138. Memorandum From Vice President Rockefeller to President Ford1


  • SALT—Cruise Missile

Since I will be unable to attend Friday’s NSC meeting,2 I wanted to share with you a question I had about cruise missile development after reviewing the background papers on SALT options.

As you know, I feel there are important advantages to developing our cruise missile technology to its full potential. Although I understand that the sea launched strategic cruise missile (SLCM) is designed for a range of about 3700 KM, a 2500 KM testing limitation is being considered in SALT. Given our geographical disadvantages, we may want to explore the feasibility of accelerating testing of the SLCM to its maximum design range prior to finalizing a 2500 KM SALT limitation. This might assure a capability to deploy a longer range weapon rapidly if necessary at some future time.

For verification purposes, there would be advantages in having not ever tested beyond 2500 KM, and we may conceivably be able to develop a capability without actually testing to the full range. Nonetheless, I believe it is worth exploring the feasibility of accelerating testing to at least 3700 KM.

If only nuclear armed applications are limited in SALT, we might legally be able to develop a longer range cruise missile capability. But this complicated verification question has not yet been resolved.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Subject File, Box 21, SALT (34)–(42), [Feb. 1976–Jan. 1977]. Secret; Eyes Only. A note on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. See Document 139.