Indecision and Uncertainty Exist in the Development of an Advanced ICBM Weapon System

PSAD-79-40: Published: Feb 8, 1979. Publicly Released: Feb 8, 1979.

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The Air Force is developing an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system with improved survivability, better accuracy, and greater payload. Such a system is needed because the Soviet Union is making similar strides in the development of its missile force and in the invulnerability of its missile silos against attack. There is no clearly defined national policy regarding the role of the ICBM force, so the Air Force is uncertain what capabilities to stress and is conducting studies to establish the future role of the ICBM force.

Three types of missile configuration were considered during validation, including land- and submarine-based operations. The Air Force has concentrated on developing and evaluating technologies as applied to the MX missile, which is preferred by the Air Force. The Defense System Acquisition Council agreed as to the need for an improved ICBM system but questioned means of conforming such a system to provisions of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) and directed the Air Force to define other basing options while continuing development of the MX missile. Full-scale engineering development was postponed, an appropriate step in view of the uncertainty about the future of the missile force, poor definition of performance expectations, inadequate knowledge of technological cost and feasibility, and continuing disagreement over the most desirable basing mode for ensuring survivability.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should provide Congress with estimates of cost, schedule, and performance characteristics for different missile configurations and basing concepts before a decision is made to proceed with full-scale engineering development. First, the Secretary should determine the future role of this missile force as to national policy and SALT provisions, establish the necessary performance and number of missiles, and demonstrate the technology required. The Secretary should also review the basing concepts and identify congressional actions necessary for deployment of a survivable missile force.

    Agency Affected:


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