26. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • US and Soviet Laser Weapons Capabilities

Harold Brown has responded to your request for more information on present and potential US and Soviet laser weapons capabilities with his memo at Tab A.2

[Page 54]

The projected dates for achieving some of the capabilities that Harold refers to are several years later than those you may have heard before. This is because while most technical reports give dates for initial operational capabilities—Harold speaks in terms of the date at which sufficient numbers of any given device could be fielded to achieve a “meaningful effect.” Given an agreed definition of what a meaningful effect is for a system, Harold’s date is probably more useful, though somewhat harder to predict. When Harold speaks of meaningful capabilities—in Table 1, he means one or two systems; in Table 2, he means the numbers I have added in the left hand column.

Harold’s memo does not mention two other applications of high energy lasers that may be of interest to you—space based lasers for use against: 1) ballistic missiles in the powered portions of their trajectories (where they are most vulnerable), or 2) bombers in the high altitude mid-course phase of their missions. Accordingly, I asked Harold for information on these applications and have summarized it below.

—[12½ lines not declassified]

—[6 lines not declassified]

I think the whole area of high energy laser weapons bears careful watching. As these systems develop, they may pose some significant challenges to our arms control interests, particularly in the ASAT area.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 4, Anti-Satellite System (ASAT): 7/77–10/80. Top Secret. Carter initialed the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum.
  2. Not attached.