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Defense Against Ballistic Missiles. An Assessment of Technologies and Policy Implications

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Since the dawn of the nuclear age, the United States has sought to preserve peace through deterrence. By making the cost of aggression far greater than any potential gain, the United States has successfully deterred conflict between the major powers for almost four decades. In the face of an expanding Soviet nuclear arsenal, this Administration has taken steps to strengthen the offensive arm of deterrence while also working for significant, verifiable arms reductions. But President Reagan has also offered the hope of a world made even safer from the threat of nuclear conflict if we could develop defensive systems. America has always drawn on its technological genius to strengthen its deterrent--both strategic and conventional. And now recent advances in technology offer us, for the first time in history, the opportunity to develop an effective defense against ballistic missiles and the possibility of fulfilling President Reagans vision of a safer world. Achieving that worthwhile goal will not be easy. For that reason, the analysis provided by the Defensive Technologies Team and the Future Security Team is indispensable. To carry on the work that those study teams began, the Department of Defense has combined into a single Strategic Defense Initiative previously planned research and development programs in five technology areas. Those areas that offer the greatest promise for an effective defense against ballistic missiles are surveillance, acquisition, and tracking directed energy weapons kinetic-energy weapons systems analysis and battle management and support programs, such as space electrical power and heavy lift launch vehicles. To the 1.74 billion already planned for research in those five technological areas, the Defense Department has requested an additional 250 million to begin testing weapons lethality, to research spacecraft survivability, and to exploit other new technological opportunities.

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  • Antimissile Defense Systems

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