5. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense’s Assistant for Atomic Energy (Howard) to Charles E. Johnson of the National Security Council Staff1


  • Status Report on Anti-satellite Capabilities

In accordance with your request for a status report on the anti-satellite capabilities, the following information is submitted:

Program 437

Program 437 involves the attainment of an anti-satellite capability based on the employment of [2 lines of source text not declassified]. SPADATS, the worldwide satellite tracking system, provides target satellite position data from which an intercept point is determined. [2 lines of source text not declassified] In general, the system will have at least two opportunities [Page 12] each day to intercept from Johnston Island any satellite which passes over the United States. The response time of the system is determined by the ability of SPADATS to provide the necessary satellite position prediction data. Presently the system requires approximately 36 hours of tracking to provide sufficiently accurate data. Performance of the SPADATS system is being improved and further evaluated to determine feasible improvements in response time and accuracy.

Program 437 is a concurrent effort with the research and development and operational implementation actions occurring simultaneously.

The research and development phase, which was funded at $7.9 million in Fiscal Year 1963 and $16.0 million in Fiscal Year 1964, has reached the point of launch demonstration. [9 lines of source text not declassified] Other than the radio frequency interference problem, all elements of the system have demonstrated a capability to support a successful intercept up to the point of launch. SPADATS has completed five targeting exercises, each time providing sufficiently accurate satellite position predictions within the 36-hour system capability.

On June 27, 1963, the Secretary of Defense directed that Program 437 achieve a short reaction operational capability by June 1964. Subsequently, the 10th Aerospace Defense Squadron has been activated with duty station at Vandenberg Air Force Base. It is planned that launch teams from this squadron will rotate on temporary duty at Johnston Island, thereby providing a full standby alert capability. [1 line of source text not declassified]

Required training facilities have been completed at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Necessary technical data is in final stages of preparation. The first launch team has completed individual training and is in crew-training status as of January 13, 1964, with completion programmed for March 1, 1964. An actual launch by this crew is scheduled between completion of the research and development launches and the directed operational date.

On December 2, 1963, the Secretary of Defense approved investment expenditures of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] for obtaining the Program 437 operational capability. This will provide a trained unit, on alert, [2 lines of source text not declassified]. Approximately $7 million per year will be required for operations and maintenance. At this point, all actions concerning the operational phase of Program 437 are on schedule, and no significant difficulties in meeting the directed June 1964 date are forecast.

Program 505

On May 23, 1963, [4 lines of source text not declassified]. The development program leading to this highly successful demonstration required one year and a funding of $15 million.

[Page 13]

On May 28, 1963, the Secretary of Defense directed that the [2 lines of source text not declassified]. A total of $8 million has been provided for this purpose. [13 lines of source text not declassified]

[11 lines of source text not declassified] adaption kit. This round successfully met test objectives. Two additional successful test firings will be required to complete warhead certification program. These firings are currently planned for February and March 1964. Since the personnel required to perform the [2 lines of source text not declassified] operation and maintenance costs for this special capability are minimal.

W.J. Howard
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Nuclear Weapons, Vol. I, Box 32. Top Secret. According to a January 23 covering memorandum from Charles Johnson to McGeorge Bundy, Bundy had requested this status report so the President could “be brought up to date with this special capability.”