DCI National Intelligence Estimate
President's Summary

Emerging Missile Threats to North America During the Next 15 Years

PS/NIE 95-19
November 1995

No country, other than the major declared nuclear powers, will develop or otherwise acquire a ballistic missile in the next 15 years that could threaten the contiguous 48 states and Canada.

Ballistic missile programs of other countries are focused on regional security concerns and are not expected to evolve into threats to North America during the period of this estimate.

We are likely to detect any indigenous long-range ballistic missile program many years before deployment.

We expect countries that currently have ICBMs will not sell them. Each of the countries either is a Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) member or has agreed to abide by its terms and recognizes that transfer of an intercontinental range missile would show blatant disregard for the regime. Also, countries probably would be concerned that any missiles sold might some day be turned against them.

Similarly, we do not believe any country with space launch vehicles will sell them. Furthermore, if a country were to purchase an SLV, converting it to an ICBM would involve technological obstacles roughly as challenging as those involved in an indigenous ICBM program.

We see no indications, and think it unlikely, that any potentially hostile nation will develop submarine-launched ballistic missiles over the period of this estimate.[1] Launching ballistic missiles from surface vessels or aircraft is so technically challenging as to be a highly unlikely approach.

Cruise Missiles

By 2005, several countries, including some hostile toward the United States, probably will acquire land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) with ranges of hundreds kilometers. A cruise missile attack on North America by a Third World country, using ships (or possibly aircraft) off the coast as launch platforms, would be technically feasible. However, we think such an act is unlikely because of the perceived difficulty of ensuring mission success. It is extremely unlikely any Third World country would acquire submarine-launched LACMs and use them against North America because of the technological sophistication required and the difficulty of deploying submarines far from home port.

Because of the size and nature of cruise missile systems, as well as the hard-to-detect signatures associated with flight testing, LACM development programs can be easily hidden, thus limiting our confidence in early detection.

Export Controls

The MTCR significantly limits the availability of missiles, components, and related technology. We project it will continue to serve as a substantial barrier to countries interested in acquiring ballistic missiles, but some leakage of components and critical technologies will likely continue. Because of their relatively greater dual-use nature, technology and components applicable to LACMs will proliferate more widely than those for ballistic missiles.

Unauthorized or Accidental Launch

We conclude that the current threat to North America from unauthorized or accidental launch of Russian or Chinese strategic missiles remains remote and has not changed significantly from that of the past decade. However, we are less confident about the future, in view of the fluid political situations in both countries. If there were a severe political crisis in either country control of the nuclear command structure could become less certain, increasing the possibility of an unauthorized launch. Nevertheless the possibility would remain quite low.

Prepared under the auspices of David J. Osias, national intelligence officer for strategic programs and nuclear proliferation. Inquiries may be directed to the NIO on ___.

Footnote 1: India is planning submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) with a 300-km range for deployment by 2010.