FORCES SHAPING THE SOVIET STRATEGIC WEAPONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

Created: 1/1/1973

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Forces Shaping the Soviet Strategic Weapons Development Program

The ongoing Soviet strategic forces development program raises the question "what do tha Soviets have in mind for thia program and where do they intend to go?he breadth and pace of their effort in offensive and defensive system development is impressive in comparison to the currant US development program and Includea:

new ICBM's under test.

New silo and launching system designs.

New guidance techniques for missiles including the long-range SLBM.

New interceptor missiles and mobile radars.

possible mobile ICBM teat program.

development of MIRV's.

What forces are shaping this effort? Thisomplicated problem and probably Involves at least some of the following Soviet motivations:

search for strategic dominance over the US.

A desire to reduce the technological gap.

A fear of China and the need to impress China with Soviot strategic superiority.

Bureaucratic momentum In their military and design

bargaining chips in arma control negotiations.

shift of emphasis from production and deployment to broader efforts in RfcD.

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Soviet Strategic Weapons Development Programs

Neitheror numerous Soviet statements regarding "restraint" onto have aifecUd their ongoing program. There may be several reasons for this but, as in the US, large defenserograms are driven by many forces. The Important point in trying to identify these drives and their purposes ia to determine what unilateral advantages might accrue to the Sovietsesult of their efforta.

Several purposes might be involved:

oviet strategic advantage, either qualitative or quantitative,

could have great utility. The military and political leverage derivedargin of strength could be decisiveonfrontation. Even the perception of advantage, which might or might not be real, could be significant in such circumstances. In addition, advantages derived from an asymmetry, favorable to the Soviets, in systems deployed or from an ongoing development program could provide them useful bargaining chips in arms negotiations.

A desire for some measure of strategic superiority wouldatural goalountry that hasong time sufferedilitary inferiority complex, as have the Soviets. However, attempting to achieve that objective can also be dangerous. There has been ample demonstration of US capability to respond with awesome speederceived threat. For instance, the rapid growth of the Minuteman Force In thes caused by the "missile gap" was clearly frightening to the USSR. The Soviet strategy could be to gain superiority withoutassive reaction by fee US. They may believe thatave them an opportunity to do that, because the agreement allows them greater numbers of miasllesreater aggregate throw weight than the US. They could exploit this by making technological improvements in their force through MIRV's and high accuracy. Over the long term, say by thes, such an initiative, coupledailure of the US to respond, would provide them with countorforce options which the US could not match.

If this were the Soviet objective, we would expect to see both MIRV* and evidencerive to high accuracy In at least some of the programs now entering flight test. So far, we do not have enough data to either confirm or deny such trends. But there Is no denying

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that the new Soviet ICBM'a would lend themselves more easily to being both MIRV carriers snd more accurate than would the earlier systems.

2. The Reduction of the Techno logical Gap

For many years the Soviets have been behind tbe US in virtually every technology area. Thay know It, they know that the rest of the world knows it, and they don't like It. The first Sputnik was one of tha rare occasions when Soviet technologyoup. They will never forget the tremendous boost that event gave to their image worldwide. Undoubtedly, they would like to dosimilar again.

Closing the technology gaproad front will enhance Soviet chances of becoming the dominant military power. With quantitative increases in forces prohibited by SALT, the logical stephift in emphasis to qualitative improvements. Evidence is already at hand demonstrating other initiatives, such as stellar corrected guidance for thend new launch techniques for two new ICBM'b. From the Soviet view, it would seem reasonable to Investide variety of new technology programs, with the hope that one or more breakthroughs will result with an important payoff.

Finally, there is evidence that tha Soviets have realised that thoy nood to resort to technology improvements to counter US technology initiatives. For example, the Soviet responses to US missiles' having MIRVs and high accuracy are the new designs for very hard silos for the new Tyuratam ICBM's. Those silos may also include improved shock isolation systems for the installed missiles, which would also increase missile survivability. An alternative solution might be to haveobile ICBM, and there Is some evidence that the now ICBM being tested at Plesetsk is mobile.

oncern for China

There is evidence that the Soviets have beon motivated by tho fear of China'sis site power. There ia also evidence that

the Sovleta have taken etepi to improve their offensive capability against China. It appear* that tha decisions were made In the early to.

On that defensive aids,7 the Soviets started expanding their early-warning radar system so that it could cover threat corridors other than those from US land based or submarine missiles. ater time they started adding the back face of the Checkov radar in the Moacow area. This face points directly to China, and would give the Moscowhance to be fired at targets coming in from that direction.

The new transportable radar in Sary Shag an may also be directed atapability tohinese missile threat rather than one from the US. This hypothesis would help explain why ABM's being tested do not seem tosal improvement over the Moscow ABM for defense against high-speed US reentry vehicles. On the other hand, the new missiles, coupled with the new radar, would have the capability toumber of targets, autonomously, and corning in from any direction. This, plus the fact that the system appears designed to be rapidly deployable, would seem to make it well suited to dealimited Chinese missile threat. If this line of speculation is correct, the USSR may some day be seeking US understand ingevision of the ABM treaty justified on counter-China grounds. On the offensive side, lt should be noted thatites builtmounting tohe total force, were deployedanner which permits China to be targeted as well as the US.

China may pose increasing complications to tha Soviets and we may see Soviet activity which should be correctly interpreted. They recognise, and have begun to acknowledge unofficially, that the day ia past when the USSR could hope toully disarming strike against tha PRC. They may still hope, however, toountsrforce option against China. The chief requirement for this ia target intelligence which will penetrate the disguises the Chinese are using in their miaalle deployments and some form of light but wldaspraad ABM defense. Soviet reconnaissanceto deal with this problem may prescribe actions on their

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part which might make no sense to aa in Soviet considerationS threat alone. Alao. the ABM system now underat Sary Ahagaa appears to be suited for this role, and it also appears to be unauited to engage US reentry vehicUs.

Major weapons programsife of their own once ahas been made to production. Design teams are seldomand turn instead to devising follow-on systsms, building mors officiant systems and correcting problems. Tho original objsctives which stimulated tho development are often lost sight of.

This process has often taken place in the US, and wo havo ample evidence that It goes on in ths USSR, too. In fact, conditions in tho USSR may favor it.

One should not dismiss momentum aa being necessarily mindless or without ultima to benefit. There are many cases of programs which were started for one set of reasons and wound up being useful for other reasons. With development times stretching out to fivo years and longer. It Is no surprise that by therogram is completed tho article may no longer bo suited to its original purpose. orfoct case Is tho first Soviet ICBM, thohich was originally designed toound atomic warhead but was unsuitabletrategic weapon. It became and still is the key booster vehicle for much of the Soviet space program.

The point is that development programs which are carried on by bureaucratic momentum need to be studied vary carefully to see if thoy can be exploited to the Soviet advantage.

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There is no evidence that SALT haa had any Important offset on tho current Soviet weapons development programs. Rather, it is likelyoviet objective inas to protect their options

to go forward with development work. The ABM treaty aad interim agreement pat no constraint* on, and ia therefor* not in violation. Th* program* bad their beginning* in the midong before SALT wascontemplated and the recent Sovlat test activity stems from teat site construction begun6 Thus, the go-ahead decisions war* probably made In the

No conclusions can be drawn from the pace of events before and after the signing of the treaty. The present rate of activity is fas tar than lt ws* for aoms earlier Soviet programs and slower for some other*.

The above may be summed up by noting mat overall the Soviet* areery serious competition with the US. This competition is likely toostile one over the long term. Technological competition, based largely on military,ajor part of the competition. Ithis factor that probably Influences Soviet strategic objectivas the most. It would be dangerous to assums that they will not pursue technological superiorityoal. This would give mem the basis for great flexibility in dealing not only with the US but with other threat* which could evolve over the longer term.

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