31. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Packard) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

    • Significance and Implications of Soviet Multiple Reentry Vehicle Testing

1. At your request, I have the following comments on Dick Helms’ memo concerning the significance and implications of Soviet Multiple Reentry Vehicle (MRV) testing.2

2. I believe we have to reckon with the likelihood that the Soviets may already be testing an ICBM system designed to attack Minuteman missiles in their silos. This position is a consequence of the following indication:

Use of the SS–9 ICBM which has apparently exhibited three phases of improvement in accuracy.
A clear attempt to precisely deploy the RV’s.
The use of Multiple RV’s with sufficient yield potential to properly combine with CEP 3 accuracy.
A foot print size comparable with the spacing of Minuteman silos.

Considerable weight is given to this possibility because it is the only plausible explanation for the observed test program.

The full capability to target all Minuteman missiles in their silos has not been detected in flight test to date, however, analyses indicate that the system as we understand it could possess such a capability.

The state of our present evidence and analyses to date does not permit a clear conclusion that independent targeting for each reentry vehicle is a present or developing capability. It is adequate, however, to determine that a potential for such capability exists, and to determine that a much simpler mechanization for reentry vehicle deployment could have been designed if the objective were to deploy simple multiple reentry vehicles without independent aiming.

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3. Concerning the identification of MIRV testing “at least a year prior to IOC”, we may well have already detected the testing of a specialized small foot print type MIRV, and IOC for such a system could be achieved shortly after completion of testing. Should the Soviets make an effort to deny us information on their test programs, it would be even more difficult.4

David Packard
  1. Source: Ford Library, Laird Papers, Box 27, Safeguard. Secret. A copy was sent to Richard Helms.
  2. Document 29.
  3. Circular Error Probable (or Probability), according to a glossary appended to NIE 11–8–69, is an index of accuracy defined as the radius of a circle centered on the intended target, within which 50 percent of the arriving missile warheads were expected to fall. See Document 46.
  4. Kissinger was scheduled to meet with Helms during the morning of May 28. While no record of the meeting has been found, Haig, in a memorandum to Kissinger that day, urged him to use the meeting “to minimize differences” within the intelligence community about the characteristics of the SS–9, in part to prevent Congressional critics of the administration’s approaches to the ABM, MIRVs, and SALT from exploiting such disagreements. Haig concluded, “This issue cannot be permitted to gather any more emotional momentum which will work to the disservice of the Administration.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 207, Agency Files, CIA, Vol. I)