Strategic defenses are vital to the overall Soviet strategy for nuclear war. The operationsof Soviet defensive and attack forces, as noted in Chapter II, are closely coupled; attack strategies are geared in large part to the reduction of the defensive burden. In the Soviet conceptof a layered defense, effectiveness is achieved through multiple types of defensive capabilitiescompensating for shortcomings in individual systems and for the likelihood that neither offensivestrikes nor any one layer of defense will stop all attacking weapons. The Soviets are makingmajor improvements in their deployed strategic defenses and are investing heavily in ABM-related developments.
Soviet Military Power 1983 and 1984
outlined the continuing expansion into space of theSoviet drive for military superiority. In the past year, some 80 percent of Soviet space launcheshave been purely military in nature, with much of the remainder serving both military and civilfunctions. This is an increase from 70 percent in previous years. The Soviet military space program dominates the USSR's overall space effort. Soviet military doctrine establishesrequirements for the military space program.
Laser/Energy Weapons Systems
Soviet directed-energy development programs involve future Ballistic MissileDefense(BMD) as well as antisatellite and air-defense weapons concepts.By the late 1980s, the Soviets could have prototypes for ground-based lasers for ballisticmissile defense. Testing of the components for a large-scale deployment system could begin inthe early 1990s. The many difficulties in fielding an operational system will require muchdevelopment time, and initial operational deployment is not likely in this century. However, withhigh priority and some significant risk of failure, the Soviets could skip some testing steps and beready to deploy a ground-based laser BMD by the early-to-mid-199Os.Ground- and space-based particle beam weapons for ballistic missile defense will bemore difficult to develop than lasers. Nevertheless, the Soviets have a vigorous programunderway for particle beam development and could have a prototype space-based system readyfor testing in the late 1990s.The Soviets have begun to develop at least three types of high-energy laser weapons for air defense. These include lasers intended for defense of high-value strategic targets in theUSSR, for point defense of ships at sea, and for air defense of theater forces. Following past practice, they are likely to deploy air defense lasers to complement, rather than replace,interceptors and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). The strategic defense laser is probably in at leastthe prototype stage of development and could be operational by the late 1980s. It most likely will be deployed in conjunction with SAMs in a point defense role. Since the SAM and laser systemswould have somewhat different attributes and vulnerabilities, they would provide mutualsupport. The shipborne lasers probably will not be operational until after the end of the decade.The theater force lasers maybe operational sometime sooner and are likely to be capable of structurally damaging aircraft at close ranges and producing electro-optical and eye damage atgreater distances.