Signals Intelligence in The Cold War - Strategic SIGINT Targeting of The USSR

Strategic SIGINT Targeting of The USSR

In the fifties, only aircraft platforms could obtain SIGINT over the USSR. A Soviet source pointed out that aircraft were of limited usefulness, due to being vulnerable to fighters and antiaircraft weapons. (Translator's estimate: in the period 1950-1969, about 15 US and NATO reconnaissance aircraft were shot down over the USSR, China, the GDR and Cuba). The US, therefore, undertook the WS-117L reconnaissance satellite project, approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954, within which was a signal intercept subsystem under Project PIONEER FERRET. By 1959, WS-117L had split into three programs:

  1. Discoverer, the unclassified name for the CORONA IMINT satellite
  2. Satellite and Missile Observation System (SAMOS) (IMINT)
  3. Missile Defense Alarm System (MIDAS), a nonimaging staring infrared MASINT system

The first experimental ELINT package would fly aboard a photoreconnaissance satellite, Discoverer-13, in August 1960. Translated from the Russian, it was equipped with "Scotop equipment was intended to record the signals of Soviet radars which were tracking the flight of American space objects."

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