10 Cold War Weapons That Terrified U.S. Military Intelligence


When US-Soviet relationships were at their frostiest in the 1980s, there was no telling what sort of exotic threat was about to come roaring through Russia’s Iron Curtain. That’s where the Defense Intelligence Agency came in.

This low-profile intelligence agency—the DoD’s answer the the CIA—worked around the clock to discover emerging Soviet military menaces and report them to Washington. Because of the Top Secret nature of these subjects, the agency employed a team of artists to create highly accurate renderings of each threat, for use in policy briefings and DIA publications like Soviet Military Power. These subjects were so top secret that the renderings themselves were considered classified material.

Between 1965 and 1989, DIA’s artists created more than 1000 paintings and drawings of Soviet threats—now known as the DIA Military Art Collection. Here are ten of the most intimidating weapons we thought the Soviets were developing.

10 Cold War Weapons That Terrified U.S. Military Intelligence

Soviet Space-Based Strategic Defenses by Ronald C. Wittmann, 1987

Just because the Soviets were publicly opposed to President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, aka “Star Wars,” doesn’t mean they weren’t feverishly working on their own version. The Soviet Space-Based Strategic Defenses were part of a unified land, air, and space-based shield against Moscow-bound ballistic missiles

10 Cold War Weapons That Terrified U.S. Military Intelligence

Space Particle Beam by Ronald C. Wittmann, 1987

Rather than try to hit a tiny satellite zooming thousands of miles an hour miles overhead with a ground-based laser, why not just send up another satellite to shoot it out of the sky? The Soviets explored the idea of hunter-killer satellites armed with particle-beam, kinetic, and laser-based weaponry throughout the 1980s. None of the technologies were ever launched, though.

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