UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


The Militarization Of Space--Spurring Or Deterring Future Conflict? AUTHOR Major Christopher A. Davis, USMC CSC 1989 SUBJECT AREA - National Military Strategy EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: THE MILITARIZATION OF SPACE -- SPURRING OR DETERRING FUTURE CONFLICT? I. Purpose: To report on the militarization of space and comment on the likely destabalizing effects to mutual deterrence II. Problem: Although the militarization of space is inevitable, our goal should be to develop and employ those weapons which enhance deterrence. III. Data: Parallels exist between the militarization of the atmosphere in years past and our current space arms- race. Balloons and early aircraft were initially used for reconnaissance and spotting. Likewisse, the first satellites served similiar functions. As the United States, with its global commitments, came to depend upon communications satellites for the preponderance of its military communications, the Soviets developed an anti- satellite (ASAT) capability for dealing with these strategic targets. Similiarly, the Soviet's recent reliance upon satellites has created targets worthy of U.S. ASAT initiatives. U.S. Strategic Defense Initiatives (SDI) represents a resurgence of the arms-race. SDI can be compared to the early airplane of WW I which many advocated would dominate future warfare. But SDI, however capable when and if perfected, does not protect against low trajectory submarine launched ballistic missiles, or against bomber launched cruise missiles. IV. Conclusions: SDI is an ill-conceived attempt to make obsolete the nuclear ICBM. It does not address non-space means of delivery and can, as can any defensive system, be overwhelmed or otherwise countered by numerous, some very basic and low-cost, countermeasures. Research is necessary to ensure U.S. parity in basic weapons research, but to fund a vigorous program aimed at denying the Soviets use of space in wartime, if not in peacetime, is destabilizing to the policy of deterrence. V. Recommendations: The doctrine of mutually assured destruction has worked for the past 35 years and should work until a new peace ethic evolves. Until then careful application of weapons and counter-weapons to enhance deterrence should be our goal. THE MILITARIZATION OF SPACE -- SPURRING OR DETERRING FUTURE CONFLICT? Outline Thesis: Although the militarization of space is inevitable, our goal should be to develop and employ those weapons which enhance deterrence. 1. Develop parallelism between militarization of atmosphere and space. a. Era of ballooning b. Early development of aircraft c. Parallelism 2. Detail exploitation of space. a. Early exploitation b. ASAT development c. SDI ramifications 3. Peace ethic THE MILITARIZATION OF SPACE -- SPURRING OR DETERRING FUTURE CONFLICT? Since the thermonuclear arms-race began in the 1950's the doctrine of mutually assured destruction has deterred global conflict. The recent resurgence of the space arms- race in the form of antisatellite and strategic defense initiatives, raises serious concerns about the risks engendered by space weapons development and the militar- ization of space. Although a unique period in history, since this is the first time humanity has had to deal with thermo-nuclear weapons, a study of the past provides many clues for the future of mankind. Space is the latest frontier to be exploited for war- fare. History has shown very explicity that we are in an itterative process. As each new frontier is conquered, a new military doctrine is developed to exploit that medium. Although the militarization of space is inevitable, our goal should be to develop and employ those weapons which enhance deterrence. Conquest of the air began when the Mongolfier brothers first flew their balloons over Paris in 1783. Captive manned balloons were the first military aircraft and were used by the French army at the battle of Maubeuge in 1794. The first aviator (aeronaut), Capt. J.M. Coutelle, was able to conduct aerial observations of the movement of Austrian troops for five days until the enemy manuvered a 17 pound cannon within range and commenced the first use of anti- aircraft artillery. Capt. Coutelle prudently ceased obser- vations until the gun was captured. The effect of the observations, in addition to providing the French with the tactical advantage of battlefield intelligence, was to demoralize the Austrian troops.2 Napolean Bonaparte was an advocate of balloon tech- nology and in 1812 proposed to expand its role in warfare. He envisioned a fleet of ballons, each of which would carry 6000 armed soldiers, to transport his troops across the English Channel to attack the British. The inadequacy of the technology obviously precluded the scheme from ever materializing.3 The Union army used observation balloons during the Civil War. T.S.C. Lowe was the first U.S. military balloonist and conducted reconnaissance of Confederate positions and reported on the accuracy of artillery for General McClellan. 4 With the turn of the century, technology had advanced sufficiently to produce the first airplane. The first military use of the airplane occurred during the Balkan Wars of 1912.5 The mission was the same as that of the balloon: reconnaissance and artillery spotting. Little other military use was deemed appropriate for it. Military leaders, then as now, tended to be conservative and did not always embrace new technologies. Marshal Foch of France dismissed the flimsy aircraft of the early 1900's as "noisy toys" which would never be practical for combat. Neverthe- less, aircraft were mounted with machine guns for the military and by the end of WW I, airplanes had evoloved sufficiently to play a major role. Initially used against observation balloons and dirigibles, flights soon spent most of their time engaged with one another. By the close of the war, large lumbering biplane bombers were delivering bombs to the front.7 By WW II, the technology of air warfare was increasing at a rapid rate. Control of the air determined the outcome of WW II. The development of military space systems appears to be following the same evolutionary path as aviation: initial deployment in the classic role of spies making use of the "high ground" to view the surface of the Earth from space. The militarization of space is now evolving, just surely as the militarization of the atmosphere evolved -- and before that -- the militarization of the oceans. Military exploitation of space has been going on since 1944 when the first V-2 crossed the threshold of space enroute to its target in London. The idea of placing a satellite in space to spy on an enemy's activities was first discussed by the military in 1946.8 But it was not until the development of the large rockets capable of delivering a nuclear warhead across oceans in the mid 1950's, that the means became available. The militar- ization of space began with the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, followed by the U.S. launch of Explorer I on February 1, 1958.9 Both countries utilized military launch vehicles to deploy their ostensibly nonmilitary payloads. By 1960 military satellites were being launched regularly. Since then over 2500 military payloads have been delivered to space orbit by the United States and the Soviet Union.10 While both countries downplay their mili- tary space programs, the fact is that about three fourths of the world's space launches each year have military missions. With the development of sophisticated military satellites and the dependence that the armed forces would come to depend on them, it was inevitable that antisatel- lite (ASAT) weapons would sooner or later be developed. In fact, within a few years of the first satellite being launched, space engineers, both East and West, were devising ways of shooting them down. The very same weapons that are currently being developed were all proposed in a remarkably similiar manner during the late 1950's and early 1960's. Even the arguments that were used to promote the space weapons proposals are similiar. For example, the use of such concepts as "space denial," "space control," and the need to take the "high ground," which are familiar today, were just as common in the early years of the space age. The first ASAT test was an accident. Prior to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, the United States exploded a 1.4 megaton device 248 miles above Johnston Island in the South Pacific while conducting nuclear tests in outer space. The resulting electromagnetic pulse unintentionally rendered three of our country's satellites useless and played havoc with several others.11 Although the Soviet Union fielded the first true ASAT weapon system, the United States was the first to deploy a predecessor to ASAT. The system was more accurately described as an Orbital Bomb Defense (OBD) system. It was deployed on Kwajalein atoll and Johnston Island in 1963-64 to intercept possible Soviet attack via the Pacific Ocean.12 At the time, the Soviets were testing a Fractional Orbital Bombardment Sytem (FOBS) which was patterned after the V-2 attacks of WW II only it flew much higher and farther.13 FOBS was capable of trav- eling a fourth of the way around the world to its target. It allowed the Soviets to circumvent the Distant Early Warning Line which stretched across the northern borders of North America guarding the most direct attack routes. The American OBD system was dismantled in 1975 when the Soviet threat dissipated. Commencing in 1968, the United States detected the first Soviet testing of satellite interceptors, the first real ASAT weapon. The testing continued until 1971. Ater a five year hiatus, it resumed in 1976. It is specu- lated that a poor navigation system coupled with the neces- sity to navigate a non-nuclear ASAT to within a few miles of its target rendered the system unreliable. The resump- tion of Soviet tests was a major consideration which led then-president Ford to resume U.S. ASAT development. ASAT is the 20th century space equivalent of the 18th century cannon utilized against the earliest balloonist. It is already a reality for the Soviets and will be for the United States by the end of the decade. The Soviet's ASAT capability evolved first because U.S. military forces, with its worldwide commitments, developed a dependence upon satellites at a more rapid pace, making them worthwhile. targets. In contrast, during the early years of the space age with the concentration of forces close to home, the Soviets developed a relatively low dependence upon satel- lites. This meant countering them in wartime would have made little difference to the effectiveness of ground forces. They posed little threat, therefore the U.S. ASAT efforts languished. Now both countries have come to rely much more significantly on satellites. Eighty percent of the U.S. armed forces' communications rely on satellites. The incentives for both sides to perfect their ASAT capa- bility have increased, thus the new initiatives. In a future conflict, one of the first moves by the aggressor will be to eliminate the enemy's space-based intelligence, communications, and command and control assets. Former top scientific advisor during the Reagan administration, George A. Keyworth, admitted: "Even in a limited war, we would have an absolutely critical dependence on space today. Survivability of our space-assets is one of our most important priorities."15 The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) is the newest term for what previously was known as the Ballistic Missile Defense (BDM). SDI is an attempt to render the nuclear ICBM obsolete, just as the musket made the bow and arrow obsolete. It proposes building an impenetrable defense utilizing space-based lasers, particle beams and kinetic energy weapons. It is designed as a four-tier defensive system to match the four phases of an ICBM's flight. Each tier is aimed at eliminating 90 percent of the attacking warheads with an overall "leakage" of 0.1 percent repre- senting only three or four warheads actually hitting their targets, a wildly optimistic figure according to critics. To further put this figure into perspective, consider that a one percent leakage has been calculated to devastate 80 percent of American cities. A five percent leakage, some scientists believe, would be sufficient to trigger a "nuclear winter".16 SDI appears to be easily countered. None of the proposals currently under consideration deal with a defense against submarine launched ballistic missiles fired on a low trajectory or cruise missles lauched from bombers or sub-marines. Richard D. Delaucer, former Under Secratary of Defense for Research and Engineering, testified before a Congressional Committee saying, "A defensive system can be overcome with proliferation and decoys, decoys, decoys, decoys."17 The Soviets make it clear what they would do if a U.S. BDM was deployed. In May 1984, six Soviet scientists listed those steps they considered their country would take to render Star Wars useless: 1. Deploy clouds of heavy balls in an orbit counter to the defense. If they missed the first time, they would make contact on the second orbit or third orbit, ad infinitum. 2. Shoot down U.S. Star Wars assets in space by small surface-based missiles. 3. Deploy satellites armed with short-range missiles close to U.S. space stations to be fired when necessary. 4. Use ground-based lasers to blind U.S. satellites. 5. Exhaust the fuel supply of U.S. laser battle stations by false missile launchings. 6. Employ special coatings on Soviet ICBM's to reflect or dissipate the energy from SDI. 18 Is SDI the modern equivalent of WW I's biplane? In 1921 the Italian air stragist, General Giulio Douhet, inspired by the role of aircraft in WW I, penned the first theory of strategic airpower. Douhet perceived the next major war as one in which great fleets of aircraft would disable the enemy with poison gas and high explosives be- fore ground troops could engage. His theories were tested in WW II and failed. Poison gas, admitedly, was not used but relentless allied bombing raids into Germany, while materially reducing the country's war production, did not eliminate the country's will to resist. Likewise, General Clair Chennault's 14th air Force did little to stop Japan- ese ground advances through China. Chennault's bases kept being overrun by the forces they were supposed to be terrorizing. There is a parallel between Douhet and the modern advocates of space power. Just as Douhet's aircraft were to start and finish a war before traditional elements of power could be brought into piay, so is SDI advocated to render obsolete nuclear war by destroying enemy missiles with irresistible power. History tells us, however, that space warfare will not make our air forces obsolete just as air forces have not made navies and armies obsolete. New forms of combat have complemented the old forms, not re- placed them. History also leads one to the inescapable conclusion that people are always going to fight. To quote Will and Ariel Durant: "War is one of the constants of history, and has not dimished with civilization or democracy. In the past 3,421 years of recorded histroy, only 268 have seen no war....Peace is an unstable equalibrium." 20 In his book Confrontation in Space, G. Harry Stine proposes two very basic reasons for human conflict. It is possible, he claims, to trace the aggressive tendencies of humans to the biological law of least effort known as the Attila Syndrome -- take from others rather than go to the greater effort to make it. When the scratch plow, a simple invention developed about 10,000 years ago in the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley of Mesopotamia, allowed people to give up their nomadic life and settle down to raise seasonal cereal crops, a new philosophy slowly developed to protect them from the Attilas of the time: the Neolithic Ethic.22 In a world of scarcity, which has been the circumstances of 99 percent of all humans in the past and is still the norm today, the Neolithic Ethic was very sucessful. Anthropologist Carleton S. Coon stated it most succinctly: "You stay in your village, and I will stay in mine. If your sheep come to eat our grass, we will kill you. We may kill you anyway to get your grass for our sheep if we run short. Anyone who tries to make us change is a witch and we will kill him. Stay out of our village!"23 The Neolithic Ethic, Stine elaborates, worked reason- ably well for hundreds of centuries, permitting the human race to build civilization against those who would have destroyed it through greed and covetousness. He contends that the Neolithic Ethic is the reason why conflicts build up slowly for years, then explode in an orgy of violence and end up in a situation that is often worse than the original one. With each succeeding generation, mankind has increased the effectiveness of his weapons until, with the recent development of thermonucear weapons, he is capable of de- stroying civilization. We have progressed to the point, Stine argues, where we can no longer live by the Neolithic Ethic and must, therefore, develop a new ethic. Stine writes: "It will take centuries of worldwide education -- using near-earth space as a location for communications satellites capable of beaming information to any spot on Earth for the education of humans every- where -- before the Ethic can be changed, before the memories of past wrongs are erased by time, and before the fires of vengeance can be damped."24 Stine contends that a new ethic for a world of peace, cooperation and unity can be developed. But until then, people are going to fight. We need to investigate all technological possibilities and prepare the weapons, the counter-weapons and other safegaurds as they become tech- nologically feasible. But we need to do so with a pur- poseful goal -- to deter war in the hopes of buying time to transition to the new ethic. Thus far there are no weapons in space. Thus far no battles have been waged in space or for dominion over space. Thus far the military use of space has contributed greatly to the knowledge that prevents adversaries from misjudging each other. The best way to avoid war is to employ those systems, in space as well as terrestrially, which contribute to the policy of mutual deterrence -- a policy which has worked over the past 35 years. FOOTNOTES 1 William J. Durch, National Interests and the Military Use of Space (Cambridge: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1984), p. 5. 2 G. Harry Stine, Confrontation in Space (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1981), p.50. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 David Richie, Spacewar (New York: Antheneum, 1982), p. 12. 7 Durch, p. 6. 8 Durch, p. 19. 9 Nigel Flynn, War in Space (New York: Exeter Books, 1986), p. 12. 10 Flynn, p. 18. 11 Paul B. Stares, The Militarization Of Space (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 108. 12 Durch, p. 39. 13 Richie, p. 85. 14 Richie, p. 89. 15 Nigel, p. 12. 16 Nigel, p. 50. 17 Nigel, p. 91. 18 Nigel, p. 93. 19 Durch, p. 7. 20 Stine, p. 9. 21 Stine, p. 7. 22 Ibid. 23 Stine, pp. 7-8. 24 Stine, p. 9. BIBLIOGRAPHY Baker, David. The Shape of Wars to Come. New York: Stein and Day, 1982. Burke, James. Connections. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1978. Durch, William J., ed. National interests and the Military Use of Space. Cambridge: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1984. Flynn, Nigel. War in Space. New York: Exter Books, 1986. Karas, Thomas. The New High Ground. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983. Lupton, David E., LtCol, USAF (Ret). On Space Warfare: A Space Power Doctrine. Maxwell Air Force Base: Air University Press, 1988. Peebles, Curtis. Battle for Space. New York: Beaufort Books Inc. 1983. Ritchie, David. Spacewar. New York: Antheneum, 1982. Stares, Paul B. The Militarization of Space. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985. Stares Paul B. Space and National Security. Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1987. Stine, G. Harry. Confrontation in Space. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1981.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list