Research Project: Strategic Defense Initiative “What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security didn’t depend upon the threat of instant U. S. retaliation to deter an enemy attack?” Ronald Reagan; 1983 In his speech of March 23, 1983, President Reagan presented his vision of a future where a Nation’s security did not rest upon the threat of nuclear retaliation, but on the ability to protect and defend against such attacks. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) research program was designed to tell whether, and how, advanced defense technologies could contribute to the feasibility of this vision.
The application of systems to the strategic defense was predicted on assumptions and increasingly were subject to question: It was originally assumed that the SDI program was a virtually perfect defense against a large intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, attacks, which required very competent weapons. An ICBM has three levels of flight; the boost phase, the midcourse phase, and the terminal phase. With the SDI program, a space-based directed energy, or a laser, weapon would be used to destroy ICBM’s in the boost phase. Ground-based, space-based lasers or continental weapons could be used to destroy ICBM’s in midcourse, and ground-based beam weapons and missile interceptors could be used to destroy ICBM’s in the terminal phase.
But as the goals of the program have evolved toward more realistic ambitions, the requirements for highly competent weapons diminished. Therefore, the initial focus on space-based directed energy weapons gradually shifted toward interest in ground-based kinetic energy weapons. Therefore, the initial excitement for space-nuclear power sources was quickly ended by uncertain requirements, and the broad range of more feasible technical approaches was researched. To power such high-energy lasers, SDI researchers had to develop a new, more powerful type of power.
The Multi-megawatt, or MMW, was the main focus for power. During most of the 1980’s the SDI’s MMW Space Nuclear Power Program was the first major focus for work on the high-power open and closed cycle reactors. The work on the nuclear power systems, conducted by the Energy Department under the SDI program, was complemented by the Air Force investigations of non-nuclear power concepts. The first focus of the MMW program was to identify and develop at least one space nuclear-power system concept by 1991 that alone or in combination with a non-nuclear power system meets SDI/MMW power requirements. The purpose of the defense options is to find a means to destroy attacking ballistic missiles before they can reach any of their potential targets.
But, SDI ultimately seeks a future in which nations can live in peace and freedom, secure in the knowledge that their national security does not rest upon the threat of nuclear relation. Therefore, the SDI research program has placed its emphasis on options that provide the grounds for eliminating the general threat posed by ballistic missiles. So, the goal of the research is not, and cannot be, simply to protect the retaliation forces from attack. While there is current technology to produce MMW is there, it would require an enormous power source, such as a very large river. But as you can imagine, there is not a way to provide such a power source in space. Do to the lack of a power source, the entire SDI project was dropped.
If a future President elects to move toward a general defense against ballistic missiles, the technological option’s that SDI explored will certainly increase the survival of U. S. retaliatory efforts. This will require a stable concept and process to manage the transition to the future SDI seeks.” Our Nation and those nations allied with us face a number of challenges to our security. Each of those challenges imposes its own demands and its own opportunities. Preserving peace and freedom is, and always will be, our fundamental goal.
The essential purpose of our military forces, and our nuclear forces in particularly, is to deter aggression based upon the threat of military aggression.” Ronald Reagan, 1983 Bibliography Reagan Administration on Ballistic Missile Defenses; web June 1, 1985 Strategic Defense Initiative; John Pike; web 1. htm; 1989 Possible Soviet Responses to the Strategic Defense Initiative; Director of CIA; web September 12, 1983 Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia; 1994-1995; Compton’s New Media, Inc. Titan II ICBM Web Page; web 1996.