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JSPES, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Summer 2002 )
p. 131-149

The United States Requirements for an Antisatellite (ASAT) Capability

Matthew Mowthorpe

This article examines the United States policy towards acquiring anti-satellite weapons. It seeks to examine why the United States deemed it necessary to develop antisatellite weapons and indeed poses the question is the United States nearer to acquiring an ASAT now. Initially it analyses the philosophy which believed that ASAT weapons had a destabilising effect on the United States' relationship with the Soviet Union. The article then addresses the successive administration's policies towards ASAT weapons and discusses the technological systems. Towards the latter period of the Cold War in the late 1970s ASAT arms control measures began to be debated. It is beyond the scope of the article to address all of the ASAT negotiations, so the focus of this section is on the period when ASAT limitations were at their closest. With the end of the Cold War the ASAT issue has not gone away, indeed the issue has risen to the fore, especially in the light of the US policy which seeks to control space. The final section addresses the US approach to this. This is the salience for ASAT discussions to date, in that appears that the development of a space control policy is driving the requirement for an ASAT capability and such a capability could be closer now than at any time before.