Senate Committee on Armed Services
Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
Defense of the United States, Its Forces, and Its Interests
Against Ballistic Missile Attack
William R. Graham, Ph.D.
March 24, 1998
Defense of the United States, Its Forces, and Its Interests
Against Ballistic Missile Attack
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the defense against ballistic missile attack of the United States, its forces, and its interests throughout the world today.
Much has happened in the world since March 23rd, 1983, when President Reagan first proposed that the United States address the protection of our vital interests against the threat of ballistic missile attack. I would like to address three important aspects of the last fifteen years: the rapidly evolving ballistic missile threat worldwide, the results of the investment that our country has made in the Strategic Defense Initiative and its successor, the Ballistic Missile Defense Program, and what we have learned since the breakup of the Soviet Union about its ballistic missile defense program and that of Russia today.
THE RAPIDLY EVOLVING BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT WORLDWIDE
Fifty years ago, long range ballistic missile technology was an arcane and largely unexplored field. However, the last fifty years have seen an enormous investment of manpower and monetary resources in that area, so that today several generations of ballistic missile technology have been developed and deployed.
During and immediately after World War II, ballistic missile technology was treated by governments as a secret field of research. Since that time, the need to educate, train, and maintain a large cadre of ballistic missile and space launch vehicle specialists, together with the relaxation of government restrictions on the dissemination of ballistic missile technology, hardware, software, and trained personnel, have made useful knowledge of the subject widely available.
Today, opportunities for developing countries to acquire long range ballistic missiles are at an all-time high. The current situation is the result of the confluence of at least five sources of opportunity:
When addressing the ballistic missile threat today, it is important to keep in mind that Russia has retained thousands of nuclear weapons and associated ballistic missile systems that can deliver those weapons anywhere in our country and around the world, even though much of its military and civilian infrastructure continues to degrade. Further, as recently reported in The Washington Post, Russia’s strategic command and control system is degrading, increasing the prospects of an accidental or unauthorized launch. China maintains a much smaller but still potentially devastating long-range nuclear weapon-tipped ballistic missile force. Several of the least admirable countries of the developing world are also developing and building ballistic missiles of increasing range and capability. Their efforts and those of the countries and organizations who help them are usually referred to as ballistic missile proliferation.
An excellent if somewhat chilling report on ballistic missile proliferation has been prepared and issued by the Majority of the Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation, and Federal Services of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. The report, entitled The Proliferation Primer, reviews proliferation in terms of the major suppliers of weapons of mass destruction technology, missile delivery systems, and key enabling technologies by examining information available in the public record. It includes evidence that implicates Russia, China, and North Korea in ballistic missile proliferation, and compares the Wassenaar Arrangement to its predecessor exports control regime, COCOM, assessing whether the elimination of COCOM has given rogue nations and their suppliers increased access to the technology of the West. It also examines the increasing availability of missile hardware and expertise, and discusses the substantial difficulties of predicting when and how advances in the ballistic missile capabilities of rogue nations will occur.
In view of the availability today of technical literature, education for students throughout the world, the world market in ballistic missile hardware and software, the availability of experienced scientists, engineers, and technicians, and the certain knowledge that long range ballistic missiles can and have been built, there are no insurmountable barriers to any nation developing a ballistic missile and associated nuclear, biological, or chemical warhead capability.
As Germany demonstrated with its V-2 program and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. with their intercontinental ballistic missile programs in the 1950s and 60s, political will and national priority are the major determinants of the rapidity with which national ballistic missile programs are brought to operational status. Even North Korea, which is one of the poorest and most isolated of nations, unable to provide subsistence for many of its inhabitants, not only has been able to develop a series of increasingly longer range ballistic missiles, but has become a major supplier of ballistic missiles and technology to some of the world’s most irresponsible and hostile regimes. Other nations have demonstrated that it is possible to purchase complete, operational missile systems while giving little or no advanced warning.
Today, no missile development program will be obstructed by lack of capability or opportunity, and several countries hostile to the U.S. are supporting their ballistic missile acquisition programs with national will and determination.
U.S. INVESTMENT AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
IN BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE
The technologies and systems of both offensive ballistic missiles and defenses against them have undergone dynamic change over the last thirty years. As the threats evolved, the technical capabilities and challenges to defense systems also evolved. During its own era, each of the challenges was formidable, only to be overcome and replaced by new challenges. However, during this evolution, the balance of capability has gradually been moving from the offense to the defense. The following is a review of the challenges that confronted missile defense in each of the last three decades, and identifies the new technologies developed over the years that played critical roles in overcoming those challenges.
In the post-World War II era, the first strategic threat to the continental U.S. arose from Soviet long-range bombers carrying nuclear weapons. Defenses against aircraft—particularly bombers—had undergone extensive development as a matter of necessity in World War II, when allied forces in Europe employed a combination of radar for early warning, aircraft for high-altitude and standoff interception, and barrage balloons and ground-based anti-aircraft guns for local defense, all integrated using point-to-point voice communications over telephone and radio links.
As the strategic aircraft threat to the U.S. developed in the 1950s, the need grew for higher performance, more integrated air defenses. Air defense performance was improved through the development of several generations of jet interceptor aircraft of progressively greater speed, better armament for these aircraft including air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. These latter missiles were usually tracked along with the target aircraft and command-guided to intercept by ground-based radars that were usually co-located with the missile launchers. The guidance loop went from the radar to the target and the interceptor missile, back to the radar, through an electrical analog computer, and to the interceptor missile with guidance commands. The systems were not sufficiently accurate to rely on a hit-to-kill intercept, so the interceptor missile carried either a proximity-fused high explosive warhead or a small nuclear warhead. The NIKE series of surface-to-air missiles, developed under the leadership of Bell Laboratories and deployed widely in the U.S. during this era, were examples of this technical approach. Countermeasures that had to be overcome included chaff, jammers, and both passive and active decoys.
By the beginning of the 1960s, the progress that the Soviet Union was making in the development of long-range ballistic missiles, along with their ability to make large-yield thermonuclear weapons as demonstrated in their atmospheric tests, stimulated serious consideration in the U.S. of a national missile defense. The point of departure for such a system was the NIKE anti-aircraft system, which by that time had evolved through several generations of design and deployment. Bell Laboratories redirected its anti-aircraft work to the ABM problem, and drew upon its extensive experience to develop what became the NIKE X and then the SAFEGUARD ABM system that was deployed at a single site near Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 1975.
The SAFEGUARD ABM system consisted of a long-range surveillance Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR), a shorter range but more precise Missile Site Radar (MSR), ground-based digital computers, ground-based SPARTAN missiles for exo-atmospheric intercepts, and Sprint missiles for endo-atmospheric intercepts. Both missiles carried nuclear warheads, although of quite different types, with each optimized to be most effective in its altitude range of operation. The overall interceptor control loop was the same as it had been for earlier air defense missiles, other than the change from analog to large digital computers to solve the fire control equations and guide the interceptor to the vicinity of its target.
The SAFEGUARD system was linked to the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) of radars and communications that had been established in the 1960s to monitor Soviet ballistic missile and space launches. It was interconnected by commercial long-line telephone carriers and military surface-to-surface microwave links, and was interconnected and controlled from the NORAD facilities inside Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The SAFEGUARD system faced three major technical challenges. The first of these was traffic capacity. In the 1960s, digital computers were built from discrete components: individual transistors, resistors, etc. This form of electronics technology produced several inherent limitations on the speed of computation, and also imposed what by today’s computer standards are severe practical limitations on the memory and processor size of the computer. These limitations in 1960s computer technology translated into limitations in the ability of the SAFEGUARD system to handle multiple ballistic missiles and other objects such as chaff, jammers, or decoys simultaneously, which in turn gave rise to the possibility of defeating its defensive capabilities by saturating its processors with a barrage or countermeasure attack.
However, such an attack had drawbacks for the attacker. To produce a high-traffic attack, the offense would have to coordinate its launches so that the offensive missiles would arrive in the battle space of the radar and its associated computers nearly simultaneously. This degree of synchronization of the attack not only would place an additional requirement on the offense, but would also subject the offensive missiles to various forms of fratricide—the destruction or disabling of one offensive missile warhead by another.
To avoid multiple intercepts from a single defensive missile, the attacking warheads would have to be spaced sufficiently far apart so that one interceptor could not destroy more than one offensive warhead, and if the offensive warheads were fused to detonate when attacked, sometimes referred to as salvage fusing, the spacing would have to be sufficiently large that the salvage explosion of one offensive warhead would not kill another in the attack. Even if a following warhead were not killed, the anomalous aerodynamic conditions within the fireball created by either an offensive or defensive nuclear explosion could induce a substantial error in the targeting accuracy of a latter warhead—a particularly significant effect when the attack was directed against hardened targets such as missile silos that required considerable offensive warhead accuracy to kill. Finally, crater ejecta from earlier warheads would still be airborne when later warheads arrived and that debris could be struck by rapidly moving incoming warheads, causing them to pre-detonate or even to be destroyed.
Countermeasures had always been a problem for radar-guided anti-aircraft. As Soviet missile defenses came into operation, U.S. strategic missiles began to incorporate similar countermeasures, and there was a concern that Soviet missiles might do the same. Some countermeasures, such as lightweight chaff, would only be effective outside the atmosphere, but others, such as replica decoys, could be designed to look like offensive warheads from deployment until well into the atmosphere and could quickly add still more traffic to the defended battlespace. To overcome such countermeasures, the performance of both the radar and the computers had to be sufficiently accurate to distinguish between the signatures and the trajectories and other dynamics of the decoys and the actual warheads. This, in turn, put additional requirements on the defensive hardware and software capabilities.
Blackout and other nuclear explosion-induced radar propagation problems were another technical challenge. Blackout is caused by the ionization created by an atmospheric or exo-atmospheric nuclear explosion. That ionization can absorb or distort the radar signal as it passes through the region around the explosion, and result in either no return signal or a signal improperly directed back to the radar. Blackout and related effects would be caused by the explosion of a nuclear interceptor warhead, and could be caused by the offensive warhead as well if it were salvage-fused. To overcome these problems, the defensive system had to maintain a good model of the battlespace and the events occurring in it, and had to be able to correct for problems less than a total blackout of the radar signal. These phenomena imposed additional loads on the radar and its computers.
Finally, while not solely a technology problem, the siting issues associated with SAFEGUARD became a major impediment to its deployment in some areas. Missile and radar range limitations of the SAFEGUARD system necessitated the deployment of several radar/computer/missile installations around the country to protect the entire continental U.S. The most stressful threats in terms of battlespace available were not the Soviet ICBMs, but rather their sub-launched ballistic missiles—SLBMs. SLBMs could be fired from only a few hundred kilometers off the U.S. coastline, and could have flight times of ten minutes or less to the population centers along the coasts, and to the bomber bases and other military facilities inland. However, deploying any systems armed with nuclear warheads close to coastal population centers met with public and political resistance in some areas.
In February 1976, after ten months of operation at the Grand Forks site, the SAFEGUARD system was deactivated by Act of Congress. For the next seven years, ballistic missile defense activities were focused on R & D carried out primarily by the Army’s Redstone Arsenal at Huntsville, Alabama, the organization that had directed the development of the SAFEGUARD system. During that time, substantial progress was made in the development of high-powered laser systems suitable for weapons applications and multi-spectral space-based sensors by the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), and by the Air Force.
During this era, great progress was also made first by the military and then by commercial initiatives in computer hardware technology. ARPA and other organizations carried out initiatives to develop large-scale, high-speed integrated digital circuits, which took the technology from a few tens of transistors on a single semiconductor chip in 1970 to tens of thousands in 1980 to numbers approaching ten million today. Equally impressive were the gains made in computer speeds. In the early 1960s, the world’s foremost supercomputer—the Control Data Corporation’s 6600—had a clock speed of ten million operations per second. By the late 1980s, personal computer microprocessors had reached this speed, and have continued to advance to today’s speeds of 200 million cycles per second, with good prospects for still higher speeds in the near future. Special purpose computers have recently been built that operate at speeds of billions of cycles per second, and trillions of cycles per second computers are on the drawing boards. Integrated circuit semi-conductor memories have experienced similar advances in capacity and speed.
The enormous progress made in computers during this era resolved several of the challenges encountered in the 1970s in the design and development of ballistic missile defense systems, including traffic handling capacity, nuclear effects modeling, and more countermeasure discrimination.
The establishment of the Strategic Defense Initiative by President Reagan in 1983 was a seminal event in the development of ballistic missile defense technology. Diverse activities that could contribute to missile defense were brought together from many Defense Department organizations, and focused in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. With a new infusion of national interest and funding, rapid progress began to be made in the development of light-weight, high-powered laser systems and neutral particle beam devices. Early successes included the destruction of a TITAN booster placed securely in a static test stand by the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser in 1985 and the first test in space of a neutral particle beam accelerator—the Beam Experiment Aboard Rocket (BEAR) in 1989.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, the limitations of ground-based radar tracking, relatively slow ground-based computing, and ground-based command guidance of the interceptors made it technically impractical for the interceptors to be maneuvered with sufficient accuracy to actually hit high speed offensive ballistic missile warheads. This situation was overcome in the SAFEGUARD system by using nuclear explosives on the interceptors to extend their lethal range by at least a factor of a thousand over non-nuclear interceptors.
In June, 1984, the Army demonstrated the feasibility of a hit-to-kill ballistic missile interceptor with its Homing Overlay Experiment. This experiment used pre-SDI technology, resulting in a kill vehicle mass on the order of 1000 kg. The first formative reductions in component miniaturization gave rise to the highly successful Delta series (Delta 180-183). This sequence of experiments established the feasibility of the fundamental operations necessary to enable the space-based operation of a ballistic missile defense system. Operations ranging from target detection and acquisition to space based intercept were conducted. The mass of the kill vehicle used in the Delta series was of the order of a few hundred kilograms. The combination of miniaturized high-performance components, the large amount of computer power that could now be placed on a small interceptor, and the ability to integrate advanced components into a semi-autonomous hit-to-kill interceptor made it possible for the first time to consider deploying a ballistic missile defense system composed of interceptors that could function with sufficient autonomy and precision so that each could intercept a warhead using only its on-board sensors, thrusters, and computers once it had been given the battlespace it was to defend and the authority to act.
The miniaturization of sensors, propulsion systems, and computers also progressed rapidly. For example, small rocket engines well suited for maneuvering either ground-based interceptors or satellites into hit-to-kill trajectories were developed that had thrust-to-weight ratios of one thousand. Advances in these technologies represented major progress, and opened significant new opportunities in the design of interceptors and space systems. This progress has been so profound that it is revolutionizing the design of both military and non-military space systems, and has already strongly influenced the plans, designs, and hardware of commercial, NASA, and military satellites.
The drastic reduction in the size and weight of the components which make up hit-to-kill interceptors has enabled new families of endo-atmospheric and exo-atmospheric kinetic kill vehicles. Taken together, this family of vehicles is known as LEAP (Lightweight Exo-Atmospheric Projectile). The mass of these vehicles is as low as 10 kg in a package roughly the size of a coffee can. These vehicles are fully self-contained units which include the seeker, processor, guidance, and divert propulsion system—in short, a fully integrated projectile with enough computational capability to perform intercepts autonomously. Under other technology programs, liquid and solid axial engines have been developed which are specifically designed to propel the kill vehicles into the target.
The emergence of the LEAP capability has created the opportunity to pursue retrofits of existing systems as a means for converting them into ballistic missile defense applications. The retrofit strategy leverages existing investments in hardware, infrastructure and training to provide a variety of low-cost, near-term ballistic missile defense options. Among these options are the use of the Aegis air defense weapon system currently deployed aboard dozens of Navy ships and the use of excess strategic offensive ballistic missiles such as Minuteman. LEAP obviates the need to build ballistic missile defense systems from scratch, eliminating the attendant difficulties of advancing a brand new system through the defense acquisition bureaucracy.
The most notable example of the ingenious use of these technologies was in the design of the Brilliant Pebbles space-based interceptor in 1987. Actually the Brilliant Pebbles was preceded by Project BAMBI, an Air Force concept of the early 1960s using space-based ABM kill vehicles that would guide themselves to intercept boosting ballistic missiles. But it would take another twenty-five years of technical developments to make BAMBI feasible as Brilliant Pebbles. The BAMBI concept was reborn as Brilliant Pebbles of necessity in response to the projected cost of the first phase of deployment of a strategic defense system. The cost of this system was dominated by the space segment and was driven by survivability considerations and the use of technology proven in the Delta series. Brilliant Pebbles enabled a drastic reduction in the cost of the space segment while meeting all requirements. Brilliant Pebbles achieved survivability through proliferation, thereby distributing the intercept function across a number of elements. This approach obviated the need for expensive measures designed to ensure that every individual asset be capable of surviving a direct attack. The proliferated nature of the Brilliant Pebbles concept enabled a production line approach, allowing dramatic cost reductions through large economies-of-scale. The difference between the earlier space-based interceptor and Brilliant Pebbles is akin to the difference between the MILSTAR and IRIDIUM communications systems. Weighing about 50 kilograms, this interceptor was designed to be deployed in a constellation of a few thousand satellites that, when commanded, could conduct autonomous hit-to-kill intercepts of offensive missiles and warheads. The Brilliant Pebbles system was designed to operate exo-atmospherically as a defense against long-range missiles, but would also be effective against missiles with ranges as short as 1000 kilometers. Unfortunately, the development of the system was terminated in 1993, for other than technical reasons.
While the production and deployment of Brilliant Pebbles was never undertaken, the technology continued to be developed, and was ultimately proven under a space demonstration called Clementine. The Clementine satellite was composed of all the components of Brilliant Pebbles. However, the components were assembled into a configuration designed to demonstrate surveillance and interception for missile defense applications as well as a variety of civil space applications. The Clementine satellite was the first satellite to orbit the moon since the Apollo program twenty years ago. Using SDI-developed sensors it produced the first complete photographic map of the surface of the moon—and it did so at a variety of visible and infrared wavebands.
Beginning concurrently with the Brilliant Pebbles development and continuing through the present, the Army has pursued development of miniature ground-based hit-to-kill interceptors and associated ground-based radars as well as using cueing from space-based sensors for both theater ballistic missile defense and national missile defense. These interceptors would have a range of from tens to hundreds of kilometers depending on their booster velocity at burnout and—most importantly—the external sensor and command and control capabilities of the system. The Navy also began development of miniaturized ship-based interceptors that could be integrated into the AEGIS air defense system and used in conjunction with its shipborne SPY-1 radars and their advanced battle management system.
To a much greater degree than the space-based interceptor systems, the ground-based systems have radar range and horizon limitations that in turn limit the performance of interceptors to ranges substantially less than the kinematic range of the interceptor itself. However, this limitation can be offset to a large extent by using forward based early warning radars or cueing from space-based sensors. Therefore, the "footprint" or defended area of these surface-based systems depends very strongly on the availability and use of external sensing and tracking of offensive missiles.
In addition to efforts on interceptors, similar efforts were conducted for space sensors. These efforts were conducted with the goal of obviating the need for large, fixed ground-based radars which—by definition—have limited view. Drawing from the advantages exploited by Brilliant Pebbles, the focus of these efforts was on distributed sensors based on small satellites. The MSTI series (MSTI I - MSTI III) demonstrated the feasibility and practicality of such an approach, gathered key background data, and demonstrated all the key sensor functions—such as target detection, acquisition and tracking.
The most global, continuous form of external sensing and tracking can be performed using space-based sensors. The U.S. has used space-based sensors to detect missile launches for several decades, but these earlier systems have been in geosynchronous orbits, which are too distant from the missile trajectories to achieve the degree of accuracy necessary to launch and guide an interceptor to the designated offensive missile. On the other hand, sensors placed in very low altitude orbits have limited fields of view and lose altitude rapidly from drag in the upper fringes of the atmosphere. Therefore, a compromise orbital altitude was needed to optimize the cost-effectiveness of space-based sensors for guiding missile intercepts.
Following the conceptual development of the Brilliant Pebbles interceptors, and in view of the rapid progress being made in the development of small, lightweight sensors and satellites, Dr. Gregory Canavan proposed the development and deployment of a constellation of about twenty to forty satellites, communicating through satellite-to satellite links with downlinks to ground stations from any satellite within line of site, in orbits about 1000 kilometers in altitude. The system was called Brilliant Eyes, since it used much of the same technology as the Brilliant Pebbles interceptor satellites. The Brilliant Eyes system is currently being addressed in an Air Force program called the Space and Missile Tracking System (SMTS).
The importance of Brilliant Eyes, or SMTS, can hardly be overestimated. For example, Figure 1 shows the ratio of the areas that could be defended by the THAAD ground-based theater defense missile limited only by the kinematics of the missile compared with the area defended using only the planned ground-based radar located with the missile launcher. For offensive missiles of over about 1,500 kilometers range, the ratio of defended areas is more than a factor of 10, a very significant difference!
The significance of space-based sensing such as Brilliant Eyes becomes even clearer when the benefits are characterized in terms of relative dollar costs to obtain an equal capability. In the case mentioned above, the area that a surface-based interceptor system can defend using only its co-located radar is one-tenth the area that the same interceptor can defend using space-based sensing. Therefore, to defend the same area without space-based sensing, ten times as many missile/radar systems would have to be deployed, at a cost that would be approximately ten times as much as the same capability using space-based sensing to its fullest potential.
Factors of ten or more in cost are significant. While this appears to be a statement of the obvious, it is worth noting, since current U.S. theater ballistic missile defense plans for the THAAD surface-launched interceptor are deliberately prohibited from using space-based or other off-board sensing of any type for any purpose. To characterize the current THAAD system configuration as non-optimum is a considerable understatement.
Comprehensive global external sensing from a constellation of small satellites carrying missile surveillance and tracking sensors is well within the technical state-of-the art and could be deployed early in the next decade, although current plans place its first launch in 2006, and its initial operational capability no earlier than 2008; this slow pace of Brilliant Eyes deployment is not dictated by U.S. technical capabilities.
The shift in concern from a multi-thousand warhead threat that could be deployed by the Soviet Union (or its successor, Russia) to a much smaller threat that could be deployed today by China, or in the near future by other states, has shifted the ballistic missile defense focus to smaller scale deployments. A change begun with the Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS) in January 1992, and continued through May 1993. With the increase in computer power and the absence of nuclear explosives on the interceptors, together with the advances in multi-spectral infra-red, optical, and ultraviolet sensors, problems of traffic management, discrimination, and blackout have been either eliminated or substantially reduced.
Recent Technical Challenges
Soon after the Strategic Defense Initiative was initiated, a new problem was put forward as a potential fundamental limitation to the capability of strategic missile defenses. Since the time available for operator intervention during an attack would be minimal, this problem was software—the underlying logical instructions that govern the operation of the system’s computers, and therefore the system itself. Some asserted that it would be infeasible to construct software of tens of millions of instructions without introducing errors that would only appear during attack and would render the missile defense ineffective. However, over the last decade, computer software technology has also advanced at a rapid rate, and the ability to test software has kept pace, so that today it is routine for people not expert in software to install and operate reliable programs of tens of millions of instructions on personal computers.
The cost of missile defenses is periodically raised as another barrier to the deployment of effective systems. Fortunately, the use of the SDI’s miniaturization technologies had a very significant effect on reducing systems cost. Just as the Brilliant Pebbles system was proposed, other military organizations proposed a space-based system using earlier technologies. Cost estimates of the latter system indicated that it would be prohibitively expensive, and raised the prospect of terminating space-based interceptor systems. However, initial cost estimates of the Brilliant Pebbles system indicated that it would have a much lower cost than the system using more conventional technology.
For chemical and biological offensive warheads, submunitions remain a concern. They can be dealt with most directly by intercepting the offensive missile while it is still in boosted flight, before it can deploy the submunitions. Such systems are referred to as boost phase interceptors. Since powered flight of an offensive missile usually extends through the first one to five minutes of its trajectory, only a short time is available for performing a boost phase intercept. Intercepting an offensive missile in such a short time after launch requires both a close proximity and rapid response for a rocket-propelled kinetic interceptor. While such a capability is technically feasible, it is not currently being pursued as a system development program.
The Air Force is pursuing another approach to boost phase intercept. Building on the progress that has been made in high power laser systems, it is developing a system that can be carried in a large aircraft and uses a laser beam to destroy missiles in boost phase at distances greater than can be achieved with kinetic interceptors, since the laser beam travels at the speed of light, some 300,000 kilometers per second. Rapid progress has been made in compensating for beam imperfections and atmospheric propagation effects, both of which can limit the effective range of such a system.
The U.S. missile defense program has successfully overcome a series of formidable technological and systemic challenges. Both hardware and software obstacles have been resolved, and miniaturization of sensor, propulsion system, and computer technologies have greatly reduced cost issues. The diminished size of the anticipated missile threat also has significantly facilitated the resolution of technological and operational problems. The principal challenge today is not in the technology, which has made great progress and continues to advance, but in the national commitment to proceed with deploying effective missile defenses.
The substantial accomplishments of the Strategic Defense Initiative and its successor Ballistic Missile Defense Program have brought about revolutionary advances in other areas of military space capabilities and in scientific and commercial space enterprises as well. For example, in the military area, the development of small, inexpensive, but highly capable satellites has given the U.S. the opportunity to move away from dependence upon the infrequent coverage of specific ground areas by a few large satellites for weather observation, reconnaissance, and other functions, and toward nearly continuous coverage of all ground areas by constellations of small satellites.
In the scientific exploration and exploitation of space, SDI technology has changed the paradigm for spacecraft systems. Before SDI, scientific spacecraft built by NASA and other organizations typically weighed thousands to tens of thousands of pounds and cost in the range of a billion dollars. Today, both deep space and earth-orbiting scientific satellites typically weigh in the hundreds of pounds and cost about 10% of their predecessors. Clementine, the first U.S. spacecraft to orbit the moon in 25 years, which made the initial discovery that ice might be present at the lunar southern pole, could not have been built without SDI technology. Future scientific spacecraft will be even smaller, less expensive, and therefore deployed in greater numbers than Clementine and its peers.
The recent progress in commercial spacecraft and their applications is also the result of SDI technology. The constellations of small, low-orbit communications satellites such as the Iridium and Teledesic systems depend upon highly capable, inexpensive, miniaturized, autonomous spacecraft for their commercial feasibility. Today, billions of dollars are being invested in these systems.
THE SOVIET/RUSSIAN BMD PROGRAMS
As the United States considers the future course of its ballistic missile defense and strategic missile programs, it is both relevant and timely to consider what the Soviet Union and now Russia have done in these areas as our country prepares for further negotiations with the Russian Government concerning the ABM Treaty, Start II, Start III, and possibly other treaties. As a result of the breakup of the Soviet Union, much more information is available today than in the past concerning these programs.
The ABM Treaty was negotiated in the early 1970s, the same era as the Biological Weapons Convention. The U.S. has recently obtained definitive information that the Soviet Union carried out a successful program of disinformation at that time to persuade the U.S. to enter the Biological Convention, while at the same time they planned and carried out a massive and expanding program of offensive biological weapon development. In retrospect, it is clear that the Biological Weapons Convention was used by the Soviet Union to overcome the scientific and economic advantages of the United States in the biological area and gain for themselves a unilateral military advantage.
Having identified one major arms control disinformation program from that era, it is prudent to determine if others might also have been carried out. In fact, recent public disclosures strongly suggest that a similar activity was undertaken with the ABM Treaty. For example, memoirs recently published by G. V. Kisun’ko, Chief designer of the Moscow Area ABM System from 1954 to 1975, indicate that the Soviet SA-5 surface to air defense system was designed to intercept ballistic missiles as well as aircraft, in contradiction to estimates many U.S. analysts and arms control advocates have made. The Soviets made the SA-5 surface to air interceptor systems effective against ballistic missiles by configuring their radar systems to function in both early warning and battle management roles, netting together the radar systems, using nuclear warheads on the interceptor missiles, and deploying several thousand of the systems throughout the Soviet Union. This and other new information concerning Soviet and now Russian ABM capabilities is presented and analyzed by Mr. William T. Lee in his recent Monograph The ABM Treaty Charade.
In view of the above, the Congress may wish to consider requesting a review of the current ballistic missile defense capabilities of Russia and other states of the Former Soviet Union. In order to moderate or at least consider the influence of past institutional positions on the estimate, the Congress may also wish to consider working with the Administration to conduct a concurrent independent, or "B Team", review by outside experts. With the forthcoming change in the leadership of Russia, such reviews would prove useful not only in addressing ABM Treaty issues, but also in laying the groundwork for possible future U.S., Russian, and multinational cooperation in global ballistic missile defenses.