Horizon (1964) s18e07 Episode Script

The Race to Ruin

BBC Four Collections - specially chosen programmes from the BBC archive.
My talking about this publicly will probably ruffle a few feathers, but it's about time.
There have been a number of people who have known for some years in this country that if you can get a laser into space and a particle beam into space and project it back toward the Earth, one of the by-products that we discovered accidentally is that both produce a giant bang - a blast impact on a ground target.
Now, the significance of that is that in one or two orbits, a few stations could probably destroy every ship at sea, every aeroplane in the world, manned or unmanned, and every missile - the ultimate defence.
NARRATOR: The world may be facing a deadly new twist in the arms race - the conquest of space for military supremacy.
a race the Americans and the Russians cannot afford not to enter.
One power or another is going to seize that strategic high ground of space and then dominate what else is on the globe.
Now, this can be the Soviets, with a Pax Sovietica, or it can be a consortium of the Western world with a Pax Occidentalis.
But it's going to be one or the other.
NARRATOR: Some American defence experts want beam weapons quickly because they say the Russians already have a strong lead in their development.
A beam weapon in space would spit out subatomic particles at the speed of light.
It could destroy anything, literally, in a flash.
The most vociferous figure in the debate is General George Keegan, former head of Air Force Intelligence.
He's been trying to alert America to that Russian threat since 1976.
About nine or ten months ago, the previous president of the United States, I am advised, was shown satellite photography .
of the world's largest laser device and the world's first particle beam prototype weapon deployed at a weapons test centre, Saryshagan.
NARRATOR: No-one outside the intelligence community can know exactly what exists at this remote research station near the Chinese border.
But this is an artist's impression of what Keegan believes is there - a huge machine called an accelerator, capable of producing highly energised beams of positively charged particles - protons.
He claims it's a prototype for beam weapons that could work inside or outside the atmosphere.
And it could be powered by nuclear-explosive generators.
KEEGAN: What we learned, apparently, from this new deployment is that the power-generation devices that have been developed for these are probably a generation ahead of where I thought they were in 1977.
NARRATOR: Have the Russians stolen the lead in a new area of military technology? It's a conclusion that's been arrived at many times over the last 30 years, and not without considerable evidence to back it up.
Fiver, four, three, two, one.
NARRATOR: In 1952, America successfully exploded her first hydrogen bomb at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific.
Only three years later, the Russians had their H-bomb, too.
Clearly, America was no longer dealing with a technologically backward nation.
In 1955, American scientists heard of a gigantic particle accelerator, or atom smasher, being built at Dubna near Moscow.
It was bigger than anything the Americans had.
It seemed the Russians were well ahead in fundamental physics research.
Again in 1955, Western observers at a military parade in Moscow spotted a new heavy bomber for the first time.
It became known as the Bison.
Based on an early plane count, the Pentagon worked out that the Russians would have a vast fleet of 700 of them in the air by 1959.
Then, on October 4th, 1957, this happened.
The Soviet Union astounded the world by being the first nation to launch an artificial satellite into outer space.
It was, of course, Sputnik.
A month later, they launched an even larger satellite, as this outrageous propaganda film shows - this time carrying the dog Laika.
American scientists, who had been planning a satellite launch for some time, finally got the go-ahead on December 6th, 1957.
The failure, nicknamed "Kaputnik", seeded American fears of technological inferiority.
But the Soviets still had more humiliation to exact.
On April 12th, 1961, they achieved yet another lead when Yuri Gagarin became the first man into outer space.
There was now no doubt that Russia was a scientific superpower of the first order.
Attention also focused on the rocket that had launched the Russian satellites.
Clearly, if it could lift Sputnik into orbit, it was easily capable of carrying a nuclear bomb from Russia to the United States.
Early U-2 reconnaissance photographs suggested the Russians were already building silos to house them.
Response in the States was rapid.
By the early 1960s, the necessary research and development had been done, and a huge fleet of Titan, and, later, Minuteman missiles had been built and deployed.
During the last five years, American defence chiefs have begun to fear that once again the Americans have allowed the Soviet Union to creep ahead.
President Reagan has finally reversed that trend.
I'm delighted, first of all, that Mr Reagan is the first president since World War II who has heeded what some of us have to say.
He has heeded my warning, certainly, about what the Soviets are up to, and I think he won this election largely upon the basis of exposing these facts to the public and saying, "We are going to rearm and catch up with the Soviets.
" NARRATOR: Yet, that lead, if it really exists, has been established by a country which cannot even feed its population, lags behind the West in advanced technology and whose industry cannot survive without Western help.
The only way out of this paradox is to assume that Russia must have a totally separate military economy capable of much better performance.
I think the idea that there is a totally separate military economy, so to speak, separate from the civilian economy, is quitequite wrong.
Obviously, there are research institutes, and there are production facilities which are working primarily or totally for the military, but, equally obviously, there have to be all sorts of materials - metals for example - which come from sources common to the civilian and the military production lines.
NARRATOR: If Russian military technology strongly resembles their civilian side, have we been totally deceived about how good they really are? Let's look at that history again.
That nuclear accelerator at Dubna didn't allow the Russians to get ahead in physics.
In fact, it took until the 1960s to shake the bugs out of it.
It's reported that scientists working on the project ruefully christened it the "Stalin Memorial Accelerator".
As for the Bison bomber, the Russians had flown their Bisons around Red Square in circles to create the illusion of greater numbers.
They actually built very few of them.
But the fact that the Russians didn't go for bombers supported the view that they preferred ballistic missiles.
These early space rockets were designed to be powerful ICBMs, too, but they proved hopelessly unreliable.
Only five were ever deployed.
The missile gap faced the Russians, not the Americans.
It took the Soviets until the early '70s to catch up.
Nothing typifies the American overreaction more than the case of the Soviet nuclear aeroplane.
I 1958, the American journal Aviation Week began publishing articles about it.
They carried diagrams of how the nuclear power plant worked and how the plane was likely to be deployed.
The Americans, who'd been toying with the idea for several years, were stung into action.
A plethora of potential designs for the American version emerged.
They even got as far as producing a flying test-bed, until they realise the technological problems were beyond them.
But fiction had replaced fact in American defence circles.
The Russian nuclear aeroplane never even existed.
The most graphic demonstration of Soviet technological supremacy, however, was the space race.
In his book The Russian Space Bluff, Leonid Vladimirov claims that the Russians owed their astonishing first to the opportunism of their leading rocket designer, Sergei Korolev.
Heer was given piles of references, piles of articles from American magazines where the Americans described in minute detail their satellite, which was to be launched during the International Geophysical Year, 1957-'58.
So Korolev suddenly got a brilliant idea.
He found his way to Khrushchev and offered to undercut the Americans with the satellite.
He personally supervised the production of this sphere, of this little sphere, the Sputnik 1, and they fitted into it nothing but a simple radio bleeper.
BLEEPING NARRATOR: But that bleeper had psychological effects on the Americans far out of proportion to its technological merits.
It's not widely known, I suspect, that Sputnik was launched both to impress Washington DC and also to overawe many of Kruschev's own political opponents within the Kremlin.
So, as the years went by, Khrushchev kept demanding more and more of these stunts, these very impressive spectaculars.
APPLAUSE NARRATOR: These were the days of the Cold War.
Khrushchev saw the chance of exploiting space for political ends.
For his visit to New York in 1960, he'd planned a spectacular space shot to Mars.
But he was already stretching his rocket scientists too far too fast.
He returned to Moscow to a story of failure.
JAMES OBERG: Two rockets were launched and both failed.
They fell back from the edge of space.
The last rocket was attempted to be fired.
It didn't work at all, it didn't even leave the launch pad.
Rather than doing the safe procedure of waiting, draining the fuel and inspecting the rocket later, instead, apparently, according to several different reports, including Khrushchev's own memoirs later, the men were ordered out to the launch pad to inspect the vehicle while it was still fuelled.
EXPLOSION The missile detonated or caught fire or fell over, exploded, killing several dozen people.
NARRATOR: That the myth of Soviet superiority could persist with the Gagarin launch owes much to the tenacity of Korolev himself.
But he wanted to consolidate with serious science and planned the next logical scientific step - his brainchild, the Soyuz spacecraft.
But with the Americans now battling for space honours, Khrushchev couldn't afford to let him.
A prime example of how science, technology and safety had gone completely out of the window by then was the flight of Voskhod 1 in 1963.
It was done because the Americans announced the Gemini programme, and the Gemini had to be flown by a team of two.
So Khrushchev called Korolev and said, "Send three.
" And Korolev tried to explain to him that that would be absolutely impossible.
NARRATOR: Despite Korolev's protestations, three it was.
But Voskhod was merely an adaptation of the only spacecraft the Russians had available - the one-man Vostok.
So, according to Oberg and Vladimirov, the ejection seats had to be ripped out.
So was the safety parachute.
There was only enough food and water for one day in space.
And because of the bulk, they weren't even given space suits.
It's a miracle they got back alive.
But Khrushchev's bluff had finally been called.
During that actual flight, he was replaced by Brezhnev.
18 months later, Korolev died.
According to Oberg, any hopes that the Soviets had of beating the Americans to the moon died with him.
The rest is well-known history.
In July 1969, Apollo 11 touched down in the Sea of Tranquillity.
'Two and a half.
'Picking up some dust.
'Four forward.
Four forward.
'Drifting to the right a little.
'Contact light.
OK, engine stopped.
The Eagle has landed.
' BAND PLAYS NARRATOR: The Americans had finally won the race to the moon.
American pride was restored.
They were jubilant.
CHEERING American technology had finally proved itself superior.
But how had they allowed themselves to be bluffed for so long? Because NASA was conceived as a peaceful operation, they didn't want to get embroiled in military intelligence.
Extraordinary though it seems, they had depended for their knowledge of Russian space activities almost totally on amateur space watchers - like Mr Geoffrey Perry, the physics master of Kettering Boys' School.
We've been working on a pair of Russian satellites, Cosmos satellites, that we believe were sent up together to work as a pair watching the American fleet.
NARRATOR: Perhaps it's not surprising that the Russians can pull the wool over American eyes.
'Both control centres, Moscow and Houston, 'have given a go for docking.
' NARRATOR: In fact, the Americans didn't come face to face with the Soviet space technology until 1975 - the Apollo-Soyuz linkup.
The Americans had to design the docking module and do the docking manoeuvres.
Soyuz simply couldn't carry enough fuel.
And they rendezvoused in the lowest earth orbit the Americans had ever experienced.
It was as high as Soyuz could go.
RUSSIAN MAN: 'One minute.
' LEONID VLADIMIROV: If, before the Apollo-Soyuz, the Americans still had some illusions about the state of art, er, in the Soyuz space, then after that project, being not stupid, they understood well nigh everything.
They came crazy back and said, "Look, they have a drum, "a revolving drum inside "a sort of a prehistoric programme appliance, "where all the flight programme is somehow recorded on that drum "and the drum is revolving slowly.
" And that was their substitute for a computer.
NARRATOR: Although their technology was more crude than the Americans', the Soviets have demonstrated that they can continue to put their Soyuz Salyut stations into orbit.
So, despite the fact that they seem to have always overestimated the Russians before, this time many Americans feel the Russians may be onto something.
These space platforms could be the test-beds for laser and beam weapon technology.
They had 45 men in space in the six-year hiatus between our moonshot, last moonshot, and the shuttle.
And they weren't up there trying to set records in the Guinness book, they were up there for serious reasons.
NARRATOR: Spurred on by the suspected Soviet threat, millions of dollars a year are being poured into American beam weapon research.
Among the first takers were the Navy.
They wanted beam weapons to defend their aircraft carriers.
The project was given to the Lawrence Livermore laboratories in California.
The project leader is Dr Richard Briggs.
Briggs believes the only subatomic particles that could be shot through air are electrons.
This is his prototype accelerator.
Because, in effect, these electrons would be the bullets in his accelerator gun, he's had to design a special cathode in this end of the accelerator to produce dense clouds of them.
They are immediately energised to three million electron volts by these banks of electrical capacitors.
The electrons, all having the same negative charge, strongly repel each other, so they have to be forced together into a tight beam by these powerful magnetic coils before being delivered into the remaining accelerator modules.
Here, they're given a final energy burst to five million volts.
It's hoped that when the beam is shot into the air, it will hold together by creating a magnetic field around itself, rather like a collar.
At least, that's the theory.
A beam which is held together by its own magnetic field in an air media like this can undergo kink-like disturbances and begin to thrash about inside the tube.
In fact, under some conditions, we find that the beam hits the side of the tube and can damage it, as happened in this case.
NARRATOR: The problem is, that at only five million volts, the electrons don't have enough energy for that magnetic collar to hold them together.
So, he's planning a much more powerful accelerator capable of energising them to 50 million volts.
And out in the desert, the new machine is already taking shape.
But to go to higher energies, he has to pay a penalty in size.
The whole thing is as big as a factory.
How on earth does he imagine he's going to cram all this into an aircraft carrier? I think there are certainly a number of things one could do to scale down both the size and the weight of these kinds of machines.
NARRATOR: But surely there's a limit to how much you CAN scale down a particle accelerator? I think it's There's no doubt that this is not going to be some extremely miniaturised device in the future.
I think that's quite correct.
NARRATOR: In the vacuum of space, maybe particle beams would work better.
If so, they could make the perfect antiballistic missile system.
But what kind of a beam to use? Electrons, perhaps, like Briggs'? Sadly, calculations suggest that because equal and opposite charges would build up in the accelerator nozzle, the beam would be pulled back into it.
Even if you could solve that problem, the electrons would repel each other so strongly in space that the beam would diverge hopelessly.
Over a range of 1,000 miles or so, there wouldn't be enough energy to knock over a feather.
Even worse, no charged beam could possibly be targeted on a missile because it would be bent wildly as soon as it came into contact with the Earth's geomagnetic field.
The only type of beam that could avoid those problems would be a beam with no charge at all - a neutral beam.
Here at the Los Alamos laboratory, they are trying to build one out of hydrogen atoms.
But the problem is that no accelerator can energise a particle unless it has a charge on it.
A neutral particle would be invisible to the electromagnetic fields that transfer the energy.
So, they will have to attach charged electrons to the hydrogen atoms in this iron source, accelerate them and strip the electrons back off again as they fire it.
This is how they intend to accelerate the beam.
After the negative hydrogen iron beam comes from the iron source and is confined and focused and prepared, it enters the first new piece of accelerator apparatus that we have in this test facility - that is a device called the radio-frequency quadrupole.
There are four poles located as such, forming a channel down which the particle beam can move.
These four poles are charged, producing an electric field which holds the particle beam very tightly to the axis.
Also in thison these four poles are ripples which are machined in the surface, which serve to also produce a wave which accelerates the particles, making them go faster.
NARRATOR: That accelerator is very compact and efficient.
But the most interesting thing about it is where it came from.
It wasn't Los Alamos.
The one that we're using right now for our test accelerator in this programme is, in fact, an adaptation of a design that was developed at the Novosibirsk laboratory, which we copied from the literature, the open scientific literature, which we've read.
NARRATOR: That laboratory is at Science City, Akademgorodok, one physics research lab we know for sure is as good as anything in the West.
And to prove it, they sell their accelerators all over the world.
They can build you an accelerator to do anything from waterproofing cables to treating grain.
But could they also build you a beam weapon? It's toomany, too much A lot of difficulties to solve such a problem as far as understand.
NARRATOR: But would it be possible, given the state of the art of Russian accelerator technology, to solve the problems of designing a beam weapon? From physical point of view, possible, but from technical not for our days.
NARRATOR: Nevertheless, a recent report for the Defence Department surveyed all known Russian particle beam work.
They concluded What does Ed Knapp think? As far as I know, from my understanding of my friends in the Soviet Union, they do their accelerator work in more or less open laboratories.
Sometimes they are open, sometimes they are closed.
But there is no secret very large facility which is devoted to this sort of work, in myin my knowledge.
NARRATOR: If he thinks it's highly unlikely that the Russians are ahead, is he wasting his time trying to build a beam weapon? It may very well be that this particular kind of technology doesn't provide a weapons system.
It may very well be that it could be used as a weapons system.
It's very, very important that we understand if it can or if it can't, or what the limitations would be in the technology if this were to be used that way.
Turn them on.
NARRATOR: But there's another way to make a beam weapon - high-power lasers.
This is a carbon dioxide laser.
The gas is pumped into the lasing chamber and excited by a powerful electric discharge.
In this form, it emits photons of light which can be aligned by mirrors into a laser beam.
The pink colour is due to another gas in the mixture.
The actual laser beam is in the invisible infrared.
This is a piece of titanium, weight for weight one of the toughest metals in existence.
The laser beam will be fired at it for just two seconds.
Turn them on.
WHIRRING NARRATOR: Just imagine if THIS were the skin of an aeroplane.
But that's in the laboratory.
Since 1974, scientists at the Air Force weapons lab in New Mexico have been trying to shoot down moving targets with lasers.
Although the laser aiming device is compact enough, the laser itself is enormous.
Pretty impressive.
But not all scientists find it that convincing.
There are significant very serious difficulties, which even in clear weather will prevent you from having an effective beam a few kilometres away.
Now, of course, if you are just a few hundred metres away, or even tens of metres away, and you have a very slow-moving target which you've painted red, conveniently, so that it can absorb infrared light, then of course you can make these spectacular pictures that you see presented by the Department of Defense.
But an uncooperative target, which is very shiny, which moves very fast, which emits smoke, therefore it shields itself from it will be very difficult to hit.
Please turn the laser on.
NARRATOR: Another problem is the interaction between the laser beam and the air itself.
It's called thermal blooming.
You can demonstrate it by passing a laser through a wind tunnel and targeting it on a fire brick on the other side.
As you turn the wind speed up across the beam, the laser actually gets stronger.
At maximum wind speed, the laser reaches maximum intensity.
But by reducing the wind speed, the air has time to heat up as it crosses the beam's path.
It distorts the beam so badly, there's virtually no energy left.
So, the best place for lasers is where you have a high wind speed and a perfectly clear day.
And you can find that at 30,000 feet.
About one-third of this converted Boeing 707 is taken up with an enormous carbon dioxide laser.
It fires through a turret on top of the aircraft.
On the ground, the aircraft is surrounded by the equivalent of a small chemical factory.
Before each test, the lasing mixture of carbon dioxide, helium and nitrogen is pumped in to be stored under pressure.
But the biggest headache at this stage of development is keeping all the sensitive optics and tracking equipment dust free during servicing.
The plane is shrouded by an environmental chamber.
All equipment has to be taken in through an airlock.
One's forced to wonder just how difficult it would be to service lasers in wartime.
On 1st June this year, the laser laboratory announced they were flying to the China Lake testing ground in California to shoot down a Sidewinder air-to-air missile in flight.
Unfortunately .
it didn't work.
The Air Force claim they'll get it right next time, but it strongly suggests that using laser weapons inside the atmosphere is severely testing the state of the art.
So, why not move to where there is no atmosphere? In space.
It's theoretically possible to build a laser that can fire a beam across a few thousand miles of space, but to focus the beam over such vast distances, calculations suggest you'd need at least a four-metre-diameter mirror.
At the optics lab in Albuquerque, we found out how difficult a task making big laser mirrors is.
Don Ewing is one of the best opticians in the States.
He's polishing a copper laser mirror, one of the biggest currently available.
It's a half-metre in diameter.
He's been working on this mirror alone for two months.
It's so optically perfect that one speck of grit or dust would totally ruin two months' work.
Could a larger mirror be built? Now, a one-metre mirror is reasonably accessible, technologically, in this country.
There have been mirrors that were one metre that, if cooled, would take about 1,000 kilowatts, or 2,000 kilowatts per square centimetre of power.
And that's certainly possible.
They are expensive, but they're possible.
A two-metre optical mirror, one that will transmit light but will not take these enormous amounts of energy, will cost It's available where they can build it.
It takes a long time to build it.
It will probably cost over 200 million.
A 2.
7-metre mirror will cost, I know, 400 million.
I don't think there is anyone in this country who can claim that they can make a three-metre mirror.
NARRATOR: As well as the problem of size, the laser mirror will have to reflect enormous power.
Each square centimetre on this dish will have to reflect thousands of kilowatts of energy.
One microscopic flaw and some of that energy would be absorbed.
Worse still, Tsipis argues, it will be impossible to supply these lasers with all the fuel and coolant they need.
If this is going to be used as an ABM laser or on a platform out in space, say, 1,000 kilometres above the ground, trying to attack ballistic missiles as they rise, you need more than one platform, because the platforms are not stationary above the Earth.
They rotate and they move.
So, you need 30 or 40 platforms, each one with a laser that should be able to emit a few thousand pulses.
Each pulse now needs 20 tonnes of consumables.
Therefore, what you need is, say, 100,000 tonnes of consumables per platform.
Now, a shuttle has to go and come back and be refitted and so on.
So let us assume that a shuttle makes two trips a year.
So, a shuttle can carry 60 tonnes.
Now, how many shuttles are you going to have? Are you going to have ten shuttles? Suppose you have ten shuttles.
Then you have 600 tonnes of coolant and fuel moved into outer space per year.
If you need six million tonnes, then you need about 100,000 years to move the coolant out there.
Now, that, it seems to me, is a rather unrealistic weapons system because by the time you move all the coolant up there, it will be obsolete.
NARRATOR: Department of Defense scientists claim that Tsipis' figures are exaggerated because he doesn't have the right data.
And because that data is secret, they can't put him right.
But such arguments are likely to prove irrelevant because there's an even more fundamental problem with all beam weapons in space.
The problem really is, first, that such things are enormously expensive.
It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to build the system, even if the system were unopposed.
The system, though, has to operate during wartime, during which the enemy would use nuclear weapons, would have, assuredly, put space mines near these accelerators in order to destroy them before launching his IBCMs.
I don't see any means for defending such a system in space, perfectly visible for years or decades, against such mining, which is quite feasible, whether with nuclear weapons or non-nuclear weapons.
NARRATOR: Despite the scientific flak coming his way, General Keegan remains adamant.
So what you can now do is destroy tens of thousands of important strategic and conventional military targets on Earth with very great precision during the orbit of one of these manned or unmanned orbital stations on which you have placed the laser or the particle beam weapon.
NARRATOR: But calculations suggest he is somewhat overstating his case.
Because any beam would diverge so much as it came down through the atmosphere, you'd need to put the energy equivalent of ten nuclear power stations into it to knock out these airmen before they could get out of its path.
Use a more modest beam of, say, one megawatt, and these men would have to kneel here for about two months before they keeled over.
MAN: Well, take care.
See you when we get back.
NARRATOR: What do the Russians think about laser weapons? The Lebedev Institute in Moscow is one of the world's top laser labs.
Its director, Nikolai Basov, won the Nobel physics prize for laser development in 1964.
Many American scientists would agree with Basov.
But the decisions are no longer purely scientific.
These scientists depend on defence for their jobs.
It's estimated that nearly half of them work for defence-related industry.
The work is more interesting, it's highly paid and the defence industry makes it easy for scientists to work in confidential areas and still get on in a highly open scientific committee.
Although you're primarily contributing to a national defence programme, you don't disappear from the world of science.
We still expect our people to come to meetings like this, to be part of the presentations, to talk about what they do, to publish fundamental work that they do that's not classified.
Much of it is not.
NARRATOR: And the people who buy defence are here, in the Pentagon.
They share a cosy relationship with the eight gigantic corporations who dominate American weapons production.
Between 1970 and 1979, 1,700 Pentagon employees switched jobs to those companies.
And 270 company men went the other way as business managers.
It's led to accusations that this unholy alliance is more to do with jobs, technical whizzkidery and profits than effective defence.
One person who thinks so is Dina Rasor, who heads an investigation on defence spending on behalf of America's taxpayers.
She's been given a lot of technical help by Pentagon renegades who prefer to remain anonymous.
The problem of defence is that there's usually only one buyer.
And, say, for example, you go out in the marketplace and buy something like, say, a calculator, this calculator has been developed, gotten simpler, cheaper, and basically has less cost and yet it has more function.
Defence, we tend to get more complex, more sophisticated, and the cost keeps rising.
Also, when you buy something like a car, it has a guarantee when something goes wrong that it's fixed by the company.
Unfortunately, with defence, it turns out that we buy something, it does not work, and the taxpayer ends up paying again to have it fixed.
NARRATOR: But the hard sell continues in this very odd marketplace.
Weapons become more complicated every year.
They are often sold before they are properly tested.
They may never be tested at all in combat.
And when you look at how some of them perform, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
Take the McDonnell Douglas F-15, for example.
It was built with very powerful engines and radar because a major threat it was expected to meet was the Russian MiG-25 Foxbat.
At the time, the Foxbat was thought to have a top speed of over 3 Mach and sophisticated avionics.
But when its pilot Viktor Belenko landed one in Japan in 1976, a different picture emerged.
The plane was taken to bits on the tarmac.
It was made almost entirely of steel and used valves instead of transistors.
Its engines couldn't sustain speeds of more than 2.
3 Mach and was so thirsty it could only operate 186 miles from base.
But aiming for that supposed performance has made the American F-15 very unreliable.
Because of problems with its engines and electronics, it's out of action for 45% of the time.
This is the most expensive air-to-air missile the Americans have.
It's called the Phoenix.
Each one costs 1 million.
VIDEO REPORT: 'The Phoenix has proven its performance time and again 'against a variety of targets in a variety of tactical situations, 'scoring an unprecedented 85% success rate.
' NARRATOR: But according to one Pentagon official, these figures are meaningless, because it's very rarely tested at all and has never been tested for its most important role - simultaneous firing against several targets while the plane is being electronically jammed.
Now the Army has climbed onto the advanced technology bandwagon with its latest tank, the Chrysler M1.
For around 3 million you get an on-board computer .
laser-assisted gun sights .
and at four gallons to the mile, a top speed of 45mph.
But it's run into a hail of criticism from a Senate committee that has heard it can't meet its target for reliability due to failures in its engine, transmission and drivetrain.
In this test result report we have right here from the US Armor and Engineering Board, the Army came out and said that the tank in combat situations breaks down about every 94 miles.
If you go back to the back where we have the actual computer data out of the maintenance actions, the test director, the man who is standing there taking the roll whether he thinks something needs to be worked on right away, he did his own scoring, and he came out with 34 miles between failure.
NARRATOR: Its critics have renamed it the "slowest tank in the world".
The Army claim they're just teething troubles, but the Senate committee has recommended none of these tanks be deployed in Europe until the problems are sorted out.
That policy of trying to rush advanced technology into service against the Russian threat has very expensively backfired.
And there's no reason to believe that the mistakes won't be even more expensive with laser or particle beam weapons.
At a meeting on beam weapons earlier this year, their advocates were still pitching with the best sales slogan they have - "The Russians are coming.
" All across the frozen wastes of Siberia, in the wilderness of the Urals and in the Slavic homeland, there is a massive effort to develop directed-energy devices.
NARRATOR: Clarence Robinson is an editor for Aviation Week, the same people who brought you the non-existent Soviet nuclear aeroplane in the 1950s.
CLARENCE ROBINSON: The strategic nuclear pilot of power, according to repeated testimony by the service chiefs of staff to the Congress in the past few weeks, has swung in favour of the USSR, and the United States faces a dangerous period until late in this decade when that balance can be redressed.
When Eisenhower left office, he said, "Watch out for the military-industrial complex.
"It will rob you blind.
" You sound like a spokesperson for that complex.
I mean, I remember the flap on the MiG-25.
It was supposed to be a terrible aeroplane, better than anything we had.
And one landed in Japan and it turned out it was made out of steel with a vacuum tubes.
It was a flying coffin.
We are sending up the space shuttle and Brezhnev is screaming his head off that it's better than anything they have as far as a military potential.
And I know I've seen articles on integrated circuit technology.
The Russians are way behind us.
I can't help but wonder about CLARENCE ROBINSON: Well, fine, I'll try to answer all of your questions.
I'm not sure about the order.
Number one, if I sound like a spokesman for the military-industrial complex, you, sir, sound like a spokesman for the arms control community.
LAUGHTER MAN: I have no connection with them.
Number one, if you have been reading Aviation Week & Space Technology, and obviously you have not LAUGHTER MAN: No, I haven't! .
you will find that close-detail examination of the MiG-25 revealed some of the things that you say, but it revealed amazing amount of ingenuity and engineering expertise on the part of the Soviet Union.
It does what it needs to do, it does it very well, and it does it in large numbers, and numbers that we don't have.
NARRATOR: And a good example of that is the Russian tank.
From the Second World War to today's models, they've evolved gradually.
They're not high technology but they work.
And, because the Russians have huge numbers of them, they are a real threat.
But that threat becomes greatly magnified when the Americans try to guesstimate how much Russian defence really costs.
American analysts ask American companies how much it would cost them to produce a tank to the specifications of the Russian models.
And they cost out each Russian serviceman as if he were paid an American salary.
That's between 17,000 and 20,000 a man.
So, they end up with a high value for the things which are cheap and plentiful in the Soviet Union - men and tanks.
They've concluded that the Soviets have been outspending them by 50% all these years, a figure that's grossly inflated.
Ironically, the Russians feel obliged to take the Americans on at their game, advanced technology, exactly the thing that places most strain on the Soviet economy.
So, both sides are locked into a spending spiral.
There is the possibility that if the Soviets have to try and match a greatly increased American defence effort, including further advances in military technology, that this could be a considerable strain on the Soviet economy.
There is, I think, a danger that some Western policymakers may see this as a way of exerting pressure on the Soviet economy, exerting pressure on Soviet society as a whole.
NARRATOR: So the arms race may be more a battle of economics than military superiority.
KOSTA TSIPIS: The Russians are a wonderful threat to have because, you know, they are very secretive, they're foolishly paranoid about it, they are inferior, and that's why they are trying to keep themselves from being found out, and that's a wonderful way to have a bogeyman for the American public to be frightened by.
So, what you see is, with the gaps and everything else, is a rather trivial application of basic psychology.
If you cannot find what I'm threatening you about, whether it's true or not, I'll use it.
So I threaten you, so you do what I want.
It's a lovely kind of technique.
It's worked so far.
Why do you expect I would stop doing it? NARRATOR: And they still ARE doing it.
President Reagan has just increased the American defence budget to 1,500 billion dollars to be spent over the next three years.
The Department of Defense.
It's the only department in our entire programme that will actually be increased over the present budgeted figure.
KOSTA TSIPIS: In this country, the United States, if you try to tell the population, "Well, you are going to starve "because we are going to build more missiles," the population will, of course, rebel.
But they cannot do that in the Soviet Union.
As a matter of fact, because they are not told what the Americans are doing, they are very much afraid of the Americans.
So the population will say, "What can we do? "We're constantly being threatened by the Americans, "therefore we have to give all our money to the military.
" It's wonderful for the military on both sides.
It's terrible for the people on both sides.
And that's what the bottom line is.