6. Issues Paper Prepared by the PRM–23 Interagency Group1
ARMS CONTROL FOR ANTISATELLITE SYSTEMS ISSUES PAPER
|A. Prior Statements||1|
|B. Summary of the Issues||1|
|C. The Baseline: Current Circumstances/Projections||2|
|1. U.S. and Soviet Dependence on Space||2|
|2. Current and Projected ASAT Systems||4|
|3. Current Treaty Limits Upon ASAT Use||6|
|III. GENERAL CONCERNS AND ISSUES||7|
|A. The Threat of ASAT Arms Competition||7|
|B. Need for a U.S. ASAT||8|
|2. Particular U.S. Verification Concerns||10|
|3. Particular Soviet Concerns||11|
|D. Other Considerations||12|
|IV. RELATIONSHIP OF ASATS TO OTHER ISSUES||12|
|B. Free Use of Space||13|
|V. APPROACHES TO ASAT ARMS CONTROL||14|
ARMS CONTROL FOR ANTISATELLITE SYSTEMS
(S) The principal issue for decision is one of basic policy: assuming a U.S. initiative with the Soviet Union on anti-satellite (ASAT 2) systems, [Page 9] what general approach should be taken in seeking limitations? Clearly the decision cannot be approached in isolation, but must be integrated with overall analysis of space policy. It would be premature to draw up detailed negotiating options at this stage, but it is important to set broad objectives before proceeding with preparations on an initial proposal. This paper reviews ASAT status and background, relates the ASAT issue to other policy issues, and describes four approaches for ASAT arms control. Given a decision on approach, it will be possible to develop an initial proposal to the Soviets, and to pose technical questions for more intensive study.
A. Prior Statements
(S) As described publicly, the President has suggested to the Soviets that each side “forego the opportunity to arm satellite bodies and . . . to destroy observation satellites.”3 Further, Secretary Vance raised the issue of controlling ASAT systems during the March Moscow meeting with Minister Gromyko; Secretary Vance emphasized the need to maintain strategic stability, suggested the need for discussions on ASAT’s, and indicated that during the interim it would be useful if the sides exercised restraint in their testing of ASAT systems.4 Minister Gromyko replied that he could not say that no problem existed in this area, and stated that the Soviets would examine any proposal the U.S. submitted on the subject. It was agreed to establish a bilateral Working Group on antisatellite limitations. The U.S. has agreed to make a substantive proposal on ASAT limitations to the Soviets. Following this, the Working Group would be convened. [2 lines not declassified]
B. Summary of the Issues
(S) In overview, the ASAT issue reduces ultimately to a few key points. On the one hand,
—ASAT limitations might preclude a long-term arms competition characterized by action-reaction cycles, increased defense costs, peacetime tensions, and crisis instability; furthermore,
—limitations on Soviet capabilities to attack satellites would be desirable since the U.S. is becoming increasingly dependent on satellites for basic functions in peacetime, crisis, conventional war, and strategic war.
However, we must take into account:[Page 10]
—the possible need, independent of Soviet ASAT capabilities, for a U.S. ASAT system to counter threatening Soviet satellites.
—the existence of a current Soviet orbital ASAT, noting that the U.S. has none.
—the difficult verification problems in a realm where incentives to cheat may be greater than under previous agreements such as SALT One.
(S) Since each side has only a small number of critical operational satellites (6–15), small numbers of ASAT’s could have a decisive significance. This is in contrast with SALT and ABM issues where stability is not affected by small numbers of weapons.
C. The Baseline: Current Circumstances and Projections
1. U.S. and Soviet Dependence on Space
(S) There is a tendency to think of space as “peaceful”, in part because some [less than 1 line not declassified] compliance with stabilizing treaties which would not otherwise be possible, warning satellites contribute to our strategic and space exploration, and international communications. Furthermore, there has never been a confrontation in space, treaties have given space a special status, and space has been used as a peaceful area where the U.S. and USSR can work together cooperatively.
(S) On the other hand, space systems are becoming increasingly important for battle management on both sides. Table One lists some of the applications which military [less than 1 line not declassified] satellites have now or could have within ten years.
Table One (TS)
Examples of Military Use of Space Now or in 1980’s
—real-time surveillance with readout to battlefield commanders5
—all-weather broad ocean surveillance of surface combatant; and convoys providing real-time targeting data to submarines, surface ships and aircraft6
—[1 line not declassified]
—antisubmarine warfare (e.g., relay reports from sonobuoys)
—real-time weather data7[Page 11]
—responsive world-wide command and control capability8
—early warning of attack by SLBM’s and ICBM’s10
—delivery of the Emergency Action Message to nuclear capable forces11
—precise navigation for strategic weapons delivery systems12
—post-attack damage assessment
(S) The entries in Table One are realistic rather than speculative plans. It follows that satellites may, in the future, have a significant effect on warfare—they may even determine the outcome of certain wars, especially wars short of a full nuclear exchange.
Relative Dependence and Vulnerability
(TS) The U.S. is likely to remain more dependent on space systems than the Soviets in several important functional areas. However, the U.S. and USSR have differing needs and are dependent on space in correspondingly different ways. The U.S. space program tends to have a small number of expensive, long-lived and sophisticated multipurpose satellites. As space systems have been integrated into military operations, the U.S. has changed its operations, plans, and uses of terrestrial forces. Space is now an integral part of U.S. military, tactical, and strategic planning. The Soviets tend to have larger numbers of simpler systems and have launched additional satellites during crises (e.g., prior to the invasion of Czechoslovakia and during the 1973 Mid-East war). The Soviets may be emphasizing tactical use of satellites [less than 1 line not declassified] A given U.S. satellite will often represent a higher value target than a given Soviet satellite. However, some Soviet satellites are very valuable and unique [2½ lines not declassified]
2. Current and Projected ASAT Systems
(S) The U.S. currently has no operational ASAT system, but did have a single-pad system deployed at Johnston Island from 1964 until 1975. The system employed Thor boosters and a nuclear warhead, and operated in a direct-ascent mode against low-altitude targets only. The Johnston Island system was initially a response to Soviet threats about [Page 12] orbital weapons of mass destruction (Orbital Bombardment Systems). The system was deactivated because of fiscal pressures and because a low-altitude nuclear burst would probably damage U.S. satellites large distances away from the burst as well as the targeted Soviet satellite.
(TS) By contrast with the U.S., the Soviets have an operational orbital ASAT capability. [1 line not declassified]
|System||Comments & Description||Capability|
|1. [1 chart item not declassified]|
|2. Galosh Interceptor||—nuclear (with potential for nonnuclear variant)||—[less than 1 line not declassified]|
|—direct ascent||—[less than 1 line not declassified]|
|—has ASAT capability, [less than 1 line not declassified]||—is operational as an ABM|
|3. [1 chart item not declassified]|
|4. [1 chart item not declassified]|
U.S. Activities are:
(S) The U.S. has not consumated any ASAT deployment plans. The U.S. is developing a miniature homing vehicle (MHV) which destroys its target by high-velocity impact. This system is planned to be tested against low altitude target by 1981. The MHV could be air-launched against satellites below 2000 km. If the MHV were used on Minuteman or equivalent space launchers, it could have high-altitude capability.
(TS) [1 paragraph (5 lines) not declassified]
Other U.S. [less than 1 line not declassified] Possibilities are:
Ground-Based Lasers—[less than 1 line not declassified] possible for U.S. by 1981 (there is no dedicated U.S. laser ASAT program at this time).
Space-Based Lasers—possible for U.S. by mid-1980’s; ARPA is doing subsystem technology. [3 lines not declassified]
High-Altitude Interceptors—[1 line not declassified] The U.S. ASAT interceptor currently under development can grow to a high altitude capability.[Page 13]
[less than 1 line not declassified]
(TS) [1 paragraph (18 lines) not declassified]13
3. Current Treaty Limits Upon ASAT Use
(U) A number of agreements currently limit ASAT activities to some degree during peacetime.
(U) The International Telecommunications Convention prohibits harmful interference with radio services or communications.
(U) The 1967 Outer Space Treaty14 bans placing nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction in orbit and establishes satellites as under the jurisdiction of states which register them with the UN. This treaty further requires international consultations before proceeding with any activity which would cause potentially harmful interference with the activities of other parties in the peaceful use of outer space.
(U) The Limited Test Ban Treaty prohibits detonating a nuclear weapon in space.
(U) The 1971 “Measures Agreement to Reduce the Outbreak of Nuclear War” requires the U.S. and USSR to notify each other in the event of interference with strategic warning systems or their related communication systems.
(U) The 1972 ABM Treaty and the Interim SALT Agreement ban interference with National Technical Means (NTM) of Verification, operated in accordance with international law.
III. GENERAL CONCERNS AND ISSUES
A. The Threat of an ASAT Arms Competition
(TS) A number of recent events have raised public concerns about a possible arms competition in space, e.g., [2 lines not declassified] exaggerated statements in the U.S. press about lasers and charged particle beams, and misinformed leaks to the press about “laser blinding” of U.S. satellites.
(TS) Concern about Soviet resumption of orbital ASAT tests [less than 1 line not declassified] led to two NSC directives. Last year, NSDM 333 directed a major review of satellite vulnerability and survivability. Also, NSDM 345 (signed January 18, 1977) directed the DoD to build an ASAT system on an expedited basis to selectively nullify certain mili[Page 14]tarily important Soviet space systems. Both NSDM 33315 and 34516 are currently in abeyance pending PRM–23 review.
(TS) The U.S. has not yet made a decision on deploying an ASAT, and the pace of related R&D has not been accelerated. There is no deployment program to put a U.S. laser weapon into space. The U.S. has not begun approved implementation of the survivability measures recommended in response to NSDM 333. [11 lines not declassified] The competition could be self-limiting on the U.S. side because of fiscal constraints. However, an ASAT competition could lead to an expensive long-term series of action-reaction events in which each side would attempt to maintain the survivability of his own systems and to develop ASAT systems with better capabilities for attack against the adversary’s satellites. In addition to their value as ASAT systems, lasers in space could be provocative because of concerns that they were stepping stones to a space-based laser ABM system. There are major differences between systems for ASAT’s and those for ABM’s; nonetheless, the situation would be a source of concern.
(S) Improvements and proliferation of ASAT’s could be disadvantageous to the U.S. military since we may remain more dependent on space than the Soviets, and we may be in a better position to exploit space because of our superior technological space capabilities. An active Soviet ASAT program could raise doubts about the survivability of proposed U.S. satellite systems, and prevent us from reaping the benefits of our technological advantages.
B. Need for a U.S. ASAT
(TS) There are important scenarios in which the absence of U.S. ASAT capabilities could leave the U.S. at a net disadvantage; for example, keeping the sea lanes of communication open during U.S./Soviet conflicts. Further, the U.S. could probably build more effective ASAT’s and more survivable satellites than could the Soviets, which given the U.S. determination to do so, they could function to the disadvantage of the Soviets.
(TS) [6½ lines not declassified] These satellites are uniquely valuable over the broad ocean areas where the Soviets’ terrestrial resources are limited or subject to attack. In addition, other Soviet space threats may affect U.S. force operations, e.g., Soviet photo reconnaissance of U.S. [Page 15] massing forces, Soviet intelligence message transmissions, Soviet weather data over U.S. deployment routes, and Soviet communications.
(TS) In a December 1976 response17 to the ad hoc NSC Panel report that led to NSDM 345, the Secretary of Defense stated that it is [3 lines not declassified] He further suggested that it was not appropriate to initiate an immediate program to develop and deploy an ASAT interceptor using the then state-of-the-art techniques rather than use developing technology. At this time a U.S. direct ascent nonnuclear interceptor development and test program has been approved. Deployment planning is underway, but deployment has not been approved.
Soviet compliance with an ASAT treaty cannot be assumed, and the net assessment must account for the possibility of Soviet cheating.
(TS) [2 paragraphs (10 lines) not declassified]
—The Soviets have existing ASAT capabilities [4 lines not declassified] the ABM/ASAT role of Galosh, [2 lines not declassified]
—A relatively small level of successful cheating, e.g., a handful of ASAT’s and EW sites, could have a high payoff.
Although the U.S. would abide by the limitations, we could not have confidence that the Soviets would do likewise if the agreement were not verifiable.
(TS) On the other hand, if ASAT testing were banned [8 lines not declassified]
2. Particular U.S. Verification Concerns
(TS) a. [1 paragraph (5 lines) not declassified]
(TS) b. [1 paragraph (13 lines) not declassified]
(TS) [2½ lines not declassified] Over time the Soviets might lose system confidence without such testing. The Department of Defense believes that confidence would not be lost, e.g., the U.S. has retained confidence in the Titan II ICBM force without launches over many years. The Soviets could conduct crew training by launching satellites. For example, the U.S. system at Johnston Island was maintained operational for eight years after the last ASAT test by allowing the crew to launch weather satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base.[Page 16]
(TS) [5 lines not declassified] Cooperative measures such as on-site inspection and other collateral constraints might reduce ambiguities. [3 lines not declassified]
(TS) Galosh. Presumably, the Soviets would be permitted under an ASAT treaty to retain the Galosh interceptors of their ABM systems. This ABM has nuclear ASAT capability against low-altitude satellites and could have a secondary ASAT mission. However, its use as such, if not very precisely planned, could damage their own satellites as well as the target satellite.
(TS) [1 paragraph (9 lines) not declassified]
3. Particular Soviet Concerns
The Soviets may be concerned that the U.S. could test and deploy ground-based ASAT systems covertly. They may not believe that the former U.S. ASAT system cannot now be launched from Vandenberg or Johnston Island. They may have the same concerns as the U.S. about the inherent capabilities of both military and civilian ground-, ship-, or air-based lasers that exist or might be developed for other purposes. The Soviets may also have parallel concerns to ours about the use of radar equipment for EW. They have already evidenced concern about the space shuttle and may believe it could be used for satellite inspection, capture, and interference.
(S) Even if the Soviets complied with terms of an ASAT agreement, we would have to be concerned about breakout, including breakout simultaneous with ASAT attack. Since the lead time for U.S. ASAT and satellite programs is long, U.S. R&D hedges would still require 2 to 4 more years to achieve compensating operational capabilities.
D. Other Considerations
(S) The following are some other considerations which could affect policy judgments regarding ASAT arms control.
—[1 line not declassified]
—[2½ lines not declassified]
—[1½ lines not declassified]
—[1 line not declassified]
—[1 line not declassified]
IV. RELATIONSHIP OF ASATS TO OTHER SPACE POLICY ISSUES
(TS) The survivability issue is being considered separately in the response to PRM–23. Some conclusions are:[Page 17]
—It would not be prudent to forego implementation of such survivability measures as were recommended in response to NSDM 333 because of a belief that the satellites will be protected by treaties. The measures recommended in NSDM 333 would primarily preclude “cheap shots” based on current and near-term threats and current U.S. vulnerabilities; most of the threats could still exist covertly under a ban.
—[5 lines not declassified]
—[6 lines not declassified]
—[4 lines not declassified]
—ASAT arms control agreements could reduce or delay advanced threats.
B. Free Use of Space
(U) Since incentives to build ASAT’s are directly related to the nature of satellites they would destroy, the Soviets may raise the possibility of limiting satellite functions in response to our ASAT proposal. Some concessions such as an agreement not to use the space shuttle as a weapons carrier could overcome open Soviet concerns without major impact on current U.S. plans. However, in considering any concessions we should examine the effect it would have on a U.S. policy that promotes freedom of use of space for peaceful (non-aggressive) purposes. Any limits, for example, to ban radars in space, navigation systems like the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System or reconnaissance satellites which appear to concern the Soviets, would represent a radical departure from U.S. policy. Such limits could have a major impact on U.S. space programs and would require major redirections of efforts to compensate for loss of space capabilities. We must take into account the potentially negative limitations that would be placed on U.S. satellite reconnaissance programs if certain restrictive language were included in an ASAT agreement (i.e., declaration of satellite purpose, prelaunch on-site inspection, etc.). Limitations on satellite functions, or on the space shuttle, should not be considered without in-depth analyses.
V. APPROACHES TO ASAT ARMS CONTROL
(S) While the U.S. and USSR will hold working group discussions on how we might forego the capability to destroy satellite observation vehicles, the Soviets have not yet expressed their views on the subject. The U.S. has not yet analyzed fully the implications of all of the various possible ASAT limitations, even though the U.S. has agreed to submit a proposal to the Soviets. Thus, it would be unrealistic for the U.S. to choose among finely-tuned options at this time. Instead, the issue for decision now is the choice of a general approach for initial discussions.
(S) Arms control is one component in the overall U.S. policy toward military and intelligence space activities. Other elements include our survivability measures, our possible U.S. ASAT capabilities, and the military utility of space to U.S. strategic and tactical forces. The general policy problem is to weigh priorities and consider what ap[Page 18]proaches best serve the national interest. Arms control is not a substitute for survivability measures, although it could affect long-term requirements. Even a comprehensive agreement will not affect ground-station vulnerabilities, nor prohibit passive deception measures. In addition, it probably would not require the Soviets to dismantle their ABM systems with ASAT capability. [2 lines not declassified] With these considerations in mind, three approaches to ASAT arms control have been defined and compared with the baseline case of no agreement. A summary comparison of the approaches is provided in Table Three.
(S) The three approaches would include [6 lines not declassified]
A. Approach One: No Agreement
(S) The Soviets may not be willing to agree to any substantive and equitable ASAT limitations. They may feel that the U.S. is merely attempting to impede Soviet activities in a realm where the Soviets currently have advantages. They could respond to U.S. proposals with counter-proposals which would not be acceptable to us.
(S) In the absence of an ASAT agreement, it would still be possible for the U.S. to pursue some ASAT arms control initiatives. For example, we could propose under the “Measures Agreement” that the sides show restraint in ASAT testing, especially during crises. [2½ lines not declassified] we could reaffirm the principal of noninterference with National Technical Means by emphasizing that SALT obligation publically and privately. DoD believes that the no agreement case should not include these measures.
B. Approach Two: [less than 1 line not declassified]
(S) Approach Two would not attempt to limit the capabilities of ASAT systems; [1½ lines not declassified]
—[2½ lines not declassified]
—[2 lines not declassified]
—[5 lines not declassified]
(S) We would not designate some satellites as NTMs or as warning systems, since that might decrease the protection afforded to those satellites not so designated. However, we could acknowledge that both sides know that certain satellites of the other side are more relevant to stability than others. In general, we would try to maintain a high threshold for use of ASATs against any satellites.
(S) We could also explore the possibility of developing a wartime sanctuary for hotline communications.
(S) The format of this approach would be more analogous to the Outer Space Treaty and the Measures Agreement than to the ABM Treaty. There would be no limitations on Soviet capabilities, and the U.S. would have to develop its satellite, ASAT, and survivability policies with due regard for the realities of wartime where treaties need not apply.
C. Approach Three: Selected Limits to Control the Scope of ASAT Activity
(S) This approach would attempt to strike a balance between conflicting philosophies. It would prohibit types of systems which do not yet exist, such as high-altitude interceptors, laser weapons in space, and advanced concepts such as orbital interceptors with multiple warheads. However, it would not attempt to turn back the clock; low altitude interceptors and ground-based lasers would be permitted; it would permit explicitly the existing low-altitude Soviet ASAT systems and low altitude systems for the U.S.
(S) Approach Three would also include “rules of the road” and a [less than 1 line not declassified] Fundamentally, however, it would be an attempt to limit the scope of ASAT activities. It might include qualitative or numerical limits on low-altitude ASAT systems as well as the ban on high-altitude interceptors and exotic weapons in space.
D. Approach Four: Relatively Comprehensive ASAT Arms Limitations
(S) Approach Four would attempt to preclude a significant arms competition in ASAT systems. It would prohibit testing or deployment of any ASAT for physical attack upon satellites, e.g., direct ascent interceptors and any ASAT laser weapons. [1 line not declassified] It would include rules of the road and a ban on [less than 1 line not declassified] with satellites. Testing of ASATs would be prohibited.
(TS) The Agreement would not include the Galosh ABM system (although “tests in ASAT mode” would be prohibited), and electronic warfare capability such as jamming and interference (although [less than 1 line not declassified] would be prohibited). [4½ lines not declassified]
(S) This approach would seek strict limits on ASAT capabilities, tight definitions, collateral constraints, and a mechanism for cooperation such as the Standing Consultative Commission. We would continue ASAT R&D, and develop hedges against Soviet noncompliance or breakout. The treaty would be subject to review and amendment at five-year intervals.
(S) Some believe that a comprehensive approach (Approach Four-A) should also include a ban on [4 lines not declassified] Therefore Approach Four-A [less than 1 line not declassified]
- Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 41, Folder 3, PRM–23 . Top Secret.↩
- The term ASAT will here include any physical or electromagnetic attack on space systems (i.e., physical destruction, jamming, laser attack, or command capture. [1 line not declassified] [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Not found.↩
- See Document 3.↩
- Operational now or in the near future—U.S. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Operational now or in the near future—U.S. [Footnote is in the original.] [Footnote in the original not declassified.]↩
- Operational now or in the near future—U.S. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- [2 footnotes in the original not declassified]↩
- The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies was signed at Washington, London, and Moscow, January 27, 1967, and entered into force October 10, 1967.↩
- The Ford Administration issued National Security Decision Memorandum 333, “Enhanced Survivability of Critical U.S. Military and Intelligence Space Systems,” on July 7, 1976. It is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXV, National Security Policy, 1973–1976, Document 91.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 1.↩
- See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXV, National Security Policy, 1973–1976, Document 123.↩
- [footnote in the original not declassified]↩