The Deputy Under Secretary of State (Matthews) to the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Foreign Military Affairs and Military Assistance (Burns)


My Dear General Burns: The negotiations between the United States and the Government of Saudi Arabia on Military Assistance and Dhahran Air Field were initiated by our Ambassador, Raymond A. Hare, on December 14, 1950.1 Early in the conversations it developed [Page 1043] that King Ibn Saud and Prince Mansour, the Saudi Arabian Minister of Defense, are determined to have a combat air force and training “regardless of difficulty or cost”. They noted particularly the absence of fighter or bomber aircraft in the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and expressed keen desire to have combat aircraft, especially fighters, included.

Prior to the opening of negotiations, the Saudi Arabian Government entertained serious thoughts of obtaining these requirements from the United Kingdom. The latter was disposed to approve, in view of the strength of Saudi insistence, of the sale of a dozen or so obsolescent fighters. Following the initiation of our negotiations on military assistance, however, the Saudi Arabian Government indicated its preference for inclusion of combat planes in the United States program.

Ambassador Hare informed the Saudi Arabian Government that he would refer this question to Washington for consideration. It is recalled that Secretary of Defense Johnson stated in his letter of August 11, 1950,2 transmitting the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to this Department, that the recommendations could be modified upward if expedient to do so. Approval by the Joints Chiefs of Staff of a small number of fighters might be expected to improve the possibility of reaching a satisfactory agreement on Dhahran Air Field. This Department has no objection on a policy basis to a small fighter force for legitimate defense purposes, and refers the matter accordingly to you for consideration by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Presumably approval of such a force would for some years be a matter of principle only since there are no Saudi pilots and their training would require some time.

Prince Mansour has also expressed his desire for inclusion in the Military Assistance Program of permanent base shop facilities for maintenance purposes in addition to the mobile shop facilities provided for in the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommendations.

A third request by His Royal Highness, which is referred to you without comment, is that the ammunition allowance be increased to provide a five-year reserve.

A final important factor for which the Saudi Arabian Government argues very strongly in the negotiations is the need for over-all military training, which is requested for a specified period of time. By over-all training the Saudi Arabs have made it clear that they want not only training in the use of new military equipment, but also complete reorganization of the Saudi Arabian defense forces with training in all phases of military activity. The Saudis stress training as a principal stipulation in discussing the terms of an agreement on military assistance, and they closely associate the period during which training should be given with the life of the proposed Dhahran Air [Page 1044] Field Agreement. It would, therefore, be very helpful to Ambassador Hare in his conduct of the negotiations, if not essential to his success, if a commitment could be made regarding both the extent and duration of military training that might be offered.

It would be appreciated if you would request early consideration by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the above points raised by the Saudi Arabian Minister of Defense.3

Sincerely yours,

H. Freeman Matthews
  1. See telegram 400 from Jidda, December 24, 1950, in Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, p. 1197.
  2. Not printed, but see the editorial note, Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, p. 1184.
  3. The Secretary of Defense replied on April 4; see p. 1049.