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Soviet Union

Soviet Space Weapons Development

Since the Sputnik launch in 1957, the military potential of space has fascinated Soviet leaders. The 1962 and 1963 editions of Sokolovskii's Military Strategy advocated development of a military capability in space. In the late l960s, the Soviet Union developed the fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS)--a nuclear-armed space weapon with a depressed trajectory. The l967 Outer Space Treaty neutralized the FOBS threat, but the Soviet Union retained an interest in undertaking offensive missions in space as part of its combined arms concept. In l97l it acquired a ground-based orbital ASAT interceptor, the stated purpose of which was defensive but which could also attack satellites in near-earth orbit. The Soviet Union developed a variety of satellites that in 1989 were capable of reconnaissance, missile-launch detection, attack warning, command and control, and antisatellite functions. The Soviet Union also had impressive manned space programs with military implications, mostly aboard the Saliut and Mir space stations. In addition, by 1989 the Soviet Union had explored advanced space weapons, both defensive and offensive, using lasers, particle beams, radio frequencies, and kinetic energy. Although Soviet negotiators at the Geneva space talks portrayed Soviet space efforts as peaceful, in the late 1980s Soviet scientists and military strategists continued to study space in their search for new weapons and military options.

Data as of May 1989