Lacking specific guarantees that the benefits of space science and technology will be used solely for peaceful purposes, it is essential that we consider the application of this knowledge to our own military capabilities. There is no dividing line between air and space. They are one vast operating arena, and they must be considered as one medium—aerospace. Advancing technology will inevitably carry with it the opportunity for improved aerospace capabilities. Therefore we must move steadily toward operations in space—not merely because it is there—challenging us—but because it is vital to our nation’s security to do so.
The overpowering element in evaluating military stability in the world today is the possibility of surprise attack. It is a major obstacle to preserving the peace, the big barrier to reducing our military budget, and the key to much of our strategy and tactics. With this in mind, let us consider an interesting series of developments in the technological revolution.
The development of nuclear warheads made it practical to develop aerospace vehicles with intercontinental range. It made practical the concept of the big missile which required a new and radical development in rocket propulsion. The nature of this vehicle, with its intercontinental range, also demanded new and radical developments in electronic guidance. These concepts and developments have now become a practical reality—for example, we possess an operational intercontinental ballistic missile whose effectiveness far exceeds our original planning objectives.
All of this has intensified the problem of surprise attack—but the same technology which gave birth to the big guided missile carries in it the seeds of a possible solution to lasting peace. The big rocket has propelled us into space, and its guidance requirements have accelerated the science of electronics.
These technologies have advanced to the point where new controls for peace are conceivable. I do not say that there will ever be an absolute guarantee against surprise attack. Absolute guarantees are few. But I do say that the time is coming when the possibility of surprise attack will be reduced—reduced through advanced technology
to the point that we can live with the problem and, perhaps, solve it.
In this respect, there are certain specific military advantages that we can expect to gain from the extension of our capabilities farther out into aerospace. Among them are more reliable communications, improved early warning, and better reconnaissance. Two of these are particularly valuable as far as defense is concerned—their main purpose is to provide us with warning of impending attack. Midas, a satellite containing infrared detection devices, is being developed to obtain the earliest possible warning of an ICBM attack against this country. Samos is another defensive satellite designed to give us a reasonable answer to the question, “What are the actions of a potential enemy?”
A year ago, in testifying before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, I said, “The major military threat which faces our nation today lies in Soviet aerospace power—even though, at the moment, this power is expressed in terms of aircraft and ballistic missiles. The primary military deterrent which has contained this threat and which has precluded it from developing into catastrophic reality, is United States aerospace power. This has been true for the past ten years with our conventional and early jet fighters and bombers. I am convinced that it will continue to be true as we operate with improved jet aircraft, missiles, and eventually spacecraft and satellites. The decisive weapons of the future will be aerospace weapons. That nation—or group of nations —which maintains predominance in this area—not only in its military forces, but also in its laboratories, in its industries, and in its technology—will possess the means for survival.”
Nothing has occurred since that time to change my conviction. Moreover, further contemplation of man’s extension into space suggests to me that here in this vast arena we may find the most imaginative and challenging key to the control of peace. We must take every advantage of this possibility.
From an address by General White at the National Press Club. Washington. D.C., January 11, 1960.