§ Sir Frederic Bennett
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the scope and nature of Soviet activities in the field of space weapons and ballistic missile defence.
§ Mr. Stanley
Soviet space and ballistic missile defence programmes are extensive and have been in existence since the 1960s, and only recently the Soviet Defence Minister has confirmed that the Russians are conducting outer space military research. They possess and are upgrading around Moscow the world's only system of active anti-ballistic missile defences, which employs nuclear-tipped missiles capable of destroying targets outside the atmosphere. They have an operational anti-satellite system. They are also conducting substantial programmes on advanced technologies relevant to ballistic missile defence, including high-powered lasers, kinetic energy and particle beam weapons, and heavy lift space launchers. In fact, since 1976 they have conducted more than twice as many launches as the rest of the world put together, about 80 per cent. of them military in nature. We are considering whether further information can be made available on the extent of Soviet ballistic missile defence activity. This subject is also dealt with in the United States Government's publication "Soviet Military Power: 1985," a it copy of which is in the Library and with whose assessment on this subject we are generally in agreement.