of these complicat¬ ing factors are space launch capacity and costs; the requirements of an effective battle management/command, control, and communications (BM/C3) system; and countermeasures.

Space Launch Capacity and Costs Although the SDI would include important ground-based elements, it also involves placing many, perhaps thousands, of objects into space. At the same time, one of the criteria for deployment of the SDI is that it must be cost-effective at the margin.11 These two factors make the cost of putting the component parts into space a critical element in the decision to deploy even the first phase of the SDI. The scale of the space transportation problem facing SDI planners is suggested by the following statistics. In 1985, a relatively typical year, the United States launched a total of 350,000 pounds into orbit. Depend¬ ing on what defensive system configuration is under discussion, the SDI must put some 20 million to 200 million pounds of hardware into space. Presently, it costs from $1,500 to $3,000 to lift a pound into space.12 A quick calculation suggests that the space launch costs alone could run into hundreds of billions of dollars. To suggest the dimen¬ sions of the capacity required, the space shuttle can lift approximately 20,000 pounds into the near polar orbit required for SBI battle stations. Therefore, the SDI components would require somewhere between one thousand and ten thousand shuttle launches. To make a robust, multitiered ABM system affordable, the goal of sdio is to reduce these costs about tenfold to $200 to $400 to launch a pound into space. To achieve savings of that magnitude, work is pro¬ ceeding on developing a reliable heavy-lift launch vehicle (hllv). The current program, the advanced launch system (ALS), is expected to be able to carry up to 150,000 pounds into space per launch.13 Unless the 11. The three criteria for deployment of SDI, first delineated by Paul Nitze, are that it must be (1) militarily effective, able to destroy a sufficiently high percentage of an aggressor's forces to deny that aggressor any chance of achieving the goals being sought by attacking the United States; (2) survivable, able to withstand an attack, sustain any subsequent battle damage, and still function properly; and (3) cost-effective at the margin, cheaper to add defensive capability than offensive capability so that the adversary has no incentive to add offensive capability to overcome the defense. 12. Waller and Bruce, “SDI," p. 31. 13. Ibid., p. 32; see also Trish Gilmartin, “AF Eyes Family of Launch Vehicles to Lift Heavy Payloads into Orbit," Defense News 3 (March 21, 1988): 11, 21.

Evaluating SD1 Technology: Introduction

development schedule is advanced considerably, however, the ALS would not be available until at least the turn of the century.


Battle Management/Command, Control and Communications Even if all of the required components could be deployed in space, the enormously complex task remains of coordinating the activities of those components as well as those located on the ground.14 The battle management system would be charged with the responsibility of coor¬ dinating the constituent parts of the BMD system. Such coordination would include both activities within each of the defensive layers and across the four layers. Within each layer, for instance, the battle man¬ agement function would include acquisition and tracking of potential targets, discriminating between real targets and decoys, and targeting and retargeting. Across layers, the system might provide overall sur¬ veillance, coordinate the exchange of data between layers, provide accurate evaluations of the continuing battle and of the system's own performance and condition, and allocate resources between the tasks of defending the nation and defending the BMD system itself. Taken together, these and other tasks required of the BM/C3 system represent a formidable undertaking. One of the chief obstacles to ac¬ complishing these tasks would be the development of computer soft¬ ware that could monitor tens or hundreds of thousands of objects simultaneously. There is no doubt that such a software system would be the largest and most complex ever developed. Moreover, given the enormous number of tasks and the relatively short time in which to do them, computers would have to manage the system with relatively little human intervention. The reliability of the command and control of this system would be paramount because the consequences of error—even the activation of a non-nuclear ABM sys¬ tem—could be grave. Finally, all of this would have to be worked out and put into place without ever completely testing the effectiveness or reliability of the entire system. Although individual parts could be tested, the system as a whole would have to work the first time it was tried. As the Fletcher panel on defense technology concluded after studying this issue, 1 he problem of realistically testing an entire system, end-to-end, has no complete technical solution. The credibility of a deployed system must be established by credible testing of subsystems and partial functions 14. See the fuller accounts of battle management from which this discussion is drawn in Office of Technology Assessment, Ballistic Missile Defense Technologies (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985), pp. 188-90, and the APS Directed l.nergs Weapons Study, pp. 395-99.

W. Thomas Wander

and by continuous monitoring of its operations and health during peacetime."15 In sum, the BM/C3 system would have to coordinate a complex, lowleakage, multilayered defense against ballistic missile attacks. It would have to operate reliably in a nuclear environment and while under direct enemy attack, and it would have to do so without undergoing a completely realistic test of the entire system. Developing and deploying a dependable BM/C3 system would be, in other words, an extremely difficult and complex task, one of the most daunting aspects of the sdio's mission.

Countermeasures The prospect of the United States developing a robust, layered BMD defense could be expected to elicit a significant response by the Soviet Union. Countermeasures could be taken against all of the technologies under development by sdio that could blunt or destroy their effective¬ ness.16 Therefore, when contemplating the development and eventual deployment of SDI, one cannot assume a static environment in which a major BMD capability is introduced on behalf of the United States and the Soviet Union does not respond. Rather, one must try to envision an ABM system that would be effective in the face of the following counter¬ measures that, among others, are or would be available to the Soviet Union.

Offensive saturation. The offense can saturate a defense in a number of ways. Most obviously, it can simply proliferate the number of warheads and decoys it launches to overwhelm the defensive capacity for sur¬ veillance, acquisition, targeting, and kill assessment. Unless the num¬ ber of strategic nuclear warheads is seriously constrained by the start 15. Battle Management, Communications, and Data Processing, B. McMillan, Panel Chair¬ man, vol. 5 of Report of the Study on Eliminating the Threat Posed by Nuclear Ballistic Missiles, J. C. Fletcher, Study Chairman (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Defense, Defen¬ sive Technologies Study Team, 1984), p. 7, quoted in Office of Technology Assessment, Ballistic Missile Defense Technologies, p. 190. 16. Good discussions of countermeasures can be found in Office of Technology Assess¬ ment, Ballistic Missile Defense Technologies, pp. 170-78; George F. jelen, "Space System Vulnerabilities and Countermeasures," in William J. Durch, ed.. National Interests and the Military Use of Space (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1984), pp. 89-112; and the APS Di¬ rected Energy Weapons Study, pp. 30-39. For an interesting Soviet discussion of counter¬ measures see Yevgeni Velikhov, Roald Sagdeev, and Andrei Kokoshin, eds.. Weaponry in Space: The Dilemma of Security (Moscow: Mir Publishers, 1986), pp. 98-105. In addition to the sources cited above, see the excellent discussion by Richard L. Garwin, "Boost-Phase Intercept Revisited," in W. Thomas Wander, Richard A. Scribner, and Kenneth N. Luongo, eds.. Science and Security: The Future of Arms Control (Washington, D.C.: Ameri¬ can Association for the Advancement of Science, 1986), pp. 53-57.

Evaluating SDI Technology: Introduction

process, this countermeasure may be particularly attractive to the So¬ viets at this time because they are reportedly in the midst of a major modernization of their intercontinental nuclear attack forces, which is to be completed sometime in the mid-1990s. A second form of saturation is the employment of preferential of¬ fense. For example, suppose the defense tries to protect all major cities from attack. The offense would have the luxury of concentrating its offensive forces on only a few such targets, thereby bringing to bear on those cities more offensive power than the defense could handle. Space mines. One potential threat to all defensive assets in space

would be the space mine. A space mine would be a small satellite equipped with an explosive (possibly nuclear) charge. This satellite would orbit within lethal range of the satellites used in the boost phase defensive system and would detonate on command or when tampered with, knocking out the target object. Direct ascent nuclear asat. The Soviet Union could modify an existing

nuclear-tipped missile to destroy SDI battle stations and sensor satel¬ lites. These asats could not be distinguished from other icbms in the first phase of their attack and could be accompanied by decoys. Thus if ten interceptors were launched against each target and if each missile carried two hardened warheads and one thousand decoys, each battle station would confront approximately ten thousand targets. Boost-Phase Countermeasures Fast-burn boosters. Time is one of the most critical variables that would

determine the success or failure of defensive technology. In the boost phase, for instance, the Soviet SS-18 burns out in about 300 seconds at approximately 400 kilometers altitude. This burnout time allows SBIs or DEWs the time to perform their missions. Consequently, by deploying fast-burn boosters, which might burn out at 60 to 100 kilometers in less than sixty seconds, the Soviet Union can severely undermine the effec¬ tiveness of these defensive weapons. For instance, the report of the American Physical Society on DEWs concluded that the fast-burn boost¬ er would have at least four major implications for boost-phase defensive technology: (1) Space-based x-ray lasers may be rendered ineffective because they cannot penetrate the atmosphere below approximately bo kilometers. (2) Space-based neutral particle beams would be rendered ineffective because they cannot penetrate the atmosphere below ap¬ proximately 120 kilometers. (3) Pop-up defenses would not have suffi¬ cient time to perform their mission. (4) Atmosphere-penetrating weap-

W. Thomas Wander

ons (e.g., KEWs and some space-based and ground-based lasers) would be stressed by the short kill time and retarget time available.17 Other boost-phase countermeasures. There are a variety of other tech¬ niques and technologies for blunting the effectiveness of the defense in the boost phase. Nuclear blasts in the upper atmosphere could black out the surveillance, acquisition, and tracking capabilities of the defense. The launch tactics of the Soviet Union—joint launches of real and ersatz icbms, lofted and depressed trajectories, clustered launches—could be used to put maximum pressure on the tracking and retargeting capaci¬ ties of the space-based BMD system. The effectiveness of laser weapons could be reduced by coating missiles with reflective or ablative material or rotating the missile in boost phase to make it difficult to concentrate a beam on a single spot long enough for a certain kill. Postboost phase countermeasures. During the postboost phase, when the bus releases the mirvs, the warheads could be surrounded by a cloud of radar-reflecting wires (chaff) or a cloud of infrared-emitting aerosols. This relatively cheap and available countermeasure can be used above the atmosphere to disguise the infrared radiation of a war¬ head and thus confuse infrared sensors and guidance systems. The effectiveness of postboost defenses could also be reduced by shortening the time to disperse the RVs from the postboost vehicle (PBV). For instance, some analysts have estimated that the PBV release times could be reduced from about three hundred seconds to less than sixty seconds within the next decade. Finally, multiple PBVs (minibuses) could be deployed on each booster. Each minibus would dispense one RV and several decoys. The effect would be to multiply the targets in the early postboost phase and thereby reduce kill and retarget times and/or in¬ crease the required number of battle stations. Midcourse phase countermeasures. Perhaps the most effective counter¬ measure in the midcourse is simply to overwhelm the sensors with hundreds of thousands of targets (RVs and decoys). For instance, a 200 kt RV might weigh about 200 kg; a decoy might weigh approximately 1 to 2 kg. Therefore, for each RV removed from the delivery vehicle one to two hundred decoys may be substituted. For a 4,000 kg payload boost¬ er, one would be able to deliver, for example, ten RVs and one thousand decoys into the midcourse. Assuming that one hundred postboost vehi¬ cles survive, the midcourse system would confront one thousand RVs and one hundred thousand decoys.18 17. APS Directed Energy Weapons Study, p. 38. 18. Ibid., p. 39. [142]

Evaluating SD1 Technology: Introduction

Both the real targets and the decoys would be relatively cold objects against a cold background and therefore difficult to locate and dis¬ tinguish from each other. The task of target discrimination, acquisition, and tracking can be made even more difficult by placing aluminized mylar balloons around both RVs and decoys, thus making the RV resemble the decoy (antisimulation) to radar. To deceive infrared sen¬ sors, both the RV and the decoy could be covered by an insulating blanket, giving both the same thermal signature. Alternatively, decoys can be given signatures that appear to several sensing methods as being identical to RVs. Terminal phase countermeasures. Terminal defenses must intercept their targets in less than one minute. Therefore, the maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRVs) that can maneuver more quickly than the interceptor can respond might well be an effective counter to terminal phase defenses. Nuclear explosions detonated high in the atmosphere would, among other effects, make communication, tracking, and inter¬ cept extremely difficult for terminal defenses for at least several min¬ utes. Microwave jammers, either conventional or nuclear-pumped, could jam the ground-based radars planned for guiding terminal de¬ fense intercepts. Finally, warheads can be salvaged fused to allow them to explode before being intercepted. Such an explosion would be dis¬ ruptive in the manner just explained and, depending on the altitude, could have blast and radiation effects on the original targets. Of course, this is not an exhaustive account of the countermeasures to BMD technologies available to the Soviet Union. In addition, counter¬ countermeasures are available to the United States, and countermea¬ sures to those, and so on, although counters to all countermeasures do not now exist. Therefore, a proposed defensive deployment must try to anticipate possible offensive countermeasures, and effective counters should be clearly available to those before a decision to deploy is made.


[6] SDI: Goals and Technical Objectives The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization


The sdio's goal is to conduct a program of vigorous research and technology development needed to establish strategic defense options that could eliminate the threat posed by ballistic missiles. The primary capabilities of a given defense option are that it can potentially support a better basis for deterring aggression, strengthen strategic stability, and increase the security of the United States and its allies. The SDI program seeks to provide the technical knowledge required to support an in¬ formed decision on whether to develop and deploy a ballistic missile defense system for the United States and its allies. Success in meeting this goal should be measured according to the options' abilities to (1) counter and discourage the Soviets from continu¬ ing the growth of their offensive forces and (2) channel long-standing Soviet propensities for defense toward more stabilizing and mutually beneficial ends. Furthermore, the SDI program is charged with provid¬ ing in the near term a definitive response to the Soviets' vigorous advanced antiballistic missile research and development effort. Thus the SDI could act as a powerful deterrent to any near term Soviet decision to expand its antiballistic missile system rapidly beyond that permitted by the ABM Treaty. Nonetheless, the overriding, long-term importance of the SDI is that it offers the possibility of reversing dan¬ gerous Soviet military trends by moving to a better and more stable basis for deterrence. It could provide new and compelling incentives to Excerpted from The Report to the Congress on the Strategic Defense Initiative, 1987, Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, April 1987. [144]

SDI: Goals and Technical Objectives

the Soviet Union for serious negotiations on reductions in existing offensive nuclear arsenals. There have been no preconceived notions of what an effective defen¬ sive system against ballistic missiles should be. In keeping with the sdio mission to provide the most effective strategic defense options, a num¬ ber of different concepts involving a wide range of technologies are being examined. Basic Requirements A strategic defense system that would devalue offensive ballistic missiles to a meaningful degree, and therefore would be an appropriate result of the Strategic Defense Initiative program, would have to meet the same three specific standards that any other military system would require. Military effectiveness. A defense against ballistic missiles must be able to destroy a sufficient portion of an aggressor's attacking force to deny him confidence that he can achieve his objectives. In doing so, the defense should have the potential to deny that aggressor the ability to destroy a militarily significant portion of the target base he wishes to attack. Furthermore, if a deployed defensive system is to have lasting value, technology and tactics must be available that would allow the system to evolve over an extended period to counter any plausible responsive threats. Such a robust defense should have the effect of deterring a strong offensive response and enhancing stability. Adequate survivability. Defenses must maintain a sufficient degree of effectiveness to fulfill their mission, even in the face of determined attacks on the defenses and, perhaps, loss of some individual compo¬ nents. Such a capability will maintain stability by discouraging such attacks. Survivability means that the defensive system must not be an appealing target for defense suppression attacks. The offense must be forced to pay a penalty if it attempts to negate the defense. This penalty should be sufficiently high in cost and/or uncertainty in achieving the required outcome that such an attack would not be contemplated se¬ riously. Additionally, the defense system must not have an "Achilles heel." In the context of the SDI, survivability would be provided not only by specific technical "fixes" such as employing maneuver, sensor blinding, and protective shielding materials, but also by using such strategy and tactical measures as proliferation, deception, and seltdefense. Survivability of the system does not mean that each and every element need survive under all sets of circumstances; rather, the defen[145]

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

sive force as a whole must be able to achieve its mission, despite any degradation in the capability of some of its components. Cost-effectiveness at the margin. The third requirement is that options generated by research be evaluated to the degree that the defensive systems discourage an adversary to overwhelm them with additional offensive capability. The sdio seeks defensive options—as do other military systems—that are able to maintain their defense capabilities more easily than countermeasures could be taken to try to defeat them. This criterion is couched in terms of cost-effectiveness at the margin; however, it is much more than an economic concept.

Defensive Options If the SDI is to support future decisions on selecting defensive op¬ tions, diverse efforts producing essential answers to critical issues must converge. First, promising affordable ballistic missile defense architec¬ tures must be identified. Second, the technical feasibility and readiness for development of survivable and cost-effective systems capable of meeting and sustaining the performance needs of those architectures must be established. Third, the doctrine and concepts of operation for applying the system elements of the preferred architectures must be formulated. Fourth, practical alternatives for implementing the strategy and deploying defense in the context of foreign relations and arms control must be defined. The sdio has been pursuing efforts to identify the above requirements through the system architecture and concept definition studies. The purpose of these studies is threefold. The first is to provide an initial definition and assessment of several alternative system architectures. These architectures would be required to detect, identify, discriminate, intercept, and negate ballistic missiles in their boost, postboost, mid¬ course, and/or terminal phases. A second purpose is to provide a com¬ plete and balanced set of technological and functional requirements for the individual systems within the architectures. This is needed to make the individual architecture viable and cost-effective. A third purpose is to define and prioritize critical technical issues that must be resolved to ensure that such systems can meet the performance demands of a given architecture. These three inputs are key to understanding how future decisions can be made on whether or not to implement a given defen¬ sive strategy. The task of identifying reasonable defense architectures and system concepts is an ongoing one. The evaluation and analysis of SDI tech¬ nologies and designs must necessarily evolve as research progresses. [146]

SDI: Goals and Technical Objectives

Two important elements are integral to this task: (1) the analysis of potential responsive threats with which a proposed defense would have to cope and (2) the development of appropriate scenarios for use in simulations and evaluations. The value of this ongoing research, even at the generic level, should not be underestimated. The study of possible systems allows the sdio to identify critical problem areas, develop measures of system effective¬ ness, and evolve new concepts. Without these steps, the sdio could not prioritize its investments. In addition, useful trade-off studies are being performed that may, among other outputs, allow the SDI to discover possible synergistic relationships between subsystems, major system elements, and strategies.

Layered Defense against Ballistic Missiles

In the 1960s, U.S. studies defined concepts for a layered defense, but the nation did not then have the technology to achieve the needed capabilities—the technological challenge was simply too great. Later, in the early 1980s, technological progress promised new opportunities, and President Reagan recognized that the United States needed to take a comprehensive look at effective defenses. This realization was based on progress in many technologies. Among the most important are small hit-to-kill warheads, directed-energy weapons, sensors and associated signal and data processing, and computers and display systems. Progress in these key technologies permits the identification of many promising concepts for detection, tracking, identification, intercept, destruction, and damage assessment in all phases of the ballistic missile flight. The research of sdio seeks to determine whether these concepts are feasible and can be effective in a multitiered defense.

Ballistic Missile Flight The typical trajectory of a current ballistic missile can be divided into four phases: 1. A boost phase when the missile's engines are burning and offering intense, highly specific observables 2. A postboost phase, also referred to as the bus deployment phase, during which multiple reentry vehicles and penetration aids are being released from a postboost vehicle 3. A midcourse phase during which RVs and penetration aids travel on ballistic trajectories above the atmosphere


The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

4. A terminal phase during which RV trajectories and signatures are affected by atmospheric drag Shorter-range submarine-launched ballistic missile and intermediaterange ballistic missile trajectories have similar boost and terminal phases but, in most cases, have shorter busing and midcourse phases.

BMD Requirements The critical requirement for an effective ballistic missile defense sys¬ tem is the need to achieve low leakage of nuclear warheads when threatened by both large, sophisticated attacks and attacks on the de¬ fense system itself. A strategic defense capable of engaging appropriate targets along the ballistic missile flight path must perform certain key functions: Detection. The rapid and reliable attack warning and readying of defense assets for target intercept. This includes providing full-time surveillance of ballistic missile launch areas (potentially worldwide) to detect an attack and identify its location; characterizing the composition and intensity of the attack; determining probable targeted areas for confident battle initiation; and providing track data to assist in target acquisition. Tracking, identification/discrimination. The precise and enduring "birth-to-death" tracking of targets and other objects of interest associ¬ ated with a ballistic missile attack. This includes the effective discrimina¬ tion of penetration aids and decoys; timely kill assessment; and efficient battle management, data processing, and communications capabilities for battle and defense coordination. Interception and destruction. The rapid, effective, and discernible kill of ballistic missile boosters, postboost vehicles, and reentry vehicles along the entire flight path of the ballistic missile. The defense must be capa¬ ble of stopping an attack ranging in scope from a single missile to a massive, simultaneous launch that may require ten or more kills per second by the defensive weapons. Defending against an attack while the ballistic missiles are still at the beginning of their flight paths (the boost and postboost phases) is attractive, for it maximizes the number of reentry vehicles killed and minimizes the deployment of decoys and penetration aids. Battle management, coordination. The effective manipulation of infor¬ mation about the defensive battle, the generation of displays to inform [148]

SDI: Goals and Technical Objectives

the defense commander, and the transmission of his decision to the defense elements. There are two basic approaches in designing a system to perform the necessary functions and achieve the goal of very low leakage. The first uses extremely high-performance system elements, and the second relies on redundant combinations of system elements performing at more modest levels. It is generally accepted that an efficient defense against a high level of threat is a layered defense requiring all the previously stated capabilities. For example, with a single-layer system, the failure of any function may result in overall failure. The defensive system would be only as strong as its weakest link. A target that is not detected would not be intercepted and thus would leak through the single defensive layer. Similarly, a reentry vehicle that is incorrectly classified as a decoy would not be intercepted. Clearly, very capable system elements would be required for a high-confidence single-layer ballistic missile defense. The second and preferred approach recognizes that near perfect ele¬ ment performance is unlikely and, even if possible, might be too expen¬ sive. This approach envisions a multitiered defense with each tier capa¬ ble of performing independently the basic functions of threat detection, tracking, identification, pointing and/or weapon guidance, destruction, kill assessment, coordination, and self-defense. If an element within a single tier fails, the target leaks through to the next tier, where the defense has another chance to detect and intercept the target. Three independent tiers, each of which allows 10 percent leakage, for an overall leakage of o. 1 percent, are likely to be less costly than a single tier that has the same total leakage since the performance requirements for each tier can be substantially lower than those required for a stand¬ alone tier. Overview of Layered Defense The phenomenology and required technology for each phase of a ballistic missile trajectory are different. While there is considerable tech¬ nical overlap of systems between phases, it is useful to separate system concepts into the four phases for the purpose of discussing top-level performance goals, identifying broad technical approaches to achieve those goals, and identifying key issues to be resolved. I hese topics are discussed in the context of boost, postboost, midcourse, and terminal defense systems. These discussions establish the basis for the invest¬ ment strategy and technology development required to realize defensein-depth concepts. For convenience, the systems functions have been grouped into three


The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

categories in the following discussion—surveillance (detection, initial identification), acquisition (tracking, identification/association/discrimi¬ nation, kill assessment, coordination), and intercept (pointing/guidance, destruction, self-defense). Boost Phase Role. The ability to respond effectively to an unconstrained threat is highly dependent on the capability of a boost-phase intercept system. For every booster with multiple independently targeted reentry vehicle payloads killed, the number of objects to be handled by the remaining elements of a layered defense system can be reduced substantially. Such kills also disrupt the highly structured attacks that stress terminal systems. A boost-phase defense system is currently constrained by extremely short engagement times and a potentially large number of targets. These constraints create a requirement for a surveillance and battle management system with weapons release authority based on predetermined, technically measurable conditions for engagement. They also dictate a weapons system that can deliver enough energy to each target in the limited available engagement time to ensure booster kill. Functional needs. Functional needs and performance goals for defen¬ sive actions in boost-phase operations are highly sensitive to assump¬ tions about the number of targets to be engaged as a function of time and/or assumed target vulnerability. The first assumption bounds the performance of the surveillance and target acquisition system, the battle management and data processing system, and the fire-control or weap¬ on-guidance sensors. The second assumption, target vulnerability, has a major impact on the performance of the weapon. Both dictate the number of weapons required. Survival and endurance of all boostphase systems are crucial. Surveillance. The requirement to detect launches and associate target signatures with specific booster tracks is fundamental. High sensor resolution is needed. Once launch is detected, the system must be capable of handling large numbers of individual targets during the few hundred seconds or less of booster launch in the presence of natural interference from the sun and earth background and, perhaps, active deception or countermeasures. This same surveillance system would provide handover to the midcourse tracking system that must acquire and track the PBV during its maneuvers and initiate birth-to-death tracking. Acquisition. Once the individual booster tracks have been identified.

SDI: Goals and Technical Objectives

the Battle Management/Command, Control, and Communications (BM/C3) systems must allocate individual targets or groups of targets to a specific weapon or weapon platform. A sensor or sensors supporting that platform must then acquire and track the relatively cool booster body in the presence of the hot exhaust plume. The pointing accuracy can vary considerably depending largely on the type of weapon that sensors are supporting. Intercept. Directed-energy kill mechanisms must, in general, deliver from a few to tens of megajoules of energy to the booster or postboost vehicle. Some weapon concepts attack targets serially using available battle time to move from target to target. In such systems, retarget time must be limited from a few seconds to a fraction of a second in order to achieve required high kill rates. Other concepts engage targets in paral¬ lel and do not require rapid retargeting. Some concepts (kinetic-energy weapons) involve physically hitting the target with a homing warhead that must be precisely guided. Finally, there must be, in near real time, confirmation that the target has been successfully engaged and de¬ stroyed. Postboost Phase Role. The postboost phase is potentially rich in information that can be used for discrimination. In this flight phase the defense leverage decreases as decoys and RVs are deployed. The postboost phase offers from one to three hundred additional seconds for intercept by boostphase weapons and may be the predominant phase in which targets are accessible depending on Soviet boost-phase responses. Functional needs. The postboost vehicle's dispensing phase begins at the end of booster burn and ends for each reentry vehicle or penetration aid as it leaves the PBV or bus. Accordingly, acquisition, tracking, and discrimination between RVs, decoys, and debris are key functions that begin in this phase and continue into the midcourse phase. Since the target is the PBV, the target engagement and energy delivery functions are similar to those for the boost phase. Surveillance. At booster burnout, the large, massive infrared signa¬ tures of the booster plume are replaced by the modest signature of intermittent postboost propulsion and the PBV body. If groups of ob¬ jects can be classified, if a track file can be established for each group, and if the state vectors can be handed over to a birth-to-death tracker, the difficulty of discriminating RVs and masked RVs from decoys and other objects in later phases will be greatly reduced or the offense will be forced to use fewer, more complex decoys.

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

Acquisition. The functional needs are similar to boost-phase need with some differences. For example, precision pointing now must be accomplished on bodies undergoing smaller but more frequently vary¬ ing accelerations. Though target signatures are much, much smaller than in the boost phase, they should be large enough to support longrange acquisition and tracking. Intercept. Boost-phase kill mechanisms would probably be used in the PBV phase, although substantial differences in the vulnerability of PBVs and boosters are expected.

Midcourse Phase Role. An intercept outside the atmosphere forces the defense to cope with decoys designed to deceive interceptors and exhaust the force. Fortunately, in this phase, the available engagement time is longer (approximately 1,500 seconds) than in other phases. This freedom from the tight time constraints in the boost (150 to 200 seconds), postboost (300 to 500 seconds), or terminal (20 to 50 seconds) phases strongly argues that a midcourse intercept system is an important element in a comprehensive defensive capability. The midcourse system must, how¬ ever, provide both early filtering of nonthreat objects (decoys) and continuing destruction of threat objects (RVs) if the defense is to mini¬ mize the pressure on the terminal system. Failure to engage the defense before midcourse could result in a tenfold to several hundredfold in¬ crease in objects in the threat cloud. . . . Functional needs. Midcourse defense involves detecting and destroy¬ ing RVs after their deployment from the PBV and before atmospheric reentry at altitudes of about one hundred kilometers. Acquisition, tracking, and discrimination are the key functions in continuing de¬ fense against ballistic missiles during this phase. Assuming discrimina¬ tion is possible, multiple engagement opportunities are available over the relatively long flight time. Surveillance. An autonomous midcourse surveillance function re¬ quires that sensors detect all threatening objects in the midcourse re¬ gime, rapidly filter out lightweight decoys and debris, precisely track the remaining credible objects (RVs and heavy decoys), discriminate the RVs from most of the heavy decoys, provide RV position and trajectory data of adequate accuracy for firing kill devices, and perform kill assess¬ ment. As in the PBV phase, groups of objects must be classified, track files established, and state vectors handed over. Acquisition. Precision tracking of threat objects is required to provide the position of the target needed for intercept. This consists of trajectory [152]

SD1: Goals and Technical Objectives

predictions accurate for battle management and handover to a mid¬ course hit-to-kill interceptor. In addition, position accuracy is needed for handover to the acquisition, tracking, and pointing subsystems of directed-energy weapons. Intercept. Since the targets (RVs) must be protected against the heat and forces of reentry, they are inherently hardened to thermal and impulse kill mechanisms. For high confidence, kill mechanisms must deliver a few tens of megajoules of energy to the target. The long duration of the midcourse trajectory (1,500 seconds) offers opportuni¬ ties for multiple engagements even with modest interceptor velocities. Terminal Phase Role. The area defended of a terminal-defense interceptor is deter¬ mined by its speed and how early it is launched. Since terminal-defense interceptors fly within the atmosphere, their average velocity is limited. How early they can be launched depends on the time needed for discrimination of the target from penetration aids and accompanying junk and assignment to an interceptor. A requirement for independent discrimination delays launch of the interceptor and reduces the "foot¬ print" or defended area. Moreover, since the terminal defense of a large area requires many interceptor launch sites, the defense is vulnerable to saturation and preferential offensive tactics. Such structured, preferen¬ tial attacks suggest complementing the terminal defense with area de¬ fenses that intercept at long ranges and provide wider defense foot¬ prints. Such a complement is found in a system for exoatmospheric intercepts in the midcourse phase. Functional needs. A terminal defense is sought which protects both urban-industrial and military targets against the residue of an attack that has been engaged in all previous phases. The driving requirement for the terminal tier of defense is a survivable and affordable system that can defend the entire United States. Defense of soft targets demands a keep-out altitude above which all RY s must be killed to prevent damage to these targets. The need to provide this keep-out over the entire United States requires that the defense elements have large footprints, that is, the area defended must be large so as to limit the number of elements needed for full coverage. Surveillance. The basic functions of the surveillance supporting the terminal-phase system are to acquire and sort all objects that have leaked through early defense layers and to identify the remaining RY s. Such actions will be based, when possible, on handovers from the midcourse engagements. Although only a small traction of the lethal [153]

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

RVs will reach the terminal tier intact, junk from the entire attack (spent PBVs, tankage, RV deployment hardware, and the debris created by the destruction of targets in previous phases) may arrive over the United States. Acquisition. When a threatening object is identified, a homing inter¬ ceptor must acquire its target and maneuver to kill it. Homing ac¬ curacies depend on the warhead used. In general, homing vehicles must have good maneuverability and very fast response from central systems. Intercept. The interceptor must have very high acceleration and burn¬ out velocity. For targets that require the interceptor to fly a considerable distance, the intercept will take place near the keep-out altitude. The high velocity of the interceptor will permit it to have a relatively large footprint.

Special Considerations—Shorter-Range Ballistic Missiles Slower reentry speeds, greater angle of reentry, less MiRving, and fewer penetration aids, plus potentially low apogees of depressed tra¬ jectory slbms and irbms, pose a different set of defense problems. These factors could provide offsetting advantages in defending against shorter-range systems. The low apogees associated with some of the shorter-range classes of irbms or with depressed slbms make midcourse intercept difficult. The limited geographical area threatened by irbms, however, would enhance the effectiveness of the terminal-defense layer. Defense against tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) also requires special consideration, although some of the elements of the terminal tier of a defense system against longer-range missiles could be adapted to antitactical ballistic missile (atbm) systems.

Technical Objectives If the sdio is to offer a high-confidence basis for decisions on whether to pursue one or more defensive options, the program must do several things. First, it must conduct a balanced effort that expands and acceler¬ ates the progress of technology in a manner that supports the relevant architectures. Second, it must provide the architect with conceptual designs of the system elements. Such designs are needed if the architect is to evaluate the potential effectiveness of candidate ballistic missile defense that could be assembled and deployed from those technologies. Third, it must provide a basis for showing how these defense options can be operated and maintained to do the job. These activities are being conducted in accordance with applicable U.S. treaty obligations. [154]

SD1: Goals and Technical Objectives

The sdio must pursue its program in a logical and timely way and balance its efforts between advanced and more mature technologies. First, the most mature technologies need to be validated to provide initial options for defense architectures. These options could simply hedge against Soviet breakout and deployment of a defense against U.S. ballistic missiles or provide a defense against the current and potential 1990s Soviet offensive threat. Second, the long-term viability of future defensive options needs to be ensured by demonstrating the feasibility and readiness of technologies to support more advanced defense options against an evolving and increasingly more capable threat based on the offensive technologies of the early twenty-first century. And third, research needs to be conducted in a manner that encourages innovation by the U.S. scientific community in response to the president's challenge to aid the sdio in identifying and exploiting new approaches promising major gains in defense effectiveness. Basic Program Activities has established a program that is designed to gain and maintain the initiative for defenses against ballistic missiles. The sdio will achieve this by means of the following activities: (1) Technology base develop¬ ment, which could evolve faster than potential responses in Soviet ballistic missile capabilities. (2) Technology validation consisting of ma¬ jor experiments that determine readiness to proceed with full-scale development. This activity includes technology integration experi¬ ments and system-level validation experiments. sdio

Technology development. The scientific work in the sdio that is classi¬ fied as a technology development activity encompasses a large number of individual efforts (i.e., programs with small to modest funding). This work includes both basic and applied research. Some of this work involves relatively straightforward extensions of existing technology, but it also includes high-risk, high-payoff efforts. The technology de¬ velopment activity is intended to foster the birth of many innovative ideas. The programmatic objective is to provide the framework of knowledge needed to pursue integrated experiments and to build op¬ portunities for program growth. . . . Technology validation. Technology validation, the second major ac¬ tivity, includes proof-of-feasibility experiments. These experiments tend to be moderately expensive, driven by time urgency, and focused on the problems of technology and systems integration. 1 he emphasis in these projects is on the early resolution of a major issue that can have a substantial impact on the success of the long-term SD1 goal. Examples

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

of such projects are the integration of a high-power free-electron laser and beam director, a study of a space-based neutral particle beam accelerator and sensor package, a booster tracking and weapon plat¬ form pointing experiment, and an integrated study of kinetic-energy intercept of a target vehicle in outer space. Technology validation experiments (TVEs) also include efforts to prove system-level feasibility, a necessary prerequisite to full-scale de¬ velopment. Examples of these projects are simulation of test beds to demonstrate capabilities in tracking missiles in the boost phase and discriminating decoys from warheads and hit-to-kill exoatmospheric and endoatmospheric intercept. These experiments involve technology that has already been demonstrated as feasible and must now be inte¬ grated with other subsystem requirements. These projects are char¬ acterized by emphasis on integration of system elements and the per¬ formance of functional tests. Experiments in this phase provide information to answer questions that must be resolved before any de¬ gree of confidence can be had in development and then deployment. These experiments are expensive and time-consuming, but integration and further testing offer ways of avoiding more costly mistakes that often occur when premature decisions are made to test and develop complex, previously untested concepts. . . . These activities reflect SDI's emphasis on critical programs oriented toward resolving the key technical issues required to support development and deployment deci¬ sions. These activities will also provide a timely, visible, and under¬ standable set of milestones with which to measure the program's prog¬ ress and accomplishments. The key to the success of this approach is to incorporate multiple alternatives to satisfy the requirements for suc¬ cessful defense architectures and thus avoid single point failures. . . .

Technical Development Pace A possible schedule for research and possible development and de¬ ployment would comprise four periods: 1. The research-oriented program, begun by the president in his 1983 initiative, would continue until a decision could be made by a future president and Congress on whether to enter into full-scale engineer¬ ing development (fsed). 2. Full-scale development of a first-phase defense system would com¬ mence, and work on more advanced defensive technologies would continue. 3. A transition period of phased deployment of defensive systems would take place. These phased deployments would be designed so that each added increment would further enhance deterrence and [156]

SDI: Goals and Technical Objectives

reduce the risk of nuclear war. Preferably, this transition would be jointly managed by the United States and the Soviet Union, although such Soviet cooperation would not be a prerequisite for initiation of U.S. deployments. 4. Finally, deployment of highly effective, multilayered defensive sys¬ tems would be completed. Such deployments could significantly enhance the prospects for negotiated reductions or even the elimina¬ tion of offensive ballistic missiles. The research-oriented period of the program is focused on bringing defense options to the point where U.S. leaders, after consultation with the allies, could make decisions on whether to proceed with develop¬ ment and deployment. The technology should be sufficiently mature before proceeding with confidence along a development path toward a first-phase defense system. In other words, most of the effort on a firstphase system should be in the nature of engineering development, rather than that of exploratory research and a technology base. The best technical approach should have been selected by means of a thorough trade-off analysis. This involves the identification of alternatives; exam¬ ination of their feasibility; and comparison in terms of performance, cost, technical risk, and development time. Cost and schedule estimates should be credible and acceptable.

The Phased Deployment

. . . The goals of defense deployments are (1) to deny the Soviets confidence in the military effectiveness and political utility of a ballistic missile attack; (2) to secure significant military capability for the United States and its allies to deter aggression and support their mutual strat¬ egy in the event deterrence should fail; and (3) to secure a defensedominated strategic environment in which the United States and its allies can deny to any aggressor the military utility of ballistic missile attack. It has become clear that these goals can be reached through the phased deployment of defenses and that incremental deployment of defenses is the only likely means of deployment. This concept of phased deployment addresses the question of how to deploy strategic defenses in the event a deployment decision is made in the future. It does not constitute a decision to deploy. Such a decision cannot be made now. We continue to believe that the defense resulting from the various increments must be expected to meet our basic criteria. Thus the development and deployment of the initial phase ot an evolutionary system should provide a base upon which a larger, integrated system [157]

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

can continue to be built and should perform a militarily useful function that increases U.S. security in a manner commensurate with the com¬ mitment of resources involved. This would also increase arms control negotiating leverage for balanced reductions in offensive weapons. Each phase of deployment would be sized and given sufficient ca¬ pability to achieve specific military and policy objectives and lay the groundwork for the deployment of subsequent phases. Of equal impor¬ tance, the technologies employed in, and objectives served by, the initial phases of a deployment would be fully compatible with the technologies and objectives of the ultimate strategic defense system. In fact, such early phases would facilitate the achievement of the ultimate system. In addition, the first phases could serve an intermediate military purpose by denying the predictability of the outcome of a Soviet attack and by imposing on the Soviets significant costs to restore their attack confidence. These first phases could severely restrict the timing of a Soviet attack by denying them cross-targeting flexibility, imposing launch window constraints, and confounding weapon-to-target assign¬ ments, particularly of their hard-target kill-capable weapons. Such re¬ sults could substantially enhance the deterrence of Soviet aggression.

Phase I A first deployment phase could use kinetic-energy weapon and sen¬ sor system technologies to concentrate on the boost, postboost, and late midcourse intercept layers. The boost and postboost layers could con¬ sist of space-based kinetic-kill interceptors combined with surveillance and targeting satellite sensors in geosynchronous orbit. The late mid¬ course phase intercept layer could consist of ground-launched intercep¬ tors combined with ground-launched surveillance probes and could be used to destroy nuclear weapons that are not destroyed in the boost or postboost layer defense.

Phase II A second phase of deployment could augment late midcourse and boost tiers with space surveillance sensors and upgraded BM/C3. Im¬ proved surveillance sensors of these systems would provide coverage of the entire missile flight. These sensors could provide an interim interactive discrimination capability to distinguish between RVs and decoys. Increasing numbers of space-based kinetic-kill vehicles (sbkkvs) could provide the space-based tiers with additional self-defense ca¬ pabilities against Soviet asats.

SD1: Goals and Technical Objectives

Phase III A third phase of deployment could endow the architecture with full strategic defensive capabilities against ballistic missiles throughout their flight trajectory. As with the previous systems, these elements would employ highly advanced technologies developed in parallel with de¬ ployment of earlier systems. Suitable systems for this phase are ad¬ vanced versions of the boost-phase sensor, improved sbkkv, advanced space surveillance systems, airborne optical sensors, high endoatmosphere interceptors, BM/C3, and directed-energy weapons for interac¬ tive discrimination of decoys and the destruction of ballistic missiles in flight. The extent to which we would have to follow such a phased deploy¬ ment approach would depend on the Soviet response. The mere de¬ velopment of the option for phased deployment of strategic defense can help motivate Soviet acceptance of U.S. arms reductions proposals. With such acceptance, phased deployment plans could be modified accordingly. If they respond favorably, a deployed system could func¬ tion as an insurance system and would require more limited quantita¬ tive upgrading over time. If they do not respond favorably, full deploy¬ ments could be initiated. In summary, the concept of a phased deployment of a strategic de¬ fense system appears to be feasible. An effective system of space-based and ground-based interceptors can provide a useful deterrent capability and provide strong motivation for the Soviets to cooperate in the transi¬ tion from a dependence on nuclear retaliation to a greater reliance on defense. Although there are many difficult steps to be accomplished along the way and a sustained national commitment to this course of action is required, we believe that new technological options will be available to meet our criteria for incremental defense capabilities.

[7] The SDI Technical Program The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

Since President Reagan announced his defense initiative and called for an intensive and comprehensive effort to define a long-term pro¬ gram ... a broad-based, aggressive, and sound technical program has been defined and put into action. . . . The technical program is organized to support future decisions on defensive options. To do this, diverse efforts producing essential an¬ swers to critical issues must converge. The following important critical issues require resolution before a decision on deployment can be made: • the need for "smart" high-speed kinetic-kill projectiles to help assure the viability of a kinetic-energy alternative for boost-phase kill; • good "windows" in the high-endoatmospheric regime and reliable discrimination for exoatmospheric interceptors; • hypervelocity, repetitively pulsed railguns with "smart" bullets; •

active discrimination using radar and/or laser radar (ladar) and interactive discriminators using lasers and neutral particle beams;

• • • • • •

hardening of passive sensors to hostile environments; booster "hard-body" identification in the presence of the rocket's plume; high brightness lasers, particle beams, and nuclear-driven technol¬ ogy for boost-phase intercept against "responsive" threats; battle management/C3 software and hardware including a simula¬ tion and testing ground facility; survivability and countermeasures work by systems technologists; lethality experiments carried out at levels characteristic of realistic weapons on realistic targets;

Excerpted from The Report to the Congress on the Strategic Defense Initiative, i98y, Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, April 1987; parts of this chapter are also adapted from the 1986 SDIO Report to Congress. [160]

The SDI Technical Program

space-based power supplies and power conditioning equipment;

and, • reduction in space transportation costs. Because of the complexity of the SDI research program, a number of issues must be resolved before a decision can be made to proceed to the development phase. Discussion in this chapter on the various accom¬ plishments made in each program element in the last several years shows that research has answered many unresolved issues. Typically, as a given technology matures, new questions arise as old ones are answered. Sometimes the more mature technologies appear less promising than other less well-researched technologies that have not, as yet, encountered the tougher questions. Care has to be taken to avoid being overly critical of concepts well along in research or to expect too much from concepts not yet put to the test. The SDI program described in this chapter is designed to develop the emerging tech¬ nologies in a logical, timely way so as to provide a better basis for credible deterrence. That is the technical challenge.

Surveillance, Acquisition, Tracking, and Kill Assessment

(SATKA) Program The satka program provides research efforts to identify and validate various sensor concepts for performing surveillance, acquisition, track¬ ing, discrimination, and kill assessment of enemy ballistic missiles from their launch to warhead reentry and detonation (birth to death). The program is divided into three project areas: technology base develop¬ ment, data collection and measurements, and technology integration experiments. The technology development program is structured to quantify the risk and cost of achieving a reliable and survivable system for a multitiered SDI. It includes infrared sensors, laser radars, and microwave radars. Data-collection and measurement projects pro\ ide the facilities, measurement equipment, and test targets for the collec¬ tion and interpretation of signature data on ballistic missile compo¬ nents, reentry vehicles, and backgrounds. The technology integration experiments planned for this program test a broad range of technologies to support the satka function. Highly reliable satka sensors are re¬ quired for all phases of defense engagement. Descriptions of four major systems currently being researched under the satka program follow. Boost Surveillance and Tracking System. In the boost phase, sensors must detect the hot exhaust from a ballistic missile launch, provide rapid and reliable warning of attack as soon alter launch as possible, [161]

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

give initial tracking data to the boost-phase intercepts, bring the inter¬ ceptors to bear, and provide kill assessment. The space-based Boost Surveillance and Tracking System (bsts) would provide ballistic missile attack warning and assessment information and generate track files for the National Command Authority and battle managers. The bsts must be highly survivable to direct attack during the battle and must also endure after the boost-phase battle is finished because this function is essential for warning, assessment, and handover to other defense ele¬ ments. Space Surveillance and Tracking System. In the post-boost and mid¬ course phases, sensors must provide accurate discrimination between reentry vehicles, penetration aids (decoys and chaff), and other space debris. Midcourse surveillance systems must be capable of accepting RV track files from boost-phase surveillance, efficiently track the RVs, and provide track data for handoff to postboost, midcourse intercep¬ tors, and terminal phase tracking systems. The space-based Space Sur¬ veillance and Tracking System (ssts) would provide near real-time bal¬ listic missile surveillance and tracking and timely satellite attack warn¬ ing and verification. The ssts is complemented by the long wavelength infrared (lwir) probe, which would support the midcourse phase and early terminal defense. Airborne optical surveillance and terminal imaging radar. In the terminal phase, sensors must provide efficient tracking and discrimination of RVs from penetration aids and other debris. Systems must be capable of receiving tracking information from midcourse sensors, tracking the target, processing the data, predicting intercept points, passing com¬ mands to intercept vehicles, and assessing kills. The Airborne optical surveillance (AOS) concept is an aircraft-based, late midcourse and terminal phase acquisition, tracking, and discrimi¬ nation system capable of handoff to a ground-based surveillance system for terminal intercept. This sensor system would have the wide field of view and high resolution essential for late midcourse and terminalphase detection, discrimination, and designation of ballistic missile reentry vehicles. The terminal imaging radar (TIR) concept will receive the handover from an airborne optical surveillance system and then provide precision track information for high endoatmospheric terminal-phase engage¬ ments of the most threatening objects. The system would also provide kill assessment and retargeting capability over a large area of terminalphase engagement.

The SDI Technical Program

Significant SATKA Accomplishments Radar. . . . The preliminary design for the terminal imaging radar has been completed. Concept definitions for space-based radar are nearly complete. Infrared (IR) sensor. IR sensor performance improvements and radia¬ tion hardening are required by the Space Surveillance and Tracking System. The primary design for cryocooler cooling of IR sensors suc¬ cessfully demonstrated a five-year lifetime. This proved the feasibility of an active cooler for the long wavelength infrared radar surveillance mission. Furthermore, operating temperatures for these devices have increased, thus reducing their cooling requirements. Superior radiation hardness was demonstrated and detector noise has been dramatically reduced. The lwir detectors will be used in a wide variety of SDI spaceborne and airborne sensors, which are currently being devel¬ oped. . . . Laser radars. Laser radars are needed both for precise determination of target positions and to support certain discrimination techniques. New transmitters have been designed and, in some cases, fabrication begun for high-resolution IR lasers and UV lasers. Laser beam agility techniques have also been designed, and some have been tested at low power levels. Interactive discrimination. Interactive discrimination technology must be developed to support a robust discrimination capability and to en¬ sure against potential countermeasures. A major study assessed more than forty different interactive discrimination concepts and developed a technology program plan. Signal processing. Signal processing technology is vital to all sensor developments, and processors must be able to operate in radiation environments. Radiation-hardened chip technology has continued to develop and has included demonstrations of several different types of hardened chips. The mass production of chips has been demonstrated. In support of the space-based real-time signal-processing program, versions of the advanced on-board signal processor (aosp) were con¬ structed. Measurements. To support planning for both technology develop¬ ment and validation experiments, two general classes of measurement [163]

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

and data collection are essential: collection of data on Soviet icbms and their components and measurements of the backgrounds against which these systems must be viewed. In the past year, satka sensors viewed targets against a variety of backgrounds, including the earth's lower atmosphere (earth-limb) and the various natural events that occur in this regime such as the visibly intense aurora in the northern latitudes. spirit i, a rocketborne earth-limb experiment, flew successfully during an extremely strong aurora and identified previously unseen phenome¬ na. The instrumentation was recovered and can be flown again with improvements based on the first mission. This experiment was impor¬ tant because it demonstrated the ability to characterize an aurora against the earth-limb, thereby gathering critical data needed to evalu¬ ate the performance of an IR system during redout produced by a nuclear detonation. Experiments. In areas with sufficiently mature technology, validation field experiments are essential precursors to operational systems. It is essential to design experiments that test out both the components of individual systems and the interaction and interrelationships among those components. Technology validation experiments are being pur¬ sued as follows. Initial planning for the satka integrated experiments (SIEs) required to examine the interactions among different sensors was completed and design was initiated. Concept development efforts were completed for demonstration and validation of the Boost Surveillance and Tracking System. A concept was defined for investigation of critical surveillance functions for the ssts. . . . Missions and payoffs of the lwir probe in both the SDI ground- and space-based architectures were defined. The real-time operating software (for tracking, discrimination, and handover) for the airborne optical adjunct (AOA) was completed. Progress continued on experiment fabrication and modification of the 767 aircraft.

Directed-Energy Weapons


Technology Program

The directed-energy program identifies and validates directed-energy systems technology that can destroy large numbers of enemy boosters and postboost vehicles . . . and discriminate decoys from war¬ heads by probing them with a directed-energy beam to produce a distinctive signature. Boost- and postboost-phase intercept and mid¬ course interactive discrimination are the keys to achieving a highly effective ballistic missile defense. Over the long term, directed-energy weapons appear to be the key to [164]

The SDI Technical Program

defeating the more serious threats that might be deployed in response to first-generation U.S. defenses, such as fast-burn boosters, which severely shorten the exposure time of enemy missiles in their vulner¬ able boost phase. Efforts in this program include not only innovative technology but also concepts that predate the SDI by several years and are more technically mature. New directed-energy weapons concepts are continually emerging and creating options that may significantly improve system performance and/or reduce cost. Brightness and target hardness (which help determine how long the beam must dwell on the target to kill it) combined with retarget time (how quickly one can switch between targets) define the capability of the directed-energy weapon. The basic technical objective is to provide a proven set of technologies that can produce a weapon with high brightness and short retarget times needed to meet specific ballistic missile defense requirements.

Space-Based Lasers (SBL) The SBL concept envisions self-contained laser battle stations. These battle stations are seen as modular assemblies of laser devices and optical phased arrays that increase their performance as the threat grows by adding additional modules. Once deployed, SBL stations could engage ballistic missiles launched from anywhere on the earth, including the broad ocean area for sea-launched ballistic missiles and Western Europe for intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The same con¬ stellation of SBL battle stations could play other very significant roles. They could destroy postboost vehicles before all reentry vehicles are deployed, destroy or identify decoys or penetration aids in the mid¬ course phase, and defend U.S. satellites. Furthermore, since the beam of some types of space-based lasers could penetrate into the atmosphere down to the cloud tops, SBL weapons may be able to provide some capability against aircraft, cruise missiles, and tactical ballistic missiles. The primary candidate for the space-based laser concept uses hydrogen-fluoride-fueled chemical lasers operating in the 2.7 micrometer wavelength. This concept has been under development since the late 1970s. As the first of the DEW concepts identified for application against ballistic missiles, it has the most mature technology base. Efforts are well into the hardware fabrication phase for engineering proof of princi¬ ple through ground-based tests. Other candidates for space-based lasers are devices that generate beams at short (one micrometer or less) wavelengths. 1 he shorter wave¬ lengths of those devices can provide substantial increases in brightness (a primary measure of performance) if the quality of the optics and [165]

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

accuracy in pointing are increased proportionally. The radio-frequency linac (RFL) free-electron laser (FEL), for which high electrical efficien¬ cies are projected, is one of the most promising alternatives. Another potential alternative is the short-wavelength chemical laser. Yet another approach uses nuclear reactors to pump a short-wavelength laser.

Ground-Based Lasers In the ground-based laser (GBL) concept, several ground sites are equipped with laser-beam generators; target acquisition, tracking, and pointing capability; and advanced beam control subsystems. These stations generate a short-wavelength beam, condition the beam to com¬ pensate for atmospheric distortion, and project the beam onto space relay mirrors. These relays, perhaps at geostationary orbit (36,000 kilo¬ meters), redirect the beams from the ground to mission mirrors at lower orbit. The mission mirrors acquire and track the target, point the beam, focus the beam, and hold it on the target until enough energy is depos¬ ited to kill the target. By this means, ground stations located in the United States can engage targets worldwide. As in the case of the SBL, such a weapon system has potential not only for defense against ballis¬ tic missiles but also for aircraft and satellite defense. Recent significant progress indicates that the free-electron laser is the most promising approach. The GBL concepts have been under investigation since the early 1980s.

Space-Based Particle Beams In the space-based neutral particle beam (spnpb) concept large num¬ bers of negative ions are accelerated to velocities near the speed of light, creating a high-energy beam which is steered toward the target by magnets at the front of the weapon. To create the neutral particle beam, the electron is stripped of its negative ion as it leaves the weapon. A neutral particle beam does not diverge afs it leaves the accelerator as a charged beam would. A second approach for targets at lower altitudes uses charged particle beams which follow an ionized channel. This channel is created by a laser beam in the thin upper atmosphere and forms a conducting path to the target. The neutral particle beam weapon concept, as with space-based la¬ sers, envisions a configuration of weapon platforms in space that pro¬ vides worldwide coverage. These platforms could engage ballistic mis¬ sile boosters and postboost vehicles as their trajectories bring them above the earth's atmosphere (i.e., late boost, postboost, and mid¬ course phases). Unlike lasers, the energetic particles or ions penetrate [166]

The SD1 Technical Program

deeply into the target. Thus a high-brightness particle beam can pene¬ trate the thermal protection of a missile provided to survive reentry and engage reentry vehicles in the midcourse. Neutral particle beam weapons have two potential kill mechanisms: electronics kill and hard kill. Electronics kill might be possible at rela¬ tively low beam fluence levels, but it may not be possible to tell whether the target has been killed. Hard or structural (readily observable) kill requires beam fluence several orders of magnitude greater than elec¬ tronics kill. Efforts in this concept and its associated technology were proceeding at a fiscally limited pace before the initiative. The newest, and potentially the earliest, application of space-based particle beam battle stations could be as discriminators during post¬ boost and midcourse phases. The primary targets would be decoys that are difficult to detect using passive means. The gamma rays and neu¬ trons emitted by an object when irradiated by an energetic particle beam increase in proportion to the mass of the object irradiated. Thus these emissions can discriminate the heavy reentry vehicles from the light decoys and/or penetration aids that may be encountered during an attack. Nuclear-Directed Energy Weapons (NDEW) The Department of Energy (DOE) is conducting a broad-based re¬ search program investigating the feasibility and utility of using nuclear explosions to drive directed-energy weapons technologies. These con¬ cepts seek to convert a portion of the energy released in a nuclear explosion into a form that can be concentrated and directed over long ranges onto ballistic missiles and their warheads. Such concepts may yield very high brightness over large lethal volumes. Some concepts, such as the x-ray laser, could be placed in ground-based interceptors that pop up to engage missiles early in their trajectory phases. Although the Strategic Defense Initiative is emphasizing non-nuclear defensive weapons, this research is important to the overall understanding of the potential use of ndew as an element of a U.S. defense, as well as the implications for its use in Soviet defensive and counterdefensive ca¬ pabilities. Significant DEW Accomplishments Space- and ground-based lasers. High power and efficiency in convert¬ ing electron beam energy into coherent microwave radiation in induc¬ tion linac FEL experiments have been demonstrated at the Electron Laser Facility. A free-electron laser experiment called paladin is being

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

designed and built. Initial lasing from the paladin equipment occurred in November 1986 confirming theoretical predictions. High-power in¬ jectors have been designed and tested for next-generation electron accelerators that will drive future free-electron lasers. Injectors with high-pulse repetition rates and accelerating modules using magnetic pulse modulators have also been demonstrated. A new design will soon be tested with higher electron currents, beam energies, and pulse repe¬ tition rates. High-burst-power experiments at short wavelengths have been initiated in the pursuit of high-brightness radio-frequency-driven FELs for space- and ground-based applications. A definitive series of tests is continuing to expand the understanding of laser-created chan¬ nel-guided electron beams. The potential for increasing the brightness of the alpha hydrogen-fluoride chemical laser to that necessary for ballistic missile defense is being demonstrated. Very high brightness can be realized by the mutual phasing of multiple lasers in a manner that enables several individual lasers to act as one giant laser. The excimer laser program has demonstrated the switching technology needed to operate continuously and reliably. It is also addressing the problems of combining high-energy laser beams and of performing atmospheric compensation. Progress is being made in both the beam quality and beam power. Laser beams from the radc amos facility in Maui, Hawaii, successfully tracked U.S. Navy sounding rockets fired from the nearby Barking Sands Missile Range demonstrating beam control and atmospheric compensation technology. These tests demon¬ strate the ability to point at cooperative targets with high accuracy and to use adaptive optics to compensate for atmospheric turbulence, pro¬ ducing a beam quality close to optical limits. Metallic heat exchangers for high-energy laser mirrors were fabricated. This capability allows design and optical fabrication of very large optical systems. The Large Advanced Mirror Program (lamp) began assembling a four-meter seg¬ mented mirror. This will be the largest lightweight mirror ever pro¬ duced in the United States. Cooled optical components, required by high-power free-electron lasers to control thermally induced optical surface deformation, were developed.

Space-based particle beams. Experiments over the past several years have demonstrated that high-brightness negative ion beams can be produced in an accelerator only four meters long, indicating the feasi¬ bility of producing high-brightness negative-ion beams for space ap¬ plications.

Other. A scaled-down

program was completed. This experimental program of integrated pointing control technologies demtalon gold


The SDI Technical Program

onstrated accuracies approaching those required for operational sys¬ tems and increased understanding of how to point directed-energy weapons with the extreme precision required. The initial round of conceptual design studies of the four DEW concepts was completed. These studies will provide inputs to the architecture developers on roles DEW concepts can play.

Kinetic-Energy Weapons



Activities in this program support weapons options for all phases of a multitiered defense. As a relatively mature set of technologies, these efforts are not only a major candidate for providing the intercept and kill functions of any initial ballistic missile defense deployment but provide the major contribution to a hedge against a Soviet breakout of the ABM Treaty. Kinetic-energy-guided projectiles can be accelerated by chemically propelled boosters or, in the longer term, by hypervelocity electromag¬ netic means. In either case, projectiles rely on non-nuclear kill mecha¬ nisms. The kinetic-energy program is developing technology for (1) space-based, rocket-accelerated kinetic-kill vehicles (KKVs) for icbm intercept and satellite defense; (2) ground-launched, high-velocity, high-endoatmospheric and exoatmospheric interceptors; (3) advanced hypervelocity railguns; and (4) support items such as fire-control com¬ ponents that cover all aspects of kinetic-energy weapons. Chemical rockets are in a more advanced technological status than are hypervelocity, electromagnetic guns. The latter are favored over rockets for applications in which a very large number of engagements must be accommodated. Hypervelocity guns are also attractive because of their ability to achieve shorter flyout times with minimal system weight impact. These advantages are realized because only the kill vehicle leaves the railgun, as opposed to the kill vehicle plus propellant in the case of a rocket. The electromagnetically accelerated projectile, how¬ ever, experiences much higher g-forces than the rocket-accelerated projectile. Kinetic weapons are also very useful in the defense of space platforms depending on the altitude and hardness of the space plat¬ form's orbit, threat yields and arrival rates, and threat numbers per platform. The Kinetic-Energy Weapons Program is grouped into six projects: (1) space-based rocket-launched kinetic-kill vehicles to intercept ballistic missiles and defend satellites; (2) ground-launched exoatmospheric in¬ terceptor development; (3) ground-launched endoatmospheric inter¬ ceptor development; (4) miniature projectile development for ground[169]

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

or space-based modes; (5) test and evaluation of initial concepts, using hardware for functional technology validations; and (6) technology de¬ velopment related to allied defense and the antitactical ballistic missile.

Space-based kinetic-kill vehicles. Space-based kinetic-kill vehicles are most effective against the boost and postboost phases of ballistic missile flight. The KEW program is developing both an sbkkv flight experiment and the related technologies.

Ground-based exoatmospheric intercepts. The Exoatmospheric Reentry Vehicle Interception System is a more mature technology that will provide intercept capability in the longest portion of an icbm's trajec¬ tory, the midcourse phase. The first launch is planned for second quar¬ ter, FY 1990.

Ground-based endoatmospheric intercepts. The high endoatmospheric defense interceptor completes the KEW layered defense, hedi will in¬ tercept reentry vehicles at the end of the midcourse phase and at the beginning of the final portion of icbm flight, the terminal phase.

Miniature projectiles. The KEW directorate is investigating several de¬ ployment options for these specialized warheads and launchers. Such projectiles might be used in both ground- and space-based modes, possibly with the interceptors described above. Small projectiles also have applications as ground-based tactical weapons for the U.S. Army and possibly as an antitactical ballistic missile defense system. A major task under the mini-projectile effort is lightweight exoat¬ mospheric advanced projectiles (leap). Another task in the mini-pro¬ jectile area is hypervelocity launcher (hvl) technology.

Initial concept test and evaluation. The test and evaluation efforts pro¬ vide for functional technical validation of initial concepts through in¬ strumented test flights both within and outside the atmosphere. These test flights collect data that are currently unavailable; they provide information for the eventual deployment decision and form the basis for other experiments that need to be conducted. Included in these efforts are two significant technical milestones (STMs). . . . STM-I, also known as Delta 180, flew on September 5, 1986. It per¬ formed an actual space intercept and observed several unpredicted phenomena relevant to the sdio mission. The primary purpose of the next STM flight. Delta 181, is to collect further phenomenology data for sdio flight experiments and, in particular, the data required to support

The SDI Technical Program

the sbkkv early flight experiment. The STM flight is scheduled for FY 1988, and it is the primary information source for the sbkkv flight experiment data. Allied defense and ATBM. The last KEW category, allied/theater de¬

fense, includes as its main effort, the Theater Missile Defense/Foreign Technology Program. The objective of the foreign technology effort is to evaluate and develop allied technology based on uniqueness and appli¬ cability to sdio's KEW regional (theater) defense architectures. The tasks selected will be short (three years or less) and relatively inexpen¬ sive. As a technology matures under this program, it will be folded into work being performed by one of the sdio service agencies. . . . The sdio Antitactical Ballistic Missile Defense Program will perform research on simulation, component, subsystem, and interceptor tech¬ nologies and arrange for integrating and testing hardware for a theater defense architecture. . . . Thus the KEW program runs the full gamut of the sdio mission, from boost phase to terminal/tactical defense, sdio is addressing each of these elements in detail and conducting live-fire tests while simulta¬ neously developing the required parallel technologies. The KEW pro¬ gram has already enjoyed several spectacular successes, and other tests are planned. These technology validation experiments, with the paral¬ lel technology development, represent a well-balanced, comprehensive approach. Significant KEW Accomplishments FLAGE. The U.S. Army, under the

Defense Program, con¬ ducted three successful hit-to-kill intercepts of a low-altitude missile target using the flexible lightweight agile-guided experiment (flage) interceptor. The third flage flight destroyed an air-launched reentry vehicle simulation target traveling more than three thousand miles per hour. atbm

SBKKV. The Delta 180 experiment performed an actual space inter¬

cept and also observed several unpredicated phenomena relevant to the sdio mission. An actual reentry vehicle midcourse intercept was dem¬ onstrated in the homing overlay experiment. In the hypervelocity launcher area, a number of laboratory devices have been used to test the feasibility of multiple shots with a single gun barrel and the feasibility of high-g survivable projective components. In 1986, sbkkv studies and lab experiments were completed to determine which system architecture [171!

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

would provide the highest performance at the lowest cost. A great deal of attention was also given to system survivability and countermea¬ sures. ERIS. Technology advancement for exoatmospheric systems focused on miniaturizing kill vehicles, developing ultra-high burn-rate propel¬ lants, and demonstrating a two order of magnitude improvement in inertial navigation. HEDI. hedi made significant progress, particularly in wind tunnel tests. EEAP.

leap technology programs evaluated design concepts and

conducted experiments for several projectile fire-control technologies.

HVL. Advances were made in the hypervelocity gun (HVG) pro¬ gram. A rapid-fire test of a switch with a capability to fire forty times faster than any other switch previously tested was successful. An ad¬ vanced design that could produce a less complicated and cheaper HVL alternative was successfully tested. Breakthroughs were made in un¬ derstanding the physics of HVL bores.

Survivability, Lethality and Key Technologies (slkt) Program

Important factors in deciding whether to develop and deploy a strate¬ gic defense must be effectiveness, affordability, and survivability. The slkt program performs research in key technologies that are critical to that decision. Specifically, it supports research to develop the technol¬ ogy base that will allow the functional survivability of potential strategic defense force elements in hostile environments; increase the DOD's capability to predict the vulnerability of hostile hardened targets; de¬ velop new space transportation concepts and technologies; and iden¬ tify, formulate, and manage materials and structures (M&S) research and development programs to assure their availability for the engineer¬ ing development of SDI systems. The slkt program element is organized into the following five proj¬ ects: system survivability, lethality and target hardening; space power and power conditioning, space transportation and support, materials and structures development, and countermeasures. . . . System survivability. The System Survivability Project investigates concepts and technologies designed to assure the functional survivabili[172]

The SDI Technical Program

ty of the defensive systems. The project is generating the technology base required to assure that both initial strategic defenses and follow-on defensive systems are survivable and effective against a fully respon¬ sive defense suppression threat. The project is organized to (1) ensure that survivability concerns are identified and addressed; (2) describe and update defense suppression threats to support survivability assess¬ ments; and (3) identify promising active and passive survivability con¬ cepts. Survivability in its broadest interpretation means that sufficient space- and ground-based defenses remain effective to destroy the ballis¬ tic missile threat after dedicated attacks have been made to suppress the defense. The ability of an SDI system to intercept ballistic missiles will be determined by the survivability of its defensive forces. The United States can expect the Soviets to plan a sophisticated defense suppres¬ sion attack on SDI systems. It is the responsibility of the SDI to postulate defensive systems with sufficient survivability capabilities to make a Soviet attack relatively costly and unnecessarily complicated and make the outcome too uncertain to warrant initiating the attack. Lethality and target hardening. The Lethality and Target Hardening

(LTH) Project addresses important weapons effectiveness issues. The LTH Project is a comprehensive research program that studies damage effects created by SDI weapons concepts and predicts the correspond¬ ing vulnerability of Soviet targets. For each SDI weapons concept this project determines the required lethal energy (kill criteria) to achieve a "sure kill" against the full spectrum of hardened and unhardened enemy targets. Besides the weapons effects (lethality) work, the LTH Project also studies material hardening from the Soviet perspective (offensive hard¬ ening). LTH conducts materials research to ascertain the achievable hardening levels for Soviet offensive systems. Once determined, these new hardening limits are again tested against SDI weapons concepts. This innovative approach to lethality and target hardening is designed to reduce uncertainties in weapons effects and to assure that robust concepts are pursued against the responsive threat. sdio expects to develop hardening techniques and incorporate them into system testing for evaluation of performance, mission impact, cost, and maintainability. To assure maximum cooperation and use of avail¬ able resources, all SDI lethality and hardening efforts are being closely coordinated with complementary weapon research efforts in the De¬ partment of Energy. Because the lethality project establishes failure levels, much of the data could be useful for survivability assessments. Efforts are, therefore, carefully coordinated between this project and the System Survivability Project.

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

Space power and power conditioning. . . . The overall success of certain defensive weapon concepts is highly dependent on the ability to gener¬ ate tremendous amounts of electrical power. In response to this chal¬ lenge, the Space Power and Power Conditioning Project was estab¬ lished to develop power generation and conditioning technologies capable of providing electric power for the projected needs of a strategic defense. During a potential battle, the generation of megawatts for hundreds of seconds will be needed. Additionally, baseload power of one hun¬ dred or more kilowatts will be required by weapon and sensor plat¬ forms over periods of years. Power requirements for ground systems are equally demanding. Four tasks are included in the power project: (1) analysis and assessment of power requirements and candidate con¬ cepts, (2) development of the SP-100 nuclear power subsystem for continuous power generation to serve the needs of sdio, nasa, and other agencies and to serve as a source of energy for storage systems that provide battle power; (3) evaluation of multimegawatt concepts for further development; and (4) development of power conditioning/pulse power technology to improve performance and reduce weight/volume. Space transportation and support. . . . The feasibility of a multitiered ballistic missile defense system is dependent on the ability to provide high-capacity, low-cost space transportation. The objectives of the Space Transportation and Support Project are to define optimal archi¬ tectures and vehicle systems required to deploy and maintain strategic defense systems, develop the technologies for a robust transportation system with significantly reduced costs, and develop new space trans¬ portation systems. It is clear that current space transportation systems lack adequate launch capacity and are prohibitively expensive to sup¬ port the range of space-based missile defense systems envisioned for the SDI. To meet the SDI requirements for reduced costs, study results indicate that a new-generation unmanned heavy-cargo launch vehicle is an essential key to meeting SDI launch requirements. Space transportation systems must also support the broad range of national military and civilian needs in addition to the SDI support. Architecture studies favor a mixed fleet of manned and unmanned vehicles to satisfy national launch requirements, including the SDI. A wide variety of expendable, partially reusable, and fully reusable vehi¬ cle concepts are being evaluated. To preserve options for the deployment of a space-based missile defense system in the early to mid-1990s and to meet national launch needs, the sdio is initiating technology development for an advanced launch system. ALS will use a design that can evolve to enhanced capabilities and reduced operations costs in the late 1990s.


The SDI Technical Program

Materials and structures. . . . There is an implicit need for research

and development of materials and lightweight space and ground struc¬ tures. Several systems and critical technologies could not succeed if there were no discoveries and improvements in these areas. For in¬ stance, major lightweight platforms for use in space would depend on employment and maintenance of large structures not yet built and tested for space use. It was also recognized that materials and structures do not now exist for the degree of survivability required by a strategic defense. . . . At the onset, it was believed that such technology could be brought along in association with existing projects. It became increasingly clear, however, that individual activities could be more productive by com¬ bining common technology needs and coordinating and managing those materials and structures development activities by a central man¬ agement approach. Additionally, this centralized approach would pro¬ vide focusing and leveraging into the immense national M&S technol¬ ogy base. The Materials and Structures Project was begun in FY 1987 and ad¬ dresses the need for a centralized sdio focal point and clearinghouse for new M&S technology developments. It is investigating six major tech¬ nology areas: lightweight structural materials, optical system materials, tribological system materials (bearings and lubricants), power system materials, thermal management system materials, and lightweight structures. Countermeasures. It has been widely recognized that for SDI system

concepts to be credible to opponents and proponents alike, the concepts will have to be carefully and thoroughly examined by an independent Red Team. The Countermeasures Project supports a series of Red Teams to identify possible Soviet responses to SDI elements and to ensure that the implications of these responses are considered. The term Red Team is used here in a generic sense to indicate the sum of independent technological, political, military, and economic analyses that will be needed to conduct an independent review of a defense system concept and to identify credible potential Soviet responses. Red Team analyses are useful because they identify credible countermea¬ sures to SDI systems and also those countermeasures that can be ig¬ nored" because they are technically, politically, or economically unfeas¬ ible. Both of these inputs are essential to the defense system designer. The first helps him to design a system that is robust to likely Soviet countermeasures; the second minimizes unproductive responses to threats that are not credible. The principal elements of the SDI countermeasures analyses program are a Soviet Red Team, Technical Red and Blue teams, and Mediators.

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

The major objective of the Soviet Red Team is to formulate a reasonable Soviet global response to a strategic defense. This team will generate a "top-down" set of Soviet priorities for countering the SDI program (which may not coincide with the current emphasis in the SDI technical programs). For example, the Soviet Red Team may determine that the most likely Soviet response to an SDI system concept is to build a class of weapons that circumvents rather than counters the U.S. defense. The Soviet Red Team will also interact strongly with the Technical Red Teams and assist them in determining probable Soviet priorities for various technical countermeasures. The Technical Red Teams will be organized as necessary to continue and greatly expand the technical countermeasure analyses conducted to date. They will examine system concepts (boost and midcourse de¬ fense concepts, for example) or individual components of a system concept to assist the defense designers in understanding technical re¬ sponses to their system or component. Each Technical Red Team will interact with a corresponding Blue Team. The Blue Teams will assess the impact of the Red Teams analyses on their system design and make appropriate responses to the Red Team. The iterative process between the Red and Blue teams will be facili¬ tated by a set of Mediators. The Mediators are a group of senior govern¬ ment and industry people who are experienced in strategic offense and defense and can rapidly revise the results of red and blue analyses to determine credibility, assess implications on SDI system concepts or components, and provide sound advice for further analyses. The Medi¬ ators report directly to the sdio chief scientist. It is this group that ensures that the analyses are conducted properly and that the implica¬ tions developed are reasonable. The Mediators formulate recommenda¬ tions for the sdio director. Also included in the Countermeasures Project is an experimental program in which possible countermeasures will be built and tested if necessary to determine whether a countermeasure proposed by a Red Team and found to be technically feasible by the Mediators will actually work as conceived. The experimental work could be conducted by either industry or government agencies. The sdio process has resulted in an improved understanding of coun¬ termeasures and countermeasure responses. New ideas for counter¬ measures and countermeasure responses were identified and evaluated and are being considered in both technology and system design.

Significant SLKT Accomplishments System survivability. . . . The project was reoriented to balance re¬

search between near term survivability technical options and concepts [176]

The SD1 Technical Program

that would meet far term objectives. A multiyear technology develop¬ ment and test program was developed and established the role some technologies will play in strategic defense systems. The capability to harden electronic components and subsystems from the effects of a nuclear environment achieved substantial progress. The first hyper¬ velocity kinetic projectile tests were performed on samples of baseline spacecraft armor, and the design performed better than expected. The first numerical justification for synergistically applying multiple sur¬ vivability options to architecture designs resulted in a probability of survival much higher than previously expected. A star tracker design hardened to the near term threat level nuclear environments was pro¬ duced and tested. Star trackers will be an essential part of satellite attitude, navigation, and autonomy subsystems. Extensive testing and design validation efforts were performed for laser-hardened satellite components. Lethality and target hardening. Continuous wave laser tests were con¬

ducted on full-scale solid and liquid boosters under simulated flight loads. The missiles were destroyed, and failure models correctly pre¬ dicted the failure temperature and time conditions. Impact tests with kinetic-energy projectiles were performed on both a postboost vehicle (with RVs) and a liquid-fueled target. A dedicated particle beam test facility at Brookhaven National Laboratory was completed and the first major test was the preliminary lethality assessment test object (plato). Single-pulse-laser coupling experiments were performed which verified the accuracy of existing computer simulation codes. Tests were con¬ ducted to determine the lethality of high-power microwaves against hardened postboost vehicles. Space power and power conditioning. The SP-ioo project completed

transition from technology and assessment to ground engineering sys¬ tem (GES) testing. The current phase involves developing and demon¬ strating the performance, safety, dependability, manufacturability, and technology readiness of the SP-ioo. Greater energy storage density was demonstrated. Advances were made in the power switching area. Space transportation and support. The joint

space transpor¬ tation architecture studies (stas) have produced preliminary architec¬ ture and technology requirements results which have been transmitted to the National Security Council (NSC). Multiagency coordination has been initiated toward developing an integrated technology plan to sup¬ port national space transportation needs. . . . DOD-nasa

Materials and structures. . . . Six technology planning panels com¬

pleted the review of SDI architectures, systems, and subsystems de-

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

signs and identified critical M&S technology shortfalls and gaps. The U.S. Army and Air Force M&S technical requirements documents (TRDs) were completed for near-, mid-, and far-term SDI systems. The completion of key structures has achieved 16 percent passive structural damping. The ability to "design in" damping is essential for stability and control of SDI spacecraft. Passive and active control of these light¬ weight space structures is critical for both kinetic- and directed-energy system platforms.

Countermeasures. Results from initial analyses have been identified,

and requirements have been developed for additional analysis by the Red and Blue teams. Round I efforts have resulted in defense system designs that are more robust to possible Soviet countermeasures, and it is expected that the second round of analyses will produce additional significant modifications to the defense system designs.

Innovative Science and Technology



The Innovative Science and Technology (1ST) Office is the sdio's technical division, which has the task of seeking out new and innova¬ tive approaches to ballistic missile defense. 1ST allocates funds to re¬ search new approaches and assures that the sdio's other technical divisions are informed of new results and breakthroughs from 1ST programs. . . . The 1ST Office has several specific roles. First, it establishes a technol¬ ogy base for strategic defense through fundamental research. This re¬ search effort is conducted throughout the scientific community in uni¬ versities, government and national laboratories, small businesses, and large industries. Second, the 1ST Office provides a window for the academic scientific community into sdio programs. This unobstructed view is very important because many of the new ideas and break¬ throughs in basic science and engineering have been spawned tradi¬ tionally from university programs. Many of the basic ideas on which sdio success may depend may also come from those same universities. Finally, the 1ST Office has the responsibility to administer the sdio Small Business Innovation Research (sbir) Program. This federally mandated program required in FY 1986 that 10 percent of the total sdio extramural research and development funding be allocated to small businesses via the sbir mechanism. The 1ST Office sponsors fundamental research programs in six major [178]

The SDI Technical Program

areas: advanced high-speed computing, materials and structures for space applications, sensing and discrimination, advanced space power, advanced propellants and propulsion, and directed- and kinetic-energy concepts.

Significant 1ST Accomplishments

The compact high-energy capacitator modular advance technology experiment (checkmate) electromagnetic launcher (EML) facility was completed. This facility is capable of accelerating projectiles of 250 grams to velocities of four to five kilometers per second with a repetition rate of about two shots per day. Researchers in the 1ST novel electronic materials program were able to fabricate monocrystalline films of gemgrade diamonds in the laboratory for the first time in this country. Diamond layers are extremely useful for semiconductor electronics. Diamond films also have applications as coating layers on windows and optical devices because of their extreme hardness and transparency over a wide region of the spectrum. Substantial advances ha\ t been made in producing optically clear, durable, large-diameter glass by using the low-temperature process known as Sol-Gel (Solution-Gela¬ tin). The low-temperature Sol-Gel technology offers the potential for rapid, large-scale production of large, near net-shape optical compo¬ nents with a wide range of optical and physical properties not possible with conventional glass-melting methods requiring very high tempera¬ tures. Researchers in the 1ST Space Power Program have recently fab¬ ricated a prototype supercapacitor capable of storing large amounts of electrical energy in a can of less than one cubic foot in size and 110 kg in weight. This advance represents a factor of four increase in energy storage per unit weight and an advance in smaller, lightweight power sources for space applications. 1ST demonstrated the basis for a teeh nique to fabricate extremely large, lightweight, infrared focal-plane detectors of an entirely new type to enhance SDI capabilities in se rising and tracking. 1ST university researchers working on ultra-short-wave¬ length lasers have made a breakthrough in materials fabrication via laser lithography; a compact, inexpensive source of coherent radiation would be a powerful tool for the electronics industry. Chemical lastrs offer the advantage of lower weight and less cost on orbit because of efficient, direct chemical conversion to beam energy. The major diffi¬ culty with existing chemical lasers is that they operate at long uaxelengths and require large optical elements. Advances have been maele toward a shorter-wavelength chemical laser that coulei be used with proportionately smaller optics.

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization Battle Management/Command, Control, and Communications



The Battle Management/Command, Control, and Communications system must coordinate a complex, low-leakage, multitiered defense against ballistic missile attacks. It must operate reliably in a nuclear environment and while under direct enemy attack. The BM/C3 Program is structured into two projects, the BM/C3 Experi¬ mental Systems Project and the BM/C3 Technology Project. The Experi¬ mental Systems Project evaluates BM/C3 concepts by developing experi¬ mental versions (EVs) to test the tactical configuration of the BM/C3 system. The Technology Project develops the various technologies needed in the BM/C3 system.

BM/C3 Experimental Systems Project

This project incorporates two main tasks: BM/C3 architecture and BM/ C3 experimental system development. The first of these main tasks, battle management architecture, performs the analysis, research and development, and design for the BM/C3 subsystems for strategic de¬ fense. It establishes the necessary quantitative functional requirements and develops BM/C3 operational concepts and specifications. In addi¬ tion, this project addresses how to achieve the battle management attributes of system security, system robustness and survivability, sys¬ tem tests, and system evolution. These attributes will play key roles in developing a strategic defense that can be realized. Two generic archi¬ tecture classes, space-based and ground-based, have been identified. BM/C3 experimental system development is the second main task and concerns the analyses, research and development, and design leading to the definition and validation of experimental versions of the tactical configuration of the BM/C3 system for strategic defense. This project defines the experimental version, establishes the validity of the EV as a representation of the essential battle management technology, and de¬ velops the experimental version as a prototype of the battle manage¬ ment subsystem. The demonstration of the EVs is accomplished through a series of technology validation experiments that validate the various BM/C3 technology issues. . . .

BM/C3 Technology Project

This project develops technologies required to support responsive, reliable, survivable BM/C3 for strategic defense. Five technology tasks [180]

The SDI Technical Program

have been identified: battle management algorithms, C3 network con¬ cepts, processors, communications, and software engineering. Battle management algorithms. . . . Battle management algorithms are

the mathematical/logical processes and procedures that perform re¬ source allocation, manage and form the track file, execute command and control actions—be they autonomous or human-in-the-loop—and generally operate a strategic defense system in a robust manner that responds to change and evolving technology. . . . . . . C3 network concepts are the mathematical/ logical processes and procedures that control and manage the C3 net¬ work and its assets of processors and communications links to provide the high-performance, fault-tolerant, secure, and survivable C3 net¬ work environment within which the battle management algorithms Network concepts.

function. . . . Processors. This task develops the information-processing technol¬

ogy, devices, and subsystems that are secure; exhibit high performance; and are fault-tolerant, space-qualified, and hardened to withstand hos¬ tile environments. . . . Communications. This task develops the communications technology,

devices, and subsystems that are secure and robust and support multi¬ mode/multimedia mission-required data rates for several alternative defensive architectures and their variations. . . . Software engineering. . . . This task will upgrade, tailor, and expand

existing software development activities to the maximum extent possi¬ ble to meet SDI needs. This task includes developing methodologies, techniques, and strategies to provide reliable BM/C3 software that adapts to the evolving requirements of strategic defense and pro\ ides the trustworthiness associated with a secure system. It also supports the development and automation of tools and techniques, methodolo gies, and philosophies for organizing the requirements, design, and code-level implementation of BM/C3 software. Significant BM/C3 Accomplishments BM/C3 system architecture. BM/C3 architects have provided ranges of

performance requirements to better support refining the BM C tech¬ nology program. Early versions of some models and simulations tor various functional elements of potential strategic defense systems havt

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization

been completed. These models and simulations are key elements for validating a strategic defense system. BM/C3 experimental systems development. Detailed planning began for

the ground-based experimental version (EV-88), which consists of a sequence of subexperiments to support geographical distribution as well as evolution to a prototype BM/C3 system. The ground-based EV is a high priority because it will provide an assessment of early options for strategic defense. Demonstrations for the space-based experimental version have been defined and will assess various battle management functional algorithms. Battle management algorithms. The initial designs of the data fusion

and discrimination algorithms were completed, and software design and coding of these algorithms has begun. Design work on the situation assessment and weapon allocation algorithms began, and the design of a novel parallel track file data base management system (dbms) was completed. Network concepts. Protocols have been developed for an internetted

communications system to support distributed simulation of SDI BM/C3 and other system elements. An initial design of a candidate network control algorithm has been completed and software coding has begun. Processors. Technology approaches were developed to provide alter¬

natives for developing and evaluating fault-tolerant processor concepts, technologies, and designs. Circuit technologies that can withstand both high radiation doses and single-event upsets have been pursued. Communications. Hardware requirements were formulated and ana¬

lyzed for the wide-band and narrow-band links needed to support the internetted communications system. Work was pursued on component technology needed to support radio frequency (RF) and laser communi¬ cations links. Software engineering. Alternative software development technologies

were analyzed. Concepts for an advanced software development en¬ vironment were developed. Software verification and validation ap¬ proaches were analyzed.

[8] What Is "Proof"? Gary



Ever since the unveiling of the Strategic Defense Initiative, the ques¬ tion of its feasibility has shaped judgments on and even the presenta¬ tion of the SDI. Reagan's own announcement of the program in March 1983 recognized that "eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles" would be "a formidable technical task . . . that may not be accomplished before the end of this century." Since the president's speech, administration officials have continual¬ ly been confronted with the question "Can it work? and, just as important, "How can we know?" The president's aides have usually responded by stressing that SDI is a research program and not a deci¬ sion to deploy weapons. The question of deploying an actual strategic defense system, they have emphasized, would arise only it and when SDI research generated options for effective defenses that were achiev¬ able and affordable. Yet great uncertainty rightly exists despite this apparently prudent position. Partly to blame, no doubt, are the administration's constantly shifting rationales for the program, which make it impossible to know how the SDI will affect future U.S. strategic planning. After all, U.S. officials variously have predicted that the SDI will replace deterrence, enhance deterrence, or defend retaliatory forces or possibly Amt riea s population. Congress has been told that strategic defense is not op¬ tional but is central to American military planning, as well as that the SDI is simply a research program to see what develops. The administration did not refine its position until preparations tor Reprinted with slight modifications with permission from lomyn Polity 59 (Summer 1985). Copyright 1985 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. [183]

Gary L. Guertner

the Geneva arms control negotiations prompted a general coupling of the SDI and long-range strategic planning. The general call for a re¬ search program became the basis for a new "strategic concept" pre¬ sented by Secretary of State George Shultz to Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko during the January 1985 meeting that brought both sides back to the arms control negotiating table. The new concept, reportedly developed by Paul Nitze, special adviser to the president and secretary of state on arms control matters, calls for a "radical reduction" in offensive weapons over the next ten years and for a period of mutual transition to effective, non-nuclear defense forces as technology makes such options available. The uncertainty surrounding SDI's technical feasibility and cost-ef¬ fectiveness, however, will persist for a more fundamental reason. Many of the answers that SDI critics and skeptics want can be provided only by the field testing barred by the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 or by actual use during a nuclear war. If Congress authorizes all or most of the $26 billion that the administration plans to request for defensive research through fiscal year 1989, a great deal will undoubt¬ edly be learned about promising new technologies that new American strategic concepts will require. But not even the most ambitiously funded research program will be able to provide the information needed to make a scientifically informed decision about strategic de¬ fense. Without understanding the ambiguities and controversies that will still remain. Congress and the public may succumb to a dangerous confidence that SDI research alone can illuminate a risk-free path to a safer, defense-dominated world. And an idea all too capable of fatally destabilizing today's nuclear balance may pass the point of no return, riding only bureaucratic momentum and the technically groundless optimism of vested political and professional interests. Risks from SDI research, even in its current embryonic and seemingly innocent forms, can already be identified. In a speech on January 12, 1984, at the National Academy of Sciences, Gerald Yonas, then the senior scientist at the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, de¬ scribed his office s mission as a search for the limits of technology, for the vulnerability of systems to countermeasures, and for cost-effective¬ ness. Measured by these criteria, the least promising technologies will be subject to a "winnowing-out" process. Yet winnowing out is the most that should be expected from sdio scientists and engineers. The history of the attachment of project officers to systems to which they have devoted time, money, prestige, and perhaps future careers is a source of legitimate concern for SDI critics. Strong political commitment and sufficient technological ambiguity have worked in the past to sus¬ tain programs, even through periods of strong opposition and flawed [184]

What Is "Proof"?

performance. No matter how many approaches are winnowed out, these nonscientific factors will always fuel faith that an answer lies just around the corner. Further overt political pressures can easily distort technological objec¬ tivity when the time comes to make that so-called informed decision to deploy. Even if objectivity survives the political process, the political community may be too innocent of technical details and the uncertain¬ ties in scientific methods to evaluate innovations properly. Similarly, the technologically competent may be equally innocent of military strat¬ egy and unable to evaluate the impact of technology on war and strat¬ egy. These problems are usually exacerbated by the dynamics of bu¬ reaucratic decision making. The scientists and engineers in the sdio, in the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and in the defense industry will almost certainly produce a system that gener¬ ates major controversies, even from within. If there were a consensus within the scientific community, wise political leadership could reason¬ ably defer. But when reputable scientists are divided, as they are likely to be, what will politicians do? They are likely to base their decisions on political preferences rather than on scientific proof. The primacy of politics over science is already apparent in optimistic administration statements about the status of emerging technologies required for a layered defense. In a January 1985 White House booklet entitled The President's Strategic Defense Initiative, for example (see chap¬ ter 4), the president states that "new technologies are now at hand which may make possible a truly effective non-nuclear defense." The sdio, in fact, is still evaluating what its director, General James Abrahamson, describes as "horse race" contracts. These contracts were awarded in a competition for the best—and most quickly produced "concept" of mission and its required technical capabilities. References in public speeches to horse race contracts and architectural design concepts" mean that the SDI is still in its formative stage. No one can predict what may result from this contractual laying of track on which the appropriations train may roll for the next two decades or more. Most scientists agree that many individual components of a strategic defense system can be developed. Individual weapons could be tested and deployed in space or on the earth s surface. Battle managemtnt satellites, radars, and millions of lines of computer instructions could be integrated into a real-time intelligence network to track a nuclear war¬ head from launch to the moment of destruction. The problem, how¬ ever, is that during the testing phases of the SDI, the success of individ¬ ual components will not prove the reliability of the entire system. The possibility of gaining a meaningful understanding of how defen¬ sive systems would operate in a wartime environment, tor example. # is

Gary L. Guertner

almost nil because of the fundamental difference between testing offen¬ sive and defensive weapons. Relatively reliable predictions of the per¬ formance of an offensive force can be gleaned from limited tests of individual weapons and components. Successfully firing individual intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic mis¬ siles down a long test range can give offensive planners confidence that a high percentage of deployed systems will reach their targets during wartime. Nevertheless, the operational uncertainties of launching large numbers of offensive weapons over previously untested trajectories to distant targets should not be minimized. Yet the performance of defensive systems consists of much more than launching essentially identical individual weapons according to a par¬ ticular targeting plan. Instead, defensive systems are integrated units that must be able to intercept large numbers of simultaneously launched weapons before they reach their targets. Full-scale tests against some five to ten thousand weapons are obviously impossible. Thus, because defense planners see only isolated pieces, they cannot discern the entire puzzle. Claims of systemic effectiveness will be matters of faith and inference because only a full-scale attack could demonstrate the re¬ liability of sensors, communications, and weapons operating together in the most complex management system ever devised. Moreover, even if all these questions could be answered, the answers would be outdated almost instantly. The problems associated with strategic defense are not static obstacles that can be leaped or side¬ stepped. Instead, these problems are created by an adversary who is actively trying to overwhelm, circumvent, or in some way negate U.S. efforts. It is foolish to talk about low costs or favorable cost-exchange ratios between defense and offense as if there will be a time and a clearly delineated posture that, once reached, will permit the defense to de¬ clare final victory. The fog and friction of war—a sophisticated version of Murphy's Law—that Carl von Clauswitz described more than a century ago in his classic On War still pertains to modern conflict. Complex technology and nuclear weapons create uncertainties even larger than those faced by military planners and soldiers who struggled bravely on nineteenth-century battlefields. The primary effect of competition based on so much uncertainty is to push both sides toward worst-case judgments about the effectiveness of their own and their adversary's defensive systems. The same logic that drives one to doubt one's own capabilities results in inflation of the enemy's. Ironically, this tendency could have the salutary effect of diminishing the ussr s confidence in its ability to wage war successfully but also might dangerously reduce U.S. and allied confidence in their ability to deter Soviet aggression. To remedy these perceived shortcom[186]

What Is "Proof"?

ings and reduce uncertainties, both sides are likely to undertake defen¬ sive- and offensive-force improvements that could only prompt similar, redoubled efforts by the other side. These uncertainties combine to create a strategic environment in which crude estimates replace tangible evidence as building blocks of perceived reality. Such uncertainty could complicate offensive and defensive arms con¬ trol efforts by clouding judgments of what systems could be limited or foreclosed without jeopardizing national security. Offensive forces, for example, could be expanded by the side perceiving inferiority in defen¬ sive capability. Either side could seek countervailing advantages in offense or defense. Thus the competition could gain momentum not only through technological opportunism but also from the fear of falling behind.

A Policy Quandary

SDI supporters should not forget the importance of maintaining the existing arms control regime and of preserving the negotiating process aimed at reducing offensive arms levels. The Defensive Technologies Study Team (also called the Fletcher panel), which examined the SDI's feasibility for the Pentagon, not only emphasized that the cost and technological complexity of strategic defenses would be open-ended without arms control agreements but also stressed that interim deplo\ ments of ballistic missile defenses, specifically "point defenses" de¬ signed to protect missile silos, would be cost-effective only against "constrained threats." The policy quandary sure to arise in the future will result from the panel's recommendations to pursue a vigorous research and development program and to demonstrate intermediate technologies." Demonstrations are essential to proving the system's potential, but little can be done within the limits of the ABM Treaty in other words, without destroying treaty constraints that the panel has identified as essential for establishing cost and technological bound¬ aries to the SDI's development. Article V of the ABM Treaty forbids the parties to "develop," "test," or "deploy" sea-based, air-based, space-based, or mobile land-based ABM systems or components. By failing specifically to proscribe it, the treaty tacitly permits some activity that could be called research. But tlu line between prohibited "development and permitted research is often vague and subject to conflicting interpretations. Growing SDI research budgets will inevitably build pressures and create constituen¬ cies to assault that line either directly or under cover ot ambiguities in the treaty.

Gary L. Guertner During treaty ratification hearings, Gerard Smith, former director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and negotiator of the ABM Treaty, told the Senate Committee on Armed Services that both sides understood "development" to mean "activities involved after a compo¬ nent moves from the laboratory development and testing stage to the field testing stage, wherever performed." Smith explained that the United States chose field testing as the dividing line largely because earlier stages of development and testing in the laboratory would be difficult to verify through national technical means. But his definition, which was not seriously challenged at the time, effectively classified laboratory development and testing, even of prototypes, as permitted research. The Soviet definition of prohibited development is equally flexible. In the words of a September 30, 1972, Pravda article, former defense minis¬ ter Andrei Grechko told a session of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet that ratified the ABM Treaty that the accord "imposes no limita¬ tions on the performance of research and experimental work aimed at resolving the problem of defending the country against nuclear missile attack." Both sides agree on the importance of maintaining research programs to provide both insurance against sudden advantages by the opponent and incentives for complying with current and future treaties. But new defensive technologies, such as lasers, particle beams, sensors, and kinetic energy weapons, spark new controversies over Article V pro¬ hibitions and the extent to which they should apply to activities inside the laboratory. Both sides have approached this point in their current research programs; like runners anticipating the starting gun, they seem poised to begin the race if and when the treaty obstacles are removed. Lawyers from the Pentagon, State Department, acda, and other national security agencies determine whether SDI activities comply with the ABM Treaty. Like other lawyers, however, they do not base their advice on some objective standard. They are not judges; they represent their organizations' (that is, their clients') positions within the bureaucracy. Legal analysis, therefore, is the captive of the same inter¬ agency conflicts that paralyzed nearly all other arms control issues during the first Reagan administration. Although avoiding further erosion of the ABM Treaty has been a mutually declared goal in both capitals, current research programs increase the likelihood that Washington will attempt to negotiate treaty modifications that would permit more extensive testing of SDI technologies. Abrahamson has already anticipated the political pressures against current treaty constraints. In a speech before the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics he argued: "As we take

What Is "Proof"? aboard [larger] budgets, we must demonstrate that we are responsible stewards. . . . There is no way, even if Congress believes in the idea that it will continue to put out multiple billion dollar budgets" if the technologies cannot be demonstrated.1 Yet pressure from administration officials and from a supportive faction in Congress to demonstrate the existence of real rather than theoretical bargaining chips will collide with the desire to maintain existing arms control agreements and will polarize opinion in Congress, the media, and the public at large. The prodevelopment forces will have a strong case because the feasibility of the transition to a defensedominant world cannot be known until technical developments make possible clear choices of systems.


Many Satellites?

The warring factions in Congress will be influenced most by SDI costs and by estimates of the cost-exchange ratios between defensive weap¬ ons and offensive countermeasures. The complexity of this debate is clear from the widely divergent estimates of the number of satellites required for a credible layered defense. No single issue in the strategic defense debate has been more diverse, as the following list of recent estimates indicates: Union of Concerned Scientists 300 Office of Technology Assessment 160 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 90 Drell, Farley, and Holloway 32 3°2 High Frontier 4323 Brzezinski, Jastrow, and Kampelman 1144 The great variance in satellite-force size estimates stems from often unstated assumptions concerning such factors as a satellite s orbital time (low-flying satellites can orbit the earth in ninety minutes), the time it spends over the target area during a single orbit; its destructive payloads; the range of weapons on board; the time required for target acquisition; dwell time (the time required for destruction of an icbm booster); slew, or retargeting, time; the dispersal of Soviet ballistic missiles; the sequence of launches (mass or phased); warning time, decision time; battle management capabilities; and the reliability ot 1. Quoted in Aerospace Daily, August 14, 1984, p. 242. 2. Sidney D. Drell, Philip J. Farley, and David Holloway, "Preserving the ABM Treaty: A Critique of the Reagan Strategic Defense Initiative," International Security 9 (rail 1^4):

71. 3. This figure refers to kinetic-energy weapons; the other estimates refer to lasers. 4. Zbigniew Brzezkinski, Robert Jastrow, and Max M. Kampelman, "Detense in Space Is Not 'Star Wars,'" New York Times Magazine, January 27, 1985, p. 48-


Gary L. Guertner

ground-based terminal defenses. Resolving these differences is essen¬ tial to the future of the SDI, since each satellite could cost as much as an aircraft carrier but would have a considerably shorter operational life. The methodological battle over calculating these numbers remains intense, and debate will not be easily closed because satellite numbers must be responsive to unknown Soviet countermeasures. Prudent planners must apply the same technological optimism to countermea¬ sures that they apply to emerging SDI technologies. Judgments of a system's costs and complexity, therefore, cannot be reached by estimat¬ ing its effectiveness against a static level of Soviet forces. A realistic estimate of the costs of strategic defense should include the costs of defending the system or making it survivable; of maintaining and replacing over time satellite battle stations and supporting com¬ mand, communication, and control systems; of devising defenses against bombers and cruise missiles as well as ballistic missiles; and of larger conventional forces. In addition, clear limits on the growth of Soviet offensive forces must be established and codified by treaty. Answering these questions may prove impossible. Many are being ignored entirely by supporters of strategic defense who, like physicists Robert Jastrow of Dartmouth College and Gregory Canavan of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, have made optimistic estimates of satel¬ lite-force size and, therefore, of the costs of strategic defense. Once deployments have begun, however, today's optimists will probably revert to their more traditional tendency to issue worst-case assess¬ ments of Soviet capabilities to justify more resources for an ever-ex¬ panding program that includes offensive-force modernization. Certainly the United States could not risk neglecting its own offensive forces in the face of a massive expansion and improvement of Soviet offensive forces to counter ballistic missile defenses. American technology may be quite capable of countering those countermeasures, but only at correspondingly increased systems complexity and cost. And even these defensive counters will represent just one more step in the never-ending contest between offense and defense. It may be instruc¬ tive to recall the estimates that were made early in the Manhattan Project. The initial cost estimates for the first atomic bomb were only $100 million in 1942 dollars. Actual costs turned out to be $2 billion— and there were no Japanese countermeasures.5 When confronting a powerful adversary rather than a nearly pros¬ trate enemy, however, methodological and perpetual factors in cost calculations must be employed even more carefully. For example, offen¬ sive and defensive costs do not increase linearly. For the Soviets, the 5. Peter Wyden, Day One: Before Hiroshima and After (New York: Simon and Schuster

1984), pp. 38, 56.

What Is "Proof"?

unit costs of offensive weapons may go down as they use their large, well-established infrastructure and hot icbm production lines to turn out more missiles. By contrast, U.S. defensive systems are still in their research stage. Continuing research, development, testing, and pro¬ duction costs will exceed the unit costs of Soviet offensive increases for years to come until an equally solid base has been established in defen¬ sive design, performance, and production. Defense may eventually win the cost-exchange competition by achieving lower marginal costs, but only in the long run and after many uncertainties have been clarified. In short, Soviet per unit offensive costs could decrease while U.S. defen¬ sive expenditures increase rapidly. Moreover, Moscow can be expected to spend whatever is necessary to maintain the forces required to execute its strategic doctrine, what¬ ever the costs of overwhelming U.S. defenses. The Soviets will face technical hurdles, but their administrative superiority over the United States spares them the more formidable political obstacles confronted by American planners saddled with a highly pluralistic political and economic system that is far more difficult to squeeze and mobilize than its Soviet counterpart. If Congress could clearly see the final price tag, strategic defense would have little chance of surviving the scrutiny of deficit-minded legislators. But incremental funding, technological optimism, ambig¬ uous standards of proof—for example, validation of components rather than systems reliability—and predictably shrill Soviet reactions ma\ combine to propel it through the appropriations process for many years. This process would resemble a recipe the late Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen once read during a Senate filibuster. His recipe (read "tactic") for cooking frogs cautioned against plopping them directly into boiling water because they would jump right out and mess up the kitchen. "It's better to put them in a pot of cool water, turn the heat on low, cover the pot, and bring the poor critter to a slow boil.'' Dirksen would have known how to get appropriations for the SDI. Strategic defense may prove to be the wave of the future, but the scientists and engineers inside and outside government who can lead the way into this uncharted world have an obligation to hold their professions and their work to high standards. Scientific objectix it\ should rise above partisan political debate. Scientists should speak out when technological ambiguity is exploited to anchor political argu¬ ments that misrepresent science. Vast sums ot money, a wall ot secrecy that limits peer review, and strong political commitment to deployment are not the ideal ingredients for proving the reliability of a defensive system on which the future security of the United States may rest. 1 here is a clear and present danger that scientists on both the inside and

Gary L. Guertner

outside may become more interested in advocacy than in proof. Those based in Washington would do well to visit the Albert Einstein memo¬ rial on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences. Inscribed there is the standard they should strive to reach: 'The right to search to truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true."


[9] The Reagan Strategic Defense Initiative: A Technical Appraisal Sidney


Drell, Philip



and David Holloway

In his address to the nation on March 23, 1983, President Reagan announced, "I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete." The vision expressed by the president appeals to powerful natural and moral sentiments. Indefinite reliance on the threat of retaliation by means of weapons of immense destructive power and conceivably apocalyptic effects is a forbidding prospect. Easing the balance of terror and lessening and if possible removing the threat of nuclear war have been preoccupations of responsible leaders since 1945* The impulse to look to our weapons and armed forces to defend us rather than threaten others is a natural one—and has precedent in the history of antiballistic missile development and negotiations over the past two decades. Thus serious pursuit of ABM is not a new idea in the strategic arms race. Acceptance in 1972 of the ABM Treaty and of strictly limited deployments of ABM systems in the Soviet Union and the United State s did not reflect any lack of awareness on either side of strategic defense Reprinted with slight modifications from Sidney Drell, Philip Harley, and David 1 lolloway, The Reagan Strategic Defense Initiative: A Technical, Political, and Amt' C ontrol Assess ment, Copyright 1985 by The Board of Trustees of the 1 eland Stanford Junior l m\ersit) The following chapter was adapted by Arms Control Today, July/August 1984, from the portion of the book concerning the technical feasibility ot the technologies under the Strategic Defense Initiative. It is reprinted with permission from both the Ballinger l ublishing Company and Arms Control l oday.



Sidney D. Drell, Philip J. Farley and David Holloway

and the arguments for it. Rather, it was a pragmatic conclusion. What¬ ever the abstract desirability of ABM defenses, in the early 1970s each of the superpowers, in sum, judged nationwide deployment of ABM to be futile, destabilizing, and costly. It would be futile because in a competition between defensive sys¬ tems and offensive missiles with nuclear warheads, the offense would win, especially against populations and urban areas. It would be de¬ stabilizing because the arms race would be accelerated as both sides developed and deployed not only competing ABM systems but also offsetting systems to overpower, evade, or attack and disable the op¬ posing ABM system. Furthermore, each side would fear the purpose or the capability of the other's ABMs (especially against a weakened re¬ taliatory strike), and in a crisis these fears could bring mounting pres¬ sures for striking first. What strategic theorists refer to as arms race instability and crisis instability could both result. Finally, it would be costly because both ABM development and deployment and the build¬ up, modernization, and diversification of offsetting offensive forces must be purchased. And the offensive countermeasures to maintain the reciprocal deterrent threat of intolerable retaliatory damage appeared not only capable of overwhelming the defense but also easier and less costly. More than a decade later, the president has challenged the nation to reexamine these earlier judgments. Have the technological advances and strategic developments of the past decade, or those now in pros¬ pect, made it practical for us to realize his vision of a virtually leak-proof defense which renders nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete? How would any potential change in technical and systems feasibility affect stability and costs?

The New Frontier

Up to the present, the dominance of offense over defense has been based on technical considerations. In recent years the technology perti¬ nent to this problem has advanced significantly. Great strides have been made in the ability to produce, focus, and aim laser and particle beams of increasingly high power. These new "bullets" of directed energy travel at or near the velocity of light and have led to revolutionary new ideas for defense against ballistic missiles. There has also been a revolu¬ tionary expansion in our ability to gather, process, and transmit vast quantities of data efficiently and promptly. This makes it possible to provide high-quality intelligence from distant parts of the earth and space to assess and discriminate the properties of attacks very prompt-

The SDI: A Technical Appraisal

ly. The technical advances in the ability to manage a defense and to attack distant targets very quickly have removed a number of shortcom¬ ings from previous defense concepts. The major technical fact that has not changed with time is the over¬ whelming destructive power of nuclear weapons. ''Rendering nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete" by defending one's vital national interests—people, industries, and cities—against a massive nuclear attack still requires a defense that is almost perfect. Technical assess¬ ments of ABM concepts cannot escape this awesome systems require¬ ment. If but 1 percent of the approximately eight thousand nuclear warheads on the current Soviet force of land-based and sea-based ballis¬ tic missiles succeeded in penetrating a defensive shield and landed on urban targets in the United States, it would be one of the greatest disasters in all history! Many components form a defense system against ballistic missiles, and all are crucial to its effective operation. These include the sensors providing early warning of an attack; the communication links for con¬ veying that information to analysis centers for interpretation, to the command centers with authority to make decisions as to the appropri¬ ate national response, and to the military forces to implement the decisions; the sensors of the ABM that acquire, discriminate, track, point, fire, and assess the effectiveness of the attack; and finally, the interceptors or directed-energy sources that make the kill. The systems for managing the battle and for delivering destructive energy concentrations with precision must be operational at the initia¬ tion of an attack and must remain effective throughout. This means being on station yet being able to survive direct attack. The ability to satisfy these two requirements simultaneously is a major operational challenge. Even if the very ambitious research and development pro¬ gram recently proposed by the administration achieves all of its major goals, great operational barriers will still remain.

The Layered Defense

The concept of a "defense in depth has developed because no single technology alone is adequate to provide an impenetrable defensive shield, or antiballistic Maginot Line. 1 he first layer attacks the iising missiles during their boost phase while their engines aie burning. I \ pically, this phase lasts three minutes for modern intercontinental ballis¬ tic missiles powered by rockets that burn solid tuel and up to ti\e minutes for liquid-fuel boosters. During this time the missile i ises abo\ t the atmosphere to heights of two to three hundred kilometers. [i95]

Sidney D. Drell, Philip J. Parley, and David Holloway

The second layer of the defense (a combination of the postboost and midcourse phases) attacks the warheads, or reentry vehicles, as well as the postboost vehicle (which is the small bus that aims and dispenses the individual mirvs) during their trajectories in space, which last about twenty to twenty-five minutes (for icbms). The final or terminal layer of the defense attacks the reentry vehicles during the last minute or two of their flight as they reenter the atmo¬ sphere, which strips away the lighter decoys accompanying them in midflight. A three-layer system, each of whose layers is 90 percent effective, would allow only eight out of an attacking force of eight thousand reentry vehicles to arrive on target and, if achievable, would be an effective though less than perfect defense.

Boost-Phase Intercept

The possibility of boost-phase intercept is the principal new element in considering ABM technologies. It also has the highest potential pay¬ off for two reasons: success achieved in the initial layer reduces the size of the attacking forces to be engaged by each subsequent layer, and if a missile is destroyed when it is relatively vulnerable during the boost phase, all of its warheads and decoys are destroyed with it. In the midcourse phase, the defense has more time to perform its functions of acquiring and discriminating warheads from decoys, at¬ tacking its targets, and confirming their destruction. But midcourse interception must also cope with many more objects because a single large booster is capable of deploying tens of warheads and many hun¬ dreds of decoys. Thus the two defensive layers for boost-phase and for midcourse intercept face very different technological challenges. An effective boost-phase layer, which greatly reduces the number of ob¬ jects that subsequent layers must analyze, attack, and destroy, is crucial to overall effectiveness of a defensive system. To illustrate the general problems for boost-phase intercept, we con¬ sider two types of systems, one with interceptors based in space and the other with interceptors based on the ground and ready to "pop up" on receipt of warning of an enemy attack. A hybrid concept with mixed ground and space basing is also discussed. All defensive systems rely on space-based sensors for early warning, command, control, and com¬ munications (C3), and overall battle management. The combination of tactics and technology to ensure the survival of the space-based compo¬ nents of a defense against direct enemy attack has yet to be developed. Space-based chemical lasers. One of the most widely discussed systems

for boost-phase intercept is a constellation of high-energy lasers based [196]

The SD1: A Technical Appraisal

on platforms orbiting the earth in space. Well-focused laser beams have the attractive feature of traveling vast distances at the speed of light in space above the atmosphere. The disadvantages of space-based lasers are that they are complex and expensive, vulnerable to attack, and many effective countermeasures are available to the attacker. Gener¬ ally, their beams are degraded by scattering and absorption by the atmosphere, so they must function above it. Furthermore, each plat¬ form of any space-based system will be "on station" over the launch area of Soviet icbms only a small percentage of time as it circles the globe in a low earth orbit. That is, each platform will have a large "absentee ratio." Therefore, it will be inherently inefficient, having to be repli¬ cated many times over if the defense is to provide continual protection against icbm launchers. The effective coverage of a laser system depends on the ability to power and focus the beam like a flashlight. The range at which it can kill a missile will increase with the power of the laser and with the quality of the optical system. Even with perfect optics, however, the beam will spread and become more diffuse as it propagates over long distances because of the wave nature of light (i.e., diffraction). The kill range also depends on the structure of the target icbm: how much energy per unit area has to be deposited to damage the missile by melting through the relatively thin skin of the booster. The harder the missile, the shorter is the effective range of the laser; or at a given distance, the longer the laser must fix its beam on the booster to damage it seriously. In addition to specific countermeasures, such as hardening the mis¬ sile against the destructive effects of laser beams, a defensive system with components predeployed in space faces generic difficulties. Fore¬ most among these is that space-based components are likely to be vulnerable to direct enemy attack. Among the simplest direct threats are small and relatively cheap space mines with conventional explosi\es, which could be deployed even during the early stages of building up to a full space-based defensive layer. They could be launched into orbits and detonated by ground radio command to damage the large, delicate, and highly vulnerable optical parts. The presence of such space mines would not be covert. They could "shadow a satellite in a manner similar to that used by ships on the high seas. Of course, the Soviets could also put nuclear bombs in orbit, which would ha\ e an enormou^ damage range. Ground-based laser beams pose another direct threat to the sensitive optical sensors of such a system. 1 he space-based defenses \\ ould ha\ e to be prepared to "blink" if so attacked to avoid damage, particularly it the incident radiation comes in short, intense pulses. Not all laser platforms would have to be attacked and put out ot [i97]


Sidney D. Drell, Philip J. Farley and David Holloway

action, just a sizable fraction of that small percentage that are on station over the icbm launch areas during boost phase. The offense can then be confident that a significant fraction of his attack will penetrate the first layer of the defense. There are additional problems that can be created for such a defensive system. Precursor nuclear bursts at high altitudes can precede an attack and disrupt defensive operations, particularly sensors and communica¬ tion links. There is no spare time available for replacing or reconstitu¬ ting these components because the entire system must perform within the first few minutes if it is to destroy an icbm during boost phase. The defensive system can also be diverted by false targets consisting of bright rockets and other hot sources simulating the missile exhaust. Space-based systems are much more delicate and expensive than the individual icbms against which they are deployed. Therefore, the task of protecting them is inherently more difficult than that of hardening the icbms against them. The history of military technological innovation suggests that the Soviet Union, faced with a prospective U.S. defense system undergoing development and testing, would simply increase its arsenal of offensive missiles and warheads to maintain its deterrent. At $5 to $10 million apiece the Soviets could buy a lot of warheads before equaling the 1981 DOD estimate of $500 billion for a space-based laser defense. In the final analysis, a very extensive and expensive constellation of chemical lasers predeployed in space appears to offer no credible pros¬ pect of forming an effective defensive layer against a large-scale attack at the current high levels of the threat. Pop-up systems: Ground-based x-ray lasers. In an effort to avoid most of

the problems just described, the defense may choose not to predeploy in space, but to pop up from the ground when alerted to an attack. The weapon components of the defensive system could be mounted on missiles that can be launched very rapidly upon receipt of information of an enemy attack. A chemical laser system would be much too mas¬ sive for such a rapid launch. One such system being considered consists of x-ray lasers driven by nuclear explosives. By itself, a nuclear explosion releases a very large amount of energy which is not focused but emerges in all directions. If a sufficiently large fraction of the energy from the nuclear explosion can be used to drive one or more lasers, and thus be focused in very highly collimated beams, however, it can destroy an object at very large dis¬ tances by hitting it with a strong shock wave—a so-called impulsive kill. The kill mechanism in this case is caused by a very short, intense pulse of incident energy, in contrast to the continuous thermal heating by the chemical laser. This technology is still very immature. [198]

The SDI: A Technical Appraisal

The major practical problem with a pop-up system of this type is the difficult and important operational issue of whether it can be deployed rapidly enough to attempt a boost-phase intercept. A pop-up system has only a few minutes to be boosted to a high enough altitude above the atmosphere to initiate an attack. In practice, an x-ray laser can operate only at altitudes above one hundred kilometers because at lower altitudes much of the x-ray energy is absorbed. Thus a defensive x-ray laser would have to be launched literally within seconds of an initial enemy attack. Furthermore, such a pop-up system would have to be based far offshore from continental U.S. soil and near to Soviet territory. Otherwise, the curvature of the earth would make it impossi¬ ble for the x-ray system to "see" the booster above the horizon before the end of its burn. This defensive concept also requires that the com¬ mand and control chain must operate almost instantaneously over great distances—and do so in a heavily disturbed nuclear environment cre¬ ated by the first explosions of the x-ray lasers. (The nuclear disturbed environment would also affect operation of the sensors to acquire, track, discriminate, and assess target damage.) Evidently, such a system would have to be almost entirely automated for quick response. This poses serious policy problems because the firing process must include authorized release of nuclear weapons, as well as decisions about whether and how to respond, depending on the intensity and tactics of the attack. For example, since an x-ray laser can fire only once, destroying itself in the act, should it be launched against a single attacking icbm or only against a suitably large barrage? In addition to these formidable operational requirements, there are two technically available countermeasures by the offense that can deny any possibility of a pop-up x-ray laser offense. The first countermeasure is simply to redesign the offense with new high-thrust hot missilts that complete their burn at altitudes below the top of the atmosphere. Unclassified studies presented to the Fletcher Panel calculate that such a rapid burn, lasting only about one minute, would require that the missile's payload be reduced by only 10 to 15 percent. A second countermeasure is to alter the trajectory of the launch, depressing it so as to complete its burn below one hundred kilometers. Because the lower atmosphere is opaque to x-ray beams, missiles ot high thrust can complete their boost before they ean be attacktd. Hybrid system for boost-phase intercept. Other technologies and systems

concepts have been proposed in an effort to escape the drawbacks ot space-based and pop-up systems. One such concept that has been widely discussed is a system of ground-based lasers whose beams are aimed up to a small number of large relay mirrors in geosynchronous orbits, 36,000 kilometers above the earth's surface. These high-altitude [i99]

Sidney D. Drell, Philip /. Farley, and David Holloway

relay mirrors direct the beams to various mission mirrors orbiting earth at lower altitudes, which in turn redirect the beams onto their targets. This hybrid system avoids three of the problems of a space-based laser defense: (1) fewer of its parts have to be protected from direct attack in space; (2) its ground-based lasers do not have to be replicated many times over to compensate for the large absentee ratio for lasers circulating in low earth orbits; and (3) it is not necessary to shuttle large amounts of fuel into orbit. It also avoids the very severe problem of time constraint for boost-phase interceptors that is encountered by pop-up systems. This system, however, faces several severe and unavoidable technical operational challenges. First, the large focusing mirrors, which are high-value and crucial modes of the system, remain vulnerable in space. Also, the directed light beams must travel very great distances_ 36,000 kilometers up and 36,000 kilometers back—from the relay mir¬ rors in geosynchronous orbit. Therefore, large optics and short wave¬ lengths are necessary to reduce the diffraction and keep the energy focused on such a long path from laser to target. The hybrid system must rely on "active optics" to compensate for the effects of atmospheric turbulence, which cause scattering and defocusing of the directed light beams in a manner similar to which distant stars seem to twinkle. Active optics means that a weak laser beam shines to ground from space, and its beam spread is analyzed as a measure of local atmospheric effects. This atmospheric distortion is then compen¬ sated by use of deformable focusing mirrors for transmitting a strong beam from the ground-based laser. This technology, though still imma¬ ture, has been progressing rapidly and in principle can achieve the goal of transmitting highly focused beams through the atmosphere. In addition to atmospheric compensation there is the problem of weather, particularly cloud cover, which can absorb the laser energy. Ground-based lasers would have to be deployed at widely distributed sites or on mountaintops above the clouds to have a high probability that an adequate number are free of cloud cover. In the final analysis, however, even assuming that the formidable technical goals are achieved, there still remains the operational problem of the vulnerability of the few large relay and mission mirrors in space. They and the large ground-based laser stations are reminiscent of the large phased-array radars that proved to be the Achilles' heel of earlygeneration ABM systems. It has yet to be specified or understood how the small number of large and delicate space mirrors and ground-based installations can be protected with confidence. Other concepts for boost-phase intercept. Somewhat more exotic di-

rected-energy weapons include high-power microwaves and particle [200]

The SD1: A Technical Appraisal

beam systems. These are very immature technologies, much less ad¬ vanced than laser beams. High-power microwaves are in a very early stage, and the basic physics is still being studied. It is too early to offer even educated guesses about the potential effectiveness of microwave systems, particularly against countermeasures. Particle beam weapons suffer from many of the same problems as laser stations. They would require large space platforms and would be fragile to attack and more expensive than their targets, the icbms. Another possibility for a boost-phase defensive layer is material inter¬ ceptors, such as small missiles or pellet screens, launched from a con¬ stellation of space-based battle stations. Destruction of the target is achieved by the kinetic energy impinging on the booster when it en¬ counters a high-velocity interceptor or a cloud of matter in the form of debris or pellets. Such "high-frontier" proposals are advanced as poten¬ tially being ready for deployment sooner than the more exotic directedenergy beams, but such schemes have been generally judged as ineffec¬ tive for boost-phase intercept on grounds of time constraints and coun¬ termeasures. This view was expressed in response to questioning by Robert Coo¬ per, director of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, during his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 2, 1983. He indicated that such "high-frontier" concepts do not provide a cost-effective potential for ballistic missile defense and could be coun¬ tered at relatively low cost by the offense. Finally, these large space platforms share the vulnerability of all extensive space-based systems to direct enemy attack. Midcourse Intercept and Battle Management

The concept of a defense in depth envisages one or two layers operat¬ ing during the midcourse phase, which lasts twenty to twenty-five minutes, following the completion of the booster burn and before reen¬ try of the warheads into the atmosphere. Although the time constraints are less severe, there are other factors that increase the difficulties ot midcourse interception. The post-boost vehicles, and especially tlu warheads released by the bus, are generally more difficult to destroy than the boosters because they are much smaller and more difficult to track. Also, the bus can be designed to be harder and to release the reentry vehicles very rapidly. I he warheads are built to withstand extreme stresses from deceleration and intense heat from atmospht nc friction as they slam back into the top of the atmosphere. In addition to the numerous warheads, each missile may dispense hundreds ot light decoys, which follow the same paths in the absence of friction above the atmosphere as do the warheads. [201]

Sidney D. Drell, Philip J. Farley, and David Holloway

While it is true that the technological capacity to analyze and transmit data has increased greatly in recent years, so has the size and sophistica¬ tion of the offense—as well as its ability to confuse the defense. The offense can, for example, use antisimulation measures to confuse the sensors and stretch, if not saturate, the data-handling capacity of the defense. Antisimulation is the technique of making real warheads look like decoys. One antisimulation method is to enclose the warheads in balloons with several thin metal-coated layers so that all balloons have the same appearance, whether or not there is a warhead inside. Additional difficulties can be created by precursor detonations of nuclear weapons. The infrared radiation from the air heated by highaltitude nuclear explosions creates a severe background—known as redout—that hinders the ability of the ABM sensors to "see" the war¬ head. No viable concept has yet been demonstrated or devised for a highly effective midcourse defense against a massive threat of many thou¬ sands of warheads, plus many times more decoys. The critical needs include not only a battle management software that far exceeds any¬ thing in complexity and difficulty accomplished so far, but also the ability to protect all the critical space-based components against enemy attack, whether from space mines, debris clouds, direct-ascent anti¬ satellite weapons, or directed-energy weapons on the ground or in space. The entire system—including intelligence, communications, and surveillance satellites and the optical and directed high-energy components, whether on the ground, in low earth orbits, or at syn¬ chronous altitude—must survive and operate in a hostile environment for many minutes or hours to engage the threat. As described in Defense Department documents (see Chapters 6 and 7), the different layers of a defensive system would operate semiautonomously with their own sensors and data processing, as well as weapons and rules of engagement. As part of the overall task of battle management monitoring, allocating the available defensive systems, assessing the results of the attack, and refiring if necessary—data would also be passed to successive layers in the defense. Input data from the sensors must be organized and filtered to see which objects can be discarded and which are candidates for further analysis—leading to tracking, attacking, and damage assessment. An effective boost-phase intercept that clears away close to 90 percent of the threat is thus very important in making the battle management and data-handling prob¬ lems more tractable. Terminal Defense

The terminal layer of the defense takes advantage of the atmosphere, which slows down and strips away the lighter decoys accompanying [202]

The SDI: A Technical Appraisal

the warheads in free space. The requirements for a terminal defense of hardened military targets such as missile silos and command posts are much simpler and more readily achievable than for a strategic nation¬ wide defense. If the target is small and hardened to withstand very high levels of overpressure, interception of the incoming warhead can be made successfully much nearer the target. In addition, the goal of such a hard site defense is to destroy not all incoming warheads but only enough of them to cause the attacker to expend more of his force than he destroys. Improved technologies in recent years have enhanced the prospects for a cost-effective hard-site defense that operates without prior layers of the defense. Important advances include interceptors that achieve much higher accelerations and sensors that can discriminate warheads from decoys at higher altitudes. Until recently, ABM weapon tech¬ nologies for terminal defense have depended on nuclear blasts to knock out attacking warheads. Special nuclear weapons were designed to destroy nuclear weapons. Improvements in the accuracy of interceptor weapons have now raised the possibility of non-nuclear kill. Standing alone, a terminal defense offers no prospect of defending the nation against attack. This conclusion was reached during the ABM debates of 1969-70, and the new technologies have added little to it. If, however, a terminal defense operates behind effective boost-phase and midcourse defensive layers which remove all but a few percent of the attacking warheads, the conclusion may be different. With improved sensors and interceptors, the defense may engage the incoming war¬ heads at higher altitudes and contribute to limiting damage to the targets being defended. A terminal defense may thus limit damage as the final tier of a partially effective defense in depth. Overlap with Other Forms of Strategic Defense

The 1972 ABM Treaty attempted to deal with the problem of advances in surface-to-air missiles, or “SAM upgrades." Efforts to defend against aircraft and cruise missiles have led to modern generations ot air de¬ fense with improved radars, computers, and high-acceleration inter¬ ceptors with growing potential to defend against short-range missiles. Intermediate-range ballistic missiles on one-to-two-thousand-mile tra¬ jectories generally fly at lower speeds than longer-range strategic mis siles. This increases the time available for the defense to attack them in the terminal phase. Work is under way in both the Soviet L nion and tht United States to exploit this possibility of theater, nonstrategic ABM. Ways of updating the ABM 1 reaty to take account tit this new tonn ot the SAM upgrade problem will have to be addressed in future reviews of the treaty. [203]

Sidney D. Drell, Philip j. Farley, and David Holloway asat Technology and Defense versus Defense

Satellites are simpler targets to attack than missiles because they are softer, fewer, predictable both in their position and time, easier to discriminate, not easily replaced, and have communication and control links from earth that can be attacked. There is no doubt about the technological feasibility of antisatellite systems that will be effective against satellites in low earth orbit in the near future. Extending asat effectiveness to geosynchronous orbit altitudes and higher will be a technical challenge but presents no fundamental problems. The significance of asat for strategic defense lies in the threat it poses against ABM space platforms, in particular against the warning, ac¬ quisition, and battle management sensors. On the other hand, the significance of the Strategic Defense Initiative for asat is that it will spur technical developments that inevitably will be threatening to the critical communication and early warning satellite links on which a ballistic missile defense must rely. This presents an unavoidable dilemma: asat threatens ABM, but ABM developments contribute to asat. More generally, ABM deployments on each side will pose threats to the other's defensive systems, and in particular to the space-based components. This introduces the prospect of defense as an adjunct of a first strike. For example, a pop-up x-ray laser system launched as part of an attack can contribute to the overall advantage of a first strike by contributing to the suppression of both the defense and the retaliatory strike.


There have been major technological advances in recent years, but we do not now know how to build an effective nationwide strategic defense against ballistic missiles. This is true whether the goal is to transcend deterrence with a nearly leakproof defense or to enhance it with an effective but partial defense. It is true against the current Soviet threat— and there is no present prospect of achieving such a defense against an unlimited offensive threat than can overwhelm, evade, or directly at¬ tack the defense. Many years, if not decades, of research are required before we can begin to proceed from imaginative concepts and crude ideas and estimates to educated guesses. If the system is to meet the president s stated goal of rendering nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete, it must not only work to almost 100 percent perfection, managing an enormous task of battle management in very short times, but it must do this the very first time that it is used. No realistic shakedown tests are conceivable, especially in the nuclear environment the system will encounter in a real engagement. . . . [204]

[io] Is SDI Technically Feasible? Harold Brown

The program known as the Strategic Defense Initiative includes re¬ search on a variety of technologies—many aimed at distinct phases of the ballistic missile flight path. For each phase—boost, postboost, mid¬ course, and terminal—a defense would require successful surveillance, target acquisition, tracking, guidance of the weapons, and kill mecha¬ nisms. Are the objectives of SDI technically feasible? The answer will depend primarily on what specific objectives strate¬ gic defenses ultimately seek to achieve—protection of population, of missile silos, or of other military targets. Within that context, the an¬ swer will further depend on the capabilities of the technologies and on the potential countermeasures and counter-countermeasures of each side. This chapter will assess the prospects for the various defensive tech¬ nologies for both the near term (ten to fifteen years) and the longer term. It will include recommendations on how to proceed with a realis¬ tic research and development program. It will also make tentati\ e judg¬ ments on the technical feasibility of various SDI objectives, though definitive answers are not yet possible. The political desirability of SDI is a separate question, not addressed here. Finally, in considering the prospects for the various SDI technologies, it is important to remember how long it takes to move from technologi¬ cal development through full-scale engineering to deployment. That time is governed by the budgetary and legislative process, as well as b\ the state of technology. After the technology is proven out, full-scale engineering development of a moderately complex system \\ ill t\ picalh take five to eight years (a new icbm is a good example). The course of Reprinted with slight modifications by permission of Foreign Affairs, American and the World 1985. Copyright 1986, by the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.

Harold Brown

deployment (unless development is concurrent with deployment, which has almost always proven counterproductive) takes five to seven years after completion of engineering development. Thus if proven technology exists now, it will take ten to fifteen years before a new system employing the technology could be substantially deployed. If the technology needs to be further developed, even though the phe¬ nomena exist and are well understood, the time for that technology development will have to be added to such a period.

Defensive Technologies Deployable between 1995 and 2000

What technologies could be embodied in defenses against ballistic missiles that could begin deployment before or about the year 2000? Terminal hard-point defenses (e.g., defending icbms), using hard¬ ened ground-based radars and interceptor rockets, would require about ten years between a decision to deploy and creation of a significant force, the time to completion of deployment would approach fifteen years from decision. The necessary technology exists now, and some subsystems have already been partially developed. What would be required would be the design of a new system involving—in se¬ quence—some additional prototype development, full-scale engineer¬ ing development, production, and deployment. Such a system would include an interceptor like the Spartan missile aimed at reentry vehicles outside the atmosphere and another, rather like the Sprint missile, for intercepting RVs that have already entered the atmosphere. Present designs of both missiles would require the use of nuclear warheads. Alternatively, non-nuclear versions could be developed using terminal homing devices in the interceptor. There is some ques¬ tion about how heavy a conventional warhead (and therefore the inter¬ ceptor missile) would need to be to provide high probability of destroy¬ ing the incoming RV and missile warhead; it depends on how close to the reentry vehicle the terminal guidance could bring the interceptor. If a non-nuclear interceptor is chosen, this would lengthen by at least a few years the time to a substantial deployed capability. An additional optical sensor, the airborne optical adjunct (AOA), which would track reentry vehicles by detecting their infrared emis¬ sions or viewing them with visible light, could also be included at about the same time as a non-nuclear warhead.1 Such a capability is feasible technologically and likely to be helpful in discrimination during or 1. Development or testing of AOA beyond the technology platform stage, as a compo¬ nent of an ABM system, even of a fixed ground-based ABM system, would appear to violate the ABM treaty because the AOA is itself a mobile component.

Is SDI Technically Feasible?

shortly before the offensive missile's reentry, but the technology would need additional development. Over the next ten to fifteen years it also appears technologically feasible to develop the components of a system using space-based kinetic-energy weapons. These chemically propelled rockets would in¬ tercept the offensive missile during its boost phase and destroy the target by impact or by detonation of an exploding warhead. The chemi¬ cal rockets would be similar in nature to air-to-air missiles but steered with reaction jets rather than aerodynamic surfaces. The targets could be designated to the interceptors by laser or radar tracks, provided by a set of tracking and fire-control satellites orbiting at a higher altitude than the satellites from which the interceptors would be fired. Shortrange laser designation of ground or airborne targets exists, but the accuracies required for icbm tracking would require significant addi¬ tional technological development, as would imaging and processing the infrared data and looking close to the horizon. The interceptors would home onto the target, guided by their own passive observation of the infrared emissions from the target missile or by receiving reflections from the target of radar signals emitted from satellites (semiactive radar homing). Such a system, however, must find a way to direct the killer rocket to the actual icbm booster rather than to its plume (exhaust), which emits the infrared signal. Presumably this can be done, but it will add complexity and offer an opportunity for offensive countermeasures. Though the technology for components of kinetic-energy kill and boost-phase intercept systems exists, solution of problems of this sort would require a considerable developmental pro¬ cess. Additional technical development over several years could signifi¬ cantly decrease the weight of the intercept rocket for a given kill proba¬ bility. That approach is indicated because the weight determines a significant part of the total system cost. The cost of putting payloads in orbit with either the present shuttle or expendable boosters is thou¬ sands of dollars per pound. To reduce these costs to an acceptable lex el, a new "super" shuttle would probably have to be developed. This would involve a ten-year development process and a delay in deplox ment of a space-based kinetic-energy system. Missile boosters in the upper atmosphere and in space can be de¬ tected, tracked, and attacked through the infrared emissions of the missiles' exhaust plumes while their propulsion stages are burning, however, the actual effectiveness of such an approach \\ ill depend not only on the technical features of the defense but on the actions ot the offense in employing decoys, adopting countermeasures, and sup¬ pressing the defensive system itself. For example, modest deliberate [207]

Harold Brown

fluctuations in booster propulsion ("jinking") could require the kineticenergy interceptor to make significant changes in its cross-trajectory velocity, and this would involve a large weight penalty for the defense. Fast-burning boosters would effectively negate such a defense system. Nevertheless, the technology for a space-based boost-phase intercept system of some capability, using kinetic-energy weapons, could be ready for a decision as early as 1990-92 to initiate full-scale engineering development, with a significant deployment beginning some time be¬ tween 1995 and 2000. Soon after the year 2000 there could thus be deployed a space-based kinetic-energy kill system along with a highaltitude and low-altitude terminal defense. These would constitute three layers of a possible multilayered defense, the purpose of which would be to compound modest kill probabilities in each defensive layer so as to produce a high overall kill probability.

Defensive Technologies Deployable between 2000 and 2010

For the period five to ten years beyond 1995-2000, more elaborate space- and ground-based technologies may be feasible, with a corre¬ sponding period of deployment beginning some time between 2000 and 2010. Increased uncertainty, however, naturally attaches the further ahead we look. Among the less uncertain of these later technologies are space-based directed-energy weapons such as neutral particle beams and chemical lasers. A neutral particle beam (NPB) would be made up of atomic particles, accelerated to a high speed in charged form by electric fields in an accelerator, then steered and pointed by a magnet, and then neu¬ tralized so that it will not be deflected by the earth's magnetic field. A chemical laser uses the energy created by chemical reactions2 to create a highly focused, intense, highly ordered ("coherent") beam of infrared light, directed by a mirror. As a measure of their status, both of these technologies could well be used toward the early end of the period 2000-2010 for antisatellite purposes, which are less demanding than the antiballistic missile task. Demonstrations of the capability to kill an individual satellite by such means—most likely on cooperative targets—could be made still earlier, but these would not represent an operational military system. ,2‘ For e*amPle' the chemical combination of hydrogen and fluorine. If the population ot the resulting excited molecules outnumbers that of the lowest-energy (“ground'') state stimulation of emission of light of the frequency corresponding to the energy difference occurs, resulting in an intense coherent beam.

Is SDI Technically Feasible?

Neutral particle beams are, in their present state of development, much brighter than any existing laser in terms of energy into a given solid (cone) angle. Today they produce particles of energy correspond¬ ing to acceleration by a few million volts of electric field (and could in the future be improved to 100 million "electron-volt" energies). Protect¬ ing ballistic missiles from such high-energy NPBs would require much heavier shielding than would protection from lasers. During the next ten or fifteen years, however, it is unlikely that NPB technology will be able to put more than 10 percent of the primary energy into the particle beam itself. Such low efficiency means that a space-based NPB would probably require a nuclear power source, development of which would delay the possible deployment of a system. In addition to the usual target acquisition and tracking problems, a defense based on neutral particle beams has several other critical tasks. The magnet necessary to point the beam before its neutralization is likely to be heavy—and expensive—to put into space. The tasks of developing an ion source capable of operation over some minutes and of achieving the necessary pointing accuracy will be difficult. Even more difficult is tracking the beam because it gives off almost no signal in space. Finally, ways will have to be found to detect the effect on the target, through nuclear emanations from it, because at the full range of a successful NPB attack, the target would not be physically destroyed. Even when NPBs cannot be used to kill targets, however, they might ultimately prove useful in discriminating among them because the nu¬ clear emanations from an object hit by an NPB would depend on the object's weight. For chemical lasers several technological problems still need to be solved. One is getting high enough power while maintaining a low enough beam divergence. Another is the very large weight of chemical reactants required for providing the energy. A third is the feasibility of the large optical systems required. There are, however, some promising technologies under development for chemical and other lasers. Among them are various phase-compensation techniques to improve the qual¬ ity and stability of the beam; phase-locking separate lasers together to increase the overall brightness; using adaptive optics (rapid adjustment of segments of a mirror), both to compensate for atmospheric disptrsion for ground-based lasers and to ease the problems of creating largeaperture mirrors for space-based ones; and phased arrays of lasers to increase intensity and to steer them more rapidly through a small anglt so as to move quickly from target to target. But the physical principles in some of these technologies have yet to be fully demonstrated, and all are still far from being developed.

Harold Brown Defensive Technologies Deployable Beyond 2010

Less technologically developed, and therefore more suitable for con¬ sideration of full-scale deployment beginning twenty to twenty-five years from now, is the use of ground-based excimer and free-electron lasers3 to be used with mirrors in space as components of a system for boost-phase intercept. Both are now many orders of magnitude away from achieving the intensity necessary for the required lethality, the free-electron laser further away than the excimer laser, at present. But the free-electron laser's device weight is lighter and its efficiency greater (and thus its fuel weight lighter) than that of the excimer laser. The FEL might perhaps therefore be deployable in space. But the weights of these lasers and of their energy supplies more probably would require either to be ground-based. The laser wavelength for both would allow the beams to penetrate the atmosphere if the atmospheric distortions problem is solved. Thus both seem more suitable for ground deploy¬ ment along with mirrors in space. Other problems for the ground-based lasers are the large optics required, both on the ground and for the synchronous-altitude steering mirrors and obtaining the same high power in each of a long series of repetitive pulses. These two systems might also be suitable for "active" discrimina¬ tion—also called "interactive" or "perturbing"—in the midcourse phase of a strategic defense. That is, they could impart energy or momentum to very large numbers of objects in midcourse being tracked by some of the more established technologies already discussed. The resulting changes in the objects being tracked, in their trajectory, could offer some limited opportunities for discrimination of reentry vehicles from decoys and debris. Significant technological disagreement exists about the potential of ground-based lasers (free electron or excimer) versus space-based chemical lasers. Some believe that the smaller amount and lesser com¬ plexity of hardware required to be put in space will bring the time when these ground-based lasers can be available as close or closer than the time actually required for those entirely space-based. Chemical lasers are more proven technologically than excimer or freeelectron lasers, but many experts have dismissed their potential use because of the difficulties in designing an effective system. Chemical lasers (space-based because their wavelengths will not penetrate the 3. Excimer lasers use "excited" (higher-energy) states of molecules including a rare gas (e.g., argon) and a halogen (e.g., iodine). These excited states are quasi-stable and the unexcited ( ground") states are not populated because the rare gases are not chemically active in their lowest-energy states. Free-electron lasers use the effect of oscillating elec¬ tromagnetic fields on electron beams to cause the electrons to emit phase-coherent (laser)


Is SD1 Technically Feasible?

atmosphere) could be of some use against ballistic missiles now de¬ ployed. They could well be severely inadequate, however, against the offensive systems (with, for example, fast-burn missiles and other countermeasures) that could be put in place during the first decade of the next century, when a significant defensive laser deployment could be made. Surely such countermeasures would be put in place if defense lasers were deployed. And in light of the large weight of chemical fuel that would have to be deployed in space, the chemical laser system at present seems to fall into the category of technically feasible but ineffec¬ tive as a system. New optical developments such as phased arrays and phase conjugation are now being investigated, however. These might improve the brightness and stability of chemical lasers—and increase their lethal range—to the point that they would have some systems effectiveness even against a responsive threat. X-ray lasers powered by nuclear explosions are still further off than the other types of lasers, although they seem to offer some interesting distant possibilities. X-ray lasers would have wider beam angles and higher power per unit solid angle than optical ones. This would make them suitable for destroying clouds of objects or for actively discriminat¬ ing heavy objects among them and thus effective against such counter¬ measures as balloons and decoys. Proof of the most basic principle has been established, in that bomb-driven x-ray lasing has been demon¬ strated to be possible. But there is doubt as to what intensity has been achieved; it is in any event far less than necessary for use in active discrimination, let alone target kill. Demonstration of the physics of a possible weapon is at least five (more likely ten) years off. Weapomzation would involve another five or more years, and only thereafter could its incorporation into a full-scale engineering development of a defensive system begin. Railguns, which accelerate objects to very high speed electromagnetically, may also have promise, but they are almost as far off as \-ra\ lasers. Multikilogram payloads would need to be accelerated to speeds above fifteen kilometers per second, and a system (and power source) would need to be designed that could be used for multiple shots. New guidance and propulsion systems would also have to be engineered to survive such accelerations and to do the necessary terminal homing. Although many uncertainties exist as to future laser technologies for strategic defense, all laser systems would be vulnerable to other lasers In general, the rules of the competition are that ground-based lasers will defeat space-based ones, larger ones will defeat smaller ones, and bomb-driven x-ray lasers looking up through the fringes of the atmo¬ sphere will defeat similar x-ray lasers looking down into the fringes of the atmosphere. Vulnerabilities will also differ between ground-based [211]

Harold Brown

and space-based lasers. The former would have the weapons_or at least their energy source—on the ground and presumably would in¬ clude mirrors stored or unfolded in or popped up into space for the purpose of steering the laser beams. As to time scale, when one is talking about time scales for deployment twenty-five or more years from now, corresponding to technologies whose full demonstration is more than ten years away, one really cannot know what the time scale will be to reach substantial deploy¬ ment. For the space-based systems, the pop-up systems, and those with mirrors in space, lengthy technology development periods will be re¬ quired. Depending on how that development is carried out, it may be possible to deter collision with the provisions of the ABM treaty until early in the process of full-scale engineering development, but the calendar times differ for each technology.

Battle Management for Strategic Defense

A successful strategic defense would require not only kill mechanics but also a battle management system involving sophisticated com¬ mand, control, and communications (C3). Estimates for the total num¬ ber of lines of code of software required range from 10 million to 100 million. A measure of the effort involved can be derived by using the standard figure of $50 a line. Thus the software costs could range from $500 million to $5 billion. The raw cost of such a system is therefore less important than the feasibility and methods of finding and correcting errors in it. One problem would be with errors in the codes themselves. Al¬ though this would not be trivial, it could be dealt with in part through automated software production and through artificial intelligence. The latter, though still mostly in the conceptual stage, nevertheless has real capabilities for development of expert systems and can be expected to produce real advances within the next ten years. The most fundamental problems for battle management and C3 are the establishment of appro¬ priate rules of engagement; the probability of conceptual as well as mechanical error in the creation of the software and the possibility of redundancy to compensate for it; the need to change portions of the software as new elements are introduced into the system without hav¬ ing the changes compromise the working of the rest of the software; and, most of all, the ability to check out the system so as to make sure there are no conceptual errors in the software in such matters as hand¬ ing over tracks of the offensive missiles, transferring automated deci[212]

Is SDI Technically Feasible?

sions from one node of the system to another, avoiding loops in the logical sequence, and so forth. How could such capabilities be tested? Can on-orbit testing be used? Such problems are just beginning to be addressed, and it will take a long time before conclusions can be drawn even as to what the state of this particular technology is compared with what is needed.

Technically Feasible Defense Systems

In terms of future defensive technologies, what potential defense systems are technically feasible? It is technologically feasible to create a terminal defense overlay of hard icbm silos, deployed so that the missiles are moved among multi¬ ple silos and so that their position at any one time is unknown to the attacker. Such a defense overlay can, by preferential defense—that is, defending only the occupied silos—provide a cost-exchange ratio favor¬ able to the defense because the attacker must attack all silos. The same is probably true of defense of moderately hardened mobile missile sys¬ tems by a terminal defense of corresponding mobility and hardness. In the case of hard-silo defense, a single layer of defense by endoatmospheric ground-based interceptors would suffice. For mobile hard¬ ened missiles, a two-tier ground-based system would probably be needed. Modified ground-based defenses using similar technologies could protect some other military targets, for example command and control centers. The exchange ratio at the margin will vary widely, however, among classes of such targets according to their nature (hardness, area, and mobility), their number, and their cost. Such defenses could also be deployed for a thin protection of some urban-industrial areas, though they must be recognized as protecting such targets, if at all, only against attacks that are both limited in size and not responsive, that is, not modified to take account of the defenses. Terminal defenses for these categories would use two-tier ground-based interceptors and until the early twenty-first century would need to carry nuclear warheads in at least the exoatmospheric long-range tier. The defenses would be accom¬ panied by space-based early warning and tracking sensors and by air¬ borne optical sensors to aid in the discrimination task during the termi¬ nal phase. Advanced versions of infrared sensors deployed near or above geo¬ synchronous orbit (an altitude of twenty thousand miles) will be needed for attack warning and assessment in any defensive system, even it no [213]

Harold Brown boost-phase intercept is attempted. Infrared or other sensors in lower orbits (at altitudes of hundreds of miles) would also be useful to all layers of a ballistic missile defense system for tracking and discrimina¬ tion. But because the sensors must be able to survive they must be provided with some self-defense, which in turn could be the first step toward boost-phase intercept. As to weapons, kinetic-energy rockets based in space are technologi¬ cally feasible. But an icbm using a fast-burn booster clearly defeats them, and space-based defenses are vulnerable to defense suppression. Estimates of the exchange ratio for a boost-phase intercept defense layer based on kinetic-energy kill range from as low as two to one adverse to the defense at the margin (assuming unresponsive offensive threats and including sunk costs for the offense) to more realistic estimates, assuming responsive offenses, of five or ten to one. Defense suppres¬ sion would probably further shift the ratio in favor of the offense. Space-based chemical lasers seem feasible technologically but more questionable as practical systems. Though likely to be faster in response than kinetic-energy weapons, they still will not be a match for fast-burn boosters of offensive missiles. They will, moreover, be vulnerable to defense suppression systems based on other space-based lasers and also vulnerable to ground-based lasers and direct-ascent antisatellite weapons. Ground-based lasers, whether free-electron or excimer la¬ sers, are interesting future technologies and may be more effective than chemical lasers, but it is too soon to know. It should be noted that even though fast-burn missiles could thwart a boost-phase intercept, this still leaves the possibility of a postboost tier or layer in an SDI system. The deployment by the offense of warheads and decoys cannot occur until later in the trajectory than the boost phase, at a higher altitude in order to avoid atmospheric drag. But the technology for postboost intercept capabilities is likely to be difficult to achieve because it will require electronic examination of images (pic¬ tures), using ordinary or infrared light, to distinguish among various components: the burned-out upper stage of the missile, the postboost vehicle, and the various objects released form it. These requirements, the countermeasures, and the potential technological capabilities for a postboost layer of defense are just beginning to be considered. Which technologies would be useful in the next tier, in midcourse intercept, is still less understood. Presumably the defense would want to use the same kill methods (kinetic-energy and directed-energy weap¬ ons) for intercepts as in the other tiers. This has the advantage of allowing some of the absentee satellites4 to come into play because of 4. Satellites in nonsynchronous orbit trace out a path over the earth whose pattern and timing depends on their altitude and velocity. Absentee satellites are those whose posi[214]

Is SDI Technically Feasible?

the longer time period involved in midcourse flight of a missile. Dis¬ crimination among possibly colossal numbers of objects would, how¬ ever, be a daunting problem. There are ideas about how to address it but no confidence in any of them; that is why there is a drive toward consideration of "active" discrimination, which would impart energy to the objects in the threat cloud in order to be able to distinguish among them by observing the effect on their behavior. Thus midcourse inter¬ cept is unlikely to play any role in a deployed system until well after the turn of the century. Through all of these considerations is entwined a serious problem tor space-based ABMs: however effective space-based systems may be against ballistic missiles, they would appear to be more effecti\e in suppressing defenses. And direct-ascent antisatellite systems or ground-based lasers may be still more effective than space-based sys¬ tems in this latter role. In sum, given the state of present and foreseeable technology, a boost-phase or postboost-phase intercept tier is not a realistic prospect in the face of likely offensive countermeasures and the vulnerability ot those tiers to defense suppression. It will also exhibit unfavorable rela¬ tive marginal costs as a contributor to defense of population at any reasonably high level of protection. These judgments apply to any system beginning deployment at least for the next twenty years and probably considerably beyond. There are interesting new technologies, however, that leave open the possibility that our estimates of the offense-defense balance might change after that time, especially if some of these technologies prove to have some midcourse discrimination and intercept capability, as well as some boost-phase effectiveness. Such a shift is very unlikely, but strate¬ gic thinking should include the possibility that it might take place tor deployed systems some decades into the next century.

Circa 2000: Possible SDI Deployment Scheme

What would a defense system look like if the priorities of the Reagan administration's SDI program (boost-phase intercept and population defense) were to be combined with the technologies that will be avail¬ able and a reasonable development program leading to deployment around the year 2000? . . It would be likely to have space-based components. It would per haps

tion in their orbits, at the time when the attacking missUes are launched, puts them over parts of the earth that are distant from the offensive launch sites. [215]

Harold Brown

include, for example, a dozen satellites at one-half to two times geo¬ synchronous altitude to carry out boost surveillance and tracking; some tens of satellites at perhaps one thousand kilometers altitude to carry out surveillance, tracking, and fire control for the attack of boosters, postboost vehicles, and objects in the midcourse part of the trajectory using infrared detection (short wavelength for boost, long wavelength for midcourse) and laser designation, and possibly some semiactive radar or laser radar tracking; and some thousands of satellites, at alti¬ tudes of a few hundred kilometers, whose main purpose would be to carry kinetic-kill vehicles, of which there would be a total in the tens of thousands for use as actual defensive weapons. In parallel, terminal defenses would also be deployed. These would include terminal radars and an airborne set of optical and infrared detectors. There would be some thousands each of exoatmospheric and endoatmosphenc interceptors, deployed around missile (icbm) silos, other military targets, and major urban-industrial areas. Some of the endoatmosphenc interceptors might even reach out into the later parts of midcourse flight. To moderate the costs of putting into orbit the spaceborne component of the system, a new and advanced shuttle would be developed and put in use beginning about 1997. A supplementary deployment or second phase could be expected to commence eight to ten years later, thus beginning somewhere between 2005 and 2010 and taking another five to seven years to complete deployment. During that phase there would be added satellites carry¬ ing chemical lasers for killing offensive targets and lasers or neutral particle beams for discriminating in midcourse as well. Alternatively, ground-based lasers with mirrors in orbit would be deployed, perhaps as early as three to five years later still. This second phase carries us into the realm of hypothetical technologies and cloudy crystal balls; x-ray lasers and electromagnetic railguns lie still deeper in those realms. Whatever the system architectures, there must be consideration of the possibility—and the effect—of catastrophic failure of one layer of a multitiered defense on the subsequent layers. In both the quantity of hardware and the nature of the software (that is, the built-in operational procedures), the systems must therefore be designed to provide a way to avoid catastrophic failure of a later layer (and thus overall failure) because of a poorer than expected performance of earlier layers. The simple multiplication of attrition factors in a series of layers, the number of which is sometimes arbitrarily assumed, carries an inherent assump¬ tion of its own. The assumption is that the operation of each layer's sensors, tracking, kill mechanisms, and effectiveness is completely in¬ dependent of the nature, physical components, and effectiveness of all the previous tiers. The architecture of the entire system has to be such as

Is SDI Technically Feasible?

to assure that this would in fact be the case to the maximum possible extent, and also, to the extent that it is not, to assure that the system degrades "gracefully.” This will not be an easy or inexpensive task.

Appropriate Research and Development Program

What would constitute an appropriate research and development program? Though existing technology and system concepts for terminal defense can provide an effective defense of hard icbm silos deployed in a multiple protective shelter mode, more advanced technologies—opti¬ cal trackers, more accurate interceptors, and lower interceptor yields— would increase the systems' cost-effectiveness. For improving the con¬ tribution of terminal defense to protection of urban-industrial areas and possibly, of military targets other than missile silos, the technology associated with non-nuclear kill and with terminal discrimination should be pursued. These would include greater tracking accuracy, homing warheads, and the airborne orbiting adjunct. Deployment ot a prototype developmental version of a terminal defense complex at a test range (Kwajalein) would be extremely valuable and consistent with the ABM Treaty. . Early warning and attack assessment systems should be further de¬ veloped, including those based on detection of the infrared signal from missiles in a boost phase. To this end, improvements in the present Satellite Early Warning System should be carried out. Infrared, optica , and radar tracking of objects in space from distances of up to about a thousand miles will also be useful for any defensive system. The corre¬ sponding R&D should therefore be vigorously pursued. Because kinetic-energy weapons and conventional chemical lasers will be defeated by, or suffer a severe cost-exchange disadvantage trom, offensive countermeasures and defense suppression, the R&D program should concentrate on the more advanced kill mechanisms and active discrimination methods that are further off in time. Such an approach, however, is legitimately subject to the criticism that "the best is the enemy of the good." Moreover, the effectiveness of future technologies is easily overestimated simply because less is known about them. If one judges that the good is not good enough, then it is appropriate to work on something better (and therefore usually further away in time). This conclusion depends, however, on a judgment that SUCCesa ful development of such an advanced technology has a good chance to improve the defense's position in the balance between defensive mea¬ sures and countermeasures. This last criterion may turn out not to be met even by the more advanced technologies for active discrimination [217]

Harold Brown

and kill. For example, it continues to appear that everything that works well as a defense also works somewhat better as a defense suppressor But the balance between offense and defense seems even less likely to shift in favor of the defense as a result of the nearer-term technologies than as a result of the more advanced ones. Thus it is appropriate to increase the R&D emphasis on such programs as (1) optical technology including the following elements: adaptive optics, that is, adjusting the wave-front shape to compensate for distortions in the laser source and in the atmosphere; locking the phase of separate lasers together so their amplitudes add, greatly increasing the brightness; using one laser to drive another; phased-array lasers (for improving intensity, steering capability, and atmospheric compensation); (2) combining lasers and particle beams as a way of focusing the beam better; (3) excimer and (especially) free-electron lasers and the kill mechanism based on those technologies; application of advanced optical technologies to chemical lasers; (4) ground basing of lasers and pop-up mirrors (which should be less vulnerable) or mirrors that unfold and that can be more easily deployed to make them less vulnerable as targets; (5) verification tech¬ nology for computer programs, fault tolerance, expert systems and automatic programming to improve confidence in software; (6) active and perturbing discrimination and other midcourse signature work (since the midcourse part of the flight gives the defense a longer time to act, if discriminants can be found for use by the defense); and (7) survivability of space-based defensive components, especially sensors. Bomb-driven x-ray lasers could be very effective because they could achieve very high brightness and medium beam width. But they are at such an early stage that the program, though deserving support, should be confined to demonstration of those two features. Railguns may be useful but only if they meet very ambitious goals for speed, mass, and multishot capability. Even then, conventional rockets accelerated to equally high speeds (and with correspondingly heavy propellant weight) may be competitive with railguns; but neither is likely to be cost-effective. J Demonstrating the technology to achieve the above goals for x-ray lasers and railguns should precede any consideration of a systems effort for them.




In the light of the considerations set forth, what should be the em¬ phasis of the SDI program? What should be the balance among systems esign, component development, experimental demonstrations, and [218]

Is SDI Technically Feasible?

technology? What should be deemphasized or eliminated? These ques¬ tions become more acute in the light of the substantial reductions in the funding of the research and development program from the proposals formulated in the Fletcher Committee Report of 1983.3 The scope of the program is so ambitious that schedules for systems decisions appear to be slipping, and some difficult choices about priorities will have to be It would seem appropriate to emphasize technology that still needs to be proven and developed rather than "spectacular" demonstrations, though at some point demonstrations would be needed to test the technology. Some technologies are sufficiently demonstrated, and the corresponding systems concepts sufficiently clear, so that engineering development could begin on them relatively soon. But doing so would make sense only after a decision as to the detailed nature and function of the defensive system. Work is indicated to define the design of a ground-based termina defense system, which could stand by itself or be a layer of a multilayer strategic defense system. This would involve updating the Spartan and Sprint missiles and beginning work on the design of a non-nuclear interceptor. This system should have the capability of being deployed as a defense of the U.S. icbm force, as well as serving as a component of a population defense if that should ever prove feasible. Initiation of full-scale engineering development for such terminal defenses should be deferred for several years. This would allow two prior determinations. One is the technical and military feasibility (and political acceptability) of less vulnerable modes of icbm deployment. The second is whether mutual reductions in the size of strategic often sive forces can be negotiated so as to reduce the need for active defense of icbms. An appropriate schedule would be to get the technology ready for a possible 1988 initiation of full-scale engineering development and a start of deployment in 1993 if such a decision is taken. . Space-based kinetic-energy weapons appear unpromising in the light of the almost certain offensive countermeasures and theretore shou t be deemphasized, even though such a system is the only space-based one that could be reasonably well specified today. By the same logic, 1 would make sense to delay a decision on detailed specification on ant initiation of full-scale engineering development on any boost-p ase intercept system until 1994 or 1995. By that time enoug °ug 0 t known about the technology of the various directed-energv weapons to allow a more informed choice among them. 5. The work of this committee, headed by James C. Fletcher, «as,/rw\g

Big Bird (K.H-9), 31 BM/C3 systems, 138-40, 151, 160, 18082, 212-13

Index BMD systems effectiveness of, 148-50, 154, 195 Soviet, 3, 94-96. See also Moscow BMD system U S., 3, 19-21, 27-28, 68, 73-75, 127, 141-43; advantages of, 18, 125. See also Strategic Defense Initiative Boost Surveillance and Tracking System (bsts), 162, 164 Brown, Harold, 8, 22, 40-41, 237 Buckley, James, 289, 290 Bush, George, 294 Canavan, Gregory, 190 Carter, Ashton B., 13, 133 Carter, Jimmy, 29-30 Cat House radar, 107, 108, 110, 123 checkmate electromagnetic launcher fa¬ cility, 179 Chemical lasers in SDI, 168, 179, 210-11, 214 technology of, 65, 136, 196; problems with, 208 Communications satellites, 16, 23, 24, 34-35 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (1975), ^44/ 259 Cooper, Robert, 201 Co-orbital interceptors, 18, 39 Countermeasures Project, 175-76 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (darpa), 133 Defense and Space Talks, 236, 241 Defensive Technologies Study Team. See Fletcher panel DeLauer, Richard D., 64 Delta program, 170-71 Direct Communications Link Improve¬ ment Agreement (1971), 244 Directed-energy weapons (DEW) in SDI, 65, 135-36, 164-65, 167, 194, 208, 220 Soviet development of, 48, 63, 123 Dirksen, Everett, 191 Dog House radar, 107, 108, 110, 123 Drell, Sydney D., 8, 20 Early warning satellites, 15-16, 23, 25, 35 Eisenhower, Dwight D., 26, 27 Electronic ocean reconnaissance satellites (eorsats), 15 Excimer lasers, 64, 136, 210 Exoatmospheric reentry vehicle intercep¬ tion system (eris), 64-65, 137, 170, 172

"Exotics." See Directed-energy weapons F-15 fighter, 50, 51, 53, 54, 56 Farley, Philip J., 8, 20 flage interceptor, 171 Fletcher panel, 139, 187, 199, 219 Ford, Gerald, 29 Foster, John, 264, 287-88 Fractional orbit bombardment system (fobs), 2, 28 Free-electron lasers (FEL), 65, 136, 16668, 210 Galosh system, 19, 21, 47, 103, 105, 1079, 122, 123, 226 Gazelle, 21 Geneva arms control negotiations, 5, 78, 225, 246 Geneva Disarmament Conference (1986), 257 Geneva summit (1985), 235, 240 Geodetic satellites, 17, 23, 25 Geostationary communications satellite, 32

Geosynchronous orbit (GEO), 13 Glosnass, 35 Goldwater, Barry, 286 Gorbachev, Mikhail, 9, 23 and ABM Treaty, 253-54 and arms control talks, 10, 235 Gore, Albert, 253 Grand Forks, N.D., missile site, 20, 111, 227 Grechko, Andrei A., 118, 188, 239, 268, 294 Griffon system, 103, 106, 107, 114 Gromyko, Andrei, 184, 235 Ground-based lasers, 48, 166-68, 197200, 210, 214, 216 Guertner, Gary L., 7 Heavy-lift launch vehicle (hllv), 138 Hen House radar, 103-4, 107/ 108, no, 116, 121 High energy endoatmospheric defense interceptor (hedi), 137, 170, 172 High-energy lasers, 123 High-Energy Laser Systems Test Facility, 60 High-power microwaves, 200-201 Hit-to-kill missile system, 51 Holloway, David, 8, 20 Homing Overlay Experiment (HOE), 5960, 272 Hybrid laser systems, 199-200 Hypervelocity gun (HVG), 172 [330]

Index Hypervelocity launcher (HVL), 170, 172. See also Railguns Infrared (IR) sensors, 15, 161, 163, 21314

Innovative Science and Technology Of¬ fice (SDIO), 178-79 Interceptors co-orbital, 18, 39 eris, 64-65, 137, 170, 172 HEDI, 137, 170, 172 SBIs, 135, 141 Intercontinental ballistic missiles (icbms) accuracy of, 17 Soviet, 2, 27, 47, 72, 88, 102, 107, 118, 126 U.S., 95, 109, 111, 119, 121, 127, 22627

Intermediate-range ballistic missiles, 28, 47, 148 Intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF), 35, 235, 291 International Telecommunications Con¬ vention, 244 Instrumented test vehicles, 53 Jackson, Henry, 287-89 Jastrow, Robert, 190 Jumpseat sigint, 42 Kapustin Yar missile site, 103, 104 Karpov, Viktor, 263 Keeny, Spurgeon M., 253 Kennedy, John F., 27, 28 Keyhole satellites, 14, 31 Khrushchev, Nikita, 26-27, 104, 107 Kinetic-energy weapons (KEW), 64-65, 135/ 137/ 169-71, 207, 208, 219 Kinetic-Energy Weapons Program, 16970 Kinetic-kill vehicles, 169-72, 208 Kissinger, Henry, 130 Kosmos satellites, 14 Krasnoyarsk radar, 87, 230, 251, 253, 268, 273, 280 Laird, Melvin, 239, 265, 286, 287 Large Advanced Mirror Program (lamp), 168 Large phased-array radar (lpar), 230, 231 Laser radars, 161, 163 Laser systems ground-based, 48, 166-68, 197-200, 210, 214 high-energy, 123 hybrid, 199-200 [331]

space-based, 165-68, 196-97, 200, 210, 214 Layered defense boost phase, 135-36, 150-51, 161, 195, 196, 200-201 concept of, 86, 147, 151-52, 195, 216 midcourse phase, 136-37, 152-53, 162, 196, 201-2 postboost phase, 136, 151-52, 162, 196 terminal phase, 137, 153-54, 162, 196, 202-3 See also Strategic Defense Initiative Leber, Walter, 287 Leningrad system, 106-107, 114 Lethality and Target Hardening (LTH) Project, 173 Lightweight exoatmospheric advanced projectiles (leap), 170, 172 Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963), 3, 24,

224, 239, 249 Long-range ballistic missiles, 47, 60 Long wave-length infrared (lwir) probe, 162-64 Low earth orbit (LEO), 12 McFarlane, Robert C., 232, 252 McNamara, Robert S., 20, 226 Malinovsky, Rodion, 104 Maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRVs), M3 Mark II reentry vehicles, 116 Materials and Structures Project, 175 Meteorological satellites, 17, 23, 25 Meteor satellites, 17 Microwave technology, 143, 161, 200-201 Mid-infrared advanced chemical laser (miracl), 60 Military satellites (Milsats) orbits of, 12-13 Soviet, 2, 4, 14, 19, 30-32, 35; tables, 34/ 56 U.S., 14, 19, 24-25, 31-37; tables, 26, 43

Miniature vehicles (MVs), 50, 53, 55, 59 Minuteman icbms, 59, 105 Mirrors, pop-up, 95, 210, 216, 218 Molniya orbit, 13 Molniya strategic communication sys¬ tem, 31 Moscow BMD system, 89, 103, 105, 10711, 114, 120-22 Multiple independently targetable reen¬ try vehicles (mirvs), 94, 109 Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), 130/ 131

MX missile, 126

Index National Security Decision Directive-42 (NSDD-42), 242

Navigation satellites, 17, 23, 25 Navstar GPS, 16, 17, 32, 35, 42 Navy Ocean Surveillance System (noss), 15' 35 Neutral particle beams Soviet development of, 63, 123 technology of, 166-67; problems with, 141, 201 U.S. development of, 65, 168, 208, 209 Nike-X, 20, 226 Nike-Zeus system, 19-20, 28 Nitze, Paul, 184 Nixon administration, 20, 226, 296 norad, 50-51 Nuclear and Space Talks (NST), 9, 23536, 245, 248 Nuclear Detection System (NDS), 16 Nuclear-directed energy weapons, 167 Nuclear weapons defense from, 3, 203 detection of, 16 use of, 2, 86, 148, 195 Nunn, Sam, 10 Optical infrared guidance system, 40 Orbital bombardment systems, 27-28 Orbital maneuvering vehicles (OMVs), 61 Orr, Verne, 63 Outer space, military use of, 2, 4, 5, 11, 23, 24, 29-32 Outer Space Treaty (1967), 3, 28, 224, 239, 243, 249 Overall probability of survival (OPS), 44 paladin, 167-68 Palmer, Bruce, 288-89 Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (pnet) (1976), 239 Pershing II missile, 53, 64, 126 Phased-array radars Soviet, 108, 117, 120-22, 230 U.S., 218, 231 Phoenix system, 65 plato, 177 Pop-up defense systems, 141, 198-99 Postboost vehicles (PVs), 142, 151-52 Powers, Gary, 102 President's Strategic Defense Initiative, 185, 236-37 Progress space vehicle, 49 Proton booster, 62 Pushkino radar, 122, 123 PVO Strany, 101, 103, 124

Radar ocean reconnaissance satellites (rorsats), 15 Railguns, 65, 169, 211, 218 Rankine, Robert R., 53 Reagan, Ronald, 6, 9, 127, 240 and ABM Treaty, 252, 253, 272 and arms control, 10, 235, 236 BMD announcement, 126 on defense, 131, 243 on nuclear war, 87 SDI program, 3, 4, 8, 82-84, 87, 147, 160, 185, 231-32, 237 SDI speech (March 23, 1983), 67, 69, 84, 85, 130, 183, 193, 249, 271 on space policies, 241, 242 Reagan administration ABM policies, 215. See also Strategic Defense Initiative and ABM Treaty, 228, 291-92 asat policies, 58; Soviet view of, 25455

Soviet compliance, view of, 41, 230-31 Reconnaissance satellites, 14-15, 23, 24, 26, 27, 29, 33-34 Reentry vehicles (RVs) MaRVs, 143 mirvs, 94, 109 and Moscow system, 109-10, 115, 116, 121 Soviet, 20 U.S., 142, 152-53 Reykjavik summit (1986), 235-36, 240, 248 Rhinelander, John B., 253, 269 Rogers, William, 265, 294 SA-2 system, 115, 116 SA-5 system, 114-15 SA-10 system, 119 Safeguard, 20, 59, 111, 113, 122, 226 Saggitar, 65 SALT I

first round (1969), 111, 112 interim agreement, 29, 72, 226, 238 negotiations, 114, 117, 123, 237 second round (1970), 112-13 salt II, 30, 41, 226, 269, 291 Salyut space station, 32, 49 SAM-D, 117 Sary Shagan missile site, 48, 102-4, 120 Satellite Data Systems (SDS), 32, 42 satka program, 161-64 Semisynchronous orbit, 13 Sentinel, 20, 59, 226 Seton-Watson, Hugh, 120 SH-04, 47


Index Short-range attack missiles (srams), 50 Shultz, George, 184, 235, 252, 272 sigint satellites, 15, 42 Single-layer defense system, 149 Single-shot probability of kill (sspk), 43 Soviet capabilities, 44-46, 49; table, 45 U.S. capabilities, 55, 56; table, 57 SL-11 booster, 38 SL-12 booster, 62 Slay, Alton, 48 Small Business Innovative Research (sbir) Program, 178 Smith, Gerard C., 91, 188, 238, 251, 265 Sofaer, Abraham D., 251-52, 282, 285, 291-93, 296 Sokolovsky, V. D., 99-100 Sol-Gel technology, 179 Soviet Military Power (DOD), 18, 41, 48 Soviet Union ABM development, 19, 89, 100-107 ABM systems, 47, 119 asat capabilities, 38, 42-46, 225, 257 asat development, 2-4, 9, 40-41, 44, 100, 105, 254, 256-57; tables, 40, 41 asat systems, 18, 19, 225; future, 6263; testing of, 3, 28, 39, 40 atbm capabilities, 117, 124 BMD deployment and development, 26, 94-96, 99, 121. See also Moscow BMD system DEW development, 48, 63, 123 first-strike capability, 71, 82, 95 ICBMS, 2, 27, 47, 72, 88, 102, IO7, ll8, 126 military objectives, 96-98 satellite use, 2, 4, 14, 19, 30-32, 35; ta¬ bles, 54, 56 SP-100 project, 174, 177 Space-based interceptors (SBIs), 135, 141 Space-based kinetic-kill vehicles (SBKKVS), 158, 159, I7O-72, 208

Space-based lasers (SBLs),

165-68, 196-

97, 200, 210, 214

Space-based neutral particle beams (SBNPBS), 166-67 Space Defense Operations Center, 50 Space Defense Systems Program, 243 Space mines, 62-63, 141 Space Power and Power Conditioning Project, 174 Space Power Program, 179 Space shuttle program, 61 Space Surveillance and Tracking System (SSTS), 162-64 Space Transportation and Support Proj¬ ect, 174


Spartan missiles, 20, 59, 206, 219 Spirit I, 164 Spot satellite, 42 Sprint, 20, 206, 219 Sputnik program, 1, 2, 27, 223 SS-6, 27 SS-9, 226 SS-20, 92 Standing Consultative Commission, 227, 291 Stares, Paul B„ 5, 6, 16-17, 19 Stevens, Sayre, 6 STM-i, 170-71 “Store dump" satellites, 31 Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. See SALT I; SALT II Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (start), 95, 138-39, 291 Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) ABM Treaty compliance, 9, 53, 78, 83, 87, 91, 187, 188, 217, 220, 228, 232, 238, 239, 249, 250, 252, 271-72, 279, 280, 282, 297 arms control role, 71, 132, 133 costs of, 138, 190-91, 207 deployment of, possible, 157-59, 20612 as deterrent, 87-89, 91, 130-32, 183, 186-87 feasibility of, 70-71, 183, 185, 205, 21315

goals of, 69-70, 129, 131, 133, 156 purpose of, 83-87 Soviet countermeasures to, possible, 140-43, 173, 175, 186, 190-91 technologies of. See Directed-energy weapons; Kinetic-energy weapons; satka program testing problems in, 186 Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (sdio), 134-35, 138, 144-45/ 155-57/ 178-79, 184 Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMS), 15, 35, 47, 124, 148, 25O Supersynchronous orbit, 13 Surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems Soviet, 101-2, 104, 114-16, 124, 203 U.S., 114, 117 Survivability, Lethality and Key Tech¬ nologies (slkt) Program, 172-78 System Survivability Project, 172-73 Tallinn system, 114-15 Terminal imaging radar (TIR), 162 Theater Missile Defense/Foreign Tech¬ nology Program, 171

Index Thor irbm, 28 Threshold Test Ban Treaty (ttbt) (1974), 239 Thurmond, Strom, 290 Transit-Nova constellation, 42, 44 Tyuratam missile site, 39, 41 United Nations, 30, 243-44 United States ABM systems, 2, 19-21, 59-60, 194 asat capabilities, 2, 3, 18-19, 29, 49~ 60, 204, 225 asat policy, 242-43 asat programs, 50-59, 64-66, 204, 208, 254-255; Soviet view of, 255-58 BMD development, 3, 27-28, 68, 7375/ 127 BMD system advantages, 18, 125. See also Strategic Defense Initiative first-strike capability, 134, 204

ICBMS, 95, IO9, 111, 119, 121, 127, 226-


satellite use, 14, 19, 24, 25, 31-37; ta¬ bles, 26, 43 space program, military use of, 27, 2932, 61 U.S. Department of Defense, 18, 198 and ABMs, 21, 286 and almvs, 53 and arms control, 271 and asats, 42, 48, 54 and SDI, 67-68, 131, 202 Weather satellites, 23, 24 Weinberger, Caspar, 132, 280, 292-94 X-ray lasers,

65, 136, 141, 167, 198-99,

211, 218, 220

Yonas, Gerald, 184

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data The Search for security in space. (Cornell studies in security affairs) Includes index. 1. Space warfare. 2. Ballistic missile defenses. 3. Strategic Defense Initiative. I. Luongo, Kenneth N. II. Wander, W. Thomas. III. Series. UG1530.S43 1989 358'.174 88-47928 ISBN 0-8014-2145-4 ISBN 0-8014-9482-6 (pbk.)