75. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 11–5–59


The Problem

To estimate Soviet capabilities and probable programs for the development of guided missiles, and the major performance characteristics and dates of operational availability of such missiles. Further, to estimate the technical capabilities of the Soviets in space including the earliest possible dates of achievement of important space ventures.

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This estimate supersedes NIE 11–5–58, “Soviet Capabilities in Guided Missiles and Space Vehicles,” dated 19 August 1958,1 “Memorandum to Holders of NIE 11–5–58,” dated 25 November 1958, and the “Advance Portion of NIE 11–5–59,” dated 8 September 1959.2 It is made on the basis of our belief that the USSR does not now intend to initiate general war deliberately and is not now preparing for general war as of any particular date. It assumes that there will be no international agreement on the control of armaments or outer space.

In view of the paucity of positive intelligence on Soviet missile and space programs, we have given considerable weight to estimated Soviet military requirements, estimated Soviet capabilities in related fields, and US guided missile experience.

For guided missiles, except where noted otherwise, the initial operational capability dates given are the years during which we estimate one or more series produced missiles could probably have been placed in the hands of trained personnel in one operational unit, thus constituting a limited capability for operational employment. For space flight activities the dates given are the earliest possible time periods by which we believe each specific objective could be achieved, although we believe it unlikely that all these objectives will be achieved within the specified time periods.

Forthcoming estimates will consider to what extent the USSR has the resources and industrial capacity to produce the missile systems described herein, together with the ancillary equipment necessary to their deployment.

Summary and Conclusions

1. Soviet programs in the development of guided missiles and in space flight have been carried forward on a wide front over the past year. As these Soviet programs and our own intelligence collection and analysis have advanced, we have acquired considerable new information on both specific developments and the extensive scientific and technical capability underlying them. In general, this information has confirmed progress along the lines indicated in previous estimates. Of the 19 Soviet missile systems estimated as probably available for operational use now or within the next two years, we have evidence on the existence of 13. The others are inferred from Soviet requirements and technical capabilities. Evidence on some systems is extensive, but for most there are serious [Page 327] deficiencies, not only in the quantity and quality of information but also in its timeliness.

Surface-to-Surface Ballistic Missiles

2. Missiles in this category which we know the USSR has developed or has under development include those with maximum ranges of about 75 nautical miles (n.m.), 200 n.m., 350 n.m., 700 n.m., 1,100 n.m., and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). These missiles probably meet high standards in reliability, accuracy, and other performance characteristics. We believe that in the development of longer range systems, maximum use has been made of proven components.

3. Mobility appears to be a basic design consideration. Systems with ranges of 700 n.m. and less are probably road mobile. The 1,100 n.m. system is probably road and/or rail mobile. The available evidence suggests that the Soviet ICBM could be rail mobile, but we do not know whether the ICBM system as a whole will consist of rail mobile units, fixed installations, or a combination of the two. In any case, the system will be heavily dependent on the Soviet rail network.

4. ICBM . During 1959 the Soviet ICBM test firing program resumed after a period of virtual inactivity in the second half of 1958. Recent firing schedules indicate that the program as a whole is proceeding in an orderly fashion rather than on a “crash” basis. We do not know that series production of ICBMs has actually begun, nor do we have evidence of operational launching facilities. However, there has been ample time for the USSR to begin turning out series produced ICBMs, as implied by Soviet claims. Evidence derived from Soviet ICBM flight tests is considered adequate to gauge the general progress of the program. We cannot state with certainty the precise timing of the initial operational capability (IOC) of a few—say, 10—series produced ICBMs. In light of all the evidence, we believe that for planning purposes it should be considered that the IOC will have occurred by 1 January 1960.

5. On the basis of correlated data from ICBM and space vehicle launchings, we believe the Soviet ICBM to be a one and one-half or parallel staged vehicle, employing liquid oxygen/kerosene propulsion, capable of delivering a 6,000 pound nuclear warhead to a range of 5,500 n.m. if employed with a heat-sink nosecone. A reduction in warhead weight would permit an increase in range; use of an ablative nosecone would permit a heavier warhead or extended range.

6. We estimate Soviet ICBM guidance at IOC date as a combination radar track/radio command/inertial system, although an all-inertial system is possible. Soviet capabilities in related components point to a theoretical accuracy (CEP) of about 3 n.m. The amount of degradation which would be introduced by operational factors is unknown, but we estimate that CEP under operational conditions would be no greater [Page 328] than 5 n.m. at IOC date and may be better, say between 3 and 5 n.m. In any event, we estimate that under operational conditions a CEP of 3 n.m. in 1963 and 2 n.m. in 1966 will be feasible.

7. Other Surface-to-Surface Ballistic Missiles. By late 1958 or early 1959, research and development work on an 1,100 n.m. missile had advanced to the point where this system was probably ready for operational use. Test firings on this and shorter range ballistic missiles have continued during 1959; [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]. Although no units or installations have yet been identified with these missiles, all systems from 75 n.m. to 1,100 n.m. are probably now in operational use. From launching sites within the USSR, 700 and 1,100 n.m. missiles could deliver 3,000 pound nuclear warheads against a large majority of critical targets in Eurasia and periphery, with CEPs of 1–2 n.m. and about 2 n.m., respectively. All-inertial guidance could probably be available now or by the end of 1960.

Air Defense Missiles

8. In the surface-to-air missile category, a new system is being added to the defenses of Soviet industrial and population centers. It probably became operational in 1957, and has been deployed extensively during at least the past year, including some units in East Germany. In contrast to the massive, immobile system which has been employed at Moscow for the past several years, the new system is flexible and employs small fire units. It can, at relatively low cost, be deployed widely for defense of large areas, smaller fixed points, and forces in the field. Both the old and new systems can effectively deliver high explosive (HE) or nuclear warheads against present Western bomber types, except at very low altitude.

9. In the absence of evidence, but considering Soviet technical capabilities and probable needs, we estimate that within the next year or two the USSR will probably have available two additional surface-to-air missile systems, one designed primarily to engage very low altitude targets, the other for long-range (on the order of 100 n.m.) engagement of targets at altitudes up to 90,000 feet. These systems will have increased kill capabilities against aircraft and cruise-type missiles. We also believe that in 1963–1966 the Soviets will have available an antiballistic missile system with undetermined capability against ICBMs, IRBMs, submarine-launched, and air-launched ballistic missiles.

10. We continue to estimate that the USSR has several types of short-range (up to 6 n.m.) air-to-air missiles with HE warheads, for employment with day and all-weather interceptors. Additional types, with longer ranges and capable of carrying nuclear warheads, will probably become available in 1960 and after.

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Air-to-Surface Missiles

11. A subsonic air-launched antiship missile, capable of delivering nuclear or HE warheads from a maximum range of 55 n.m., is now assigned to jet medium bomber units in widely separated coastal areas of the USSR. The Soviets will probably have available in about 1961 a supersonic missile which will provide medium and heavy bombers with a standoff capability of at least 350 n.m., and will be adaptable for use against land targets or ships at sea. They may now have in operation an air-launched decoy to simulate medium or heavy bombers.

Naval-Launched Missiles

12. We estimate that at least one and perhaps two types of submarine-launched missiles with nuclear warheads are operational in small numbers of modified, long-range, conventionally-powered submarines. One is a subsonic cruise-type system with a maximum range of 150–200 n.m., low altitude cruise capability, and CEP of 2–4 n.m. In addition, some submarines may have been modified to launch ballistic missiles of similar range and accuracy. Both these systems would require the submarine to surface before launching a missile. Based chiefly on Soviet requirements and capabilities, we estimate that in 1961–1963 the USSR will probably achieve a system capable of delivering ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads to a maximum range of 500–1,000 n.m. from a submerged submarine.

13. The Soviet Navy’s modernization program includes the arming of surface ships with missiles. Some destroyers are being modified and others constructed to launch subsonic cruise-type missiles, probably of 30–40 n.m. range, in lieu of main battery guns and torpedoes. It is logical to suppose that such missiles will be installed on any modified or newly constructed Soviet cruisers. Ground-launched surface-to-air missiles will probably be adapted for use by surface ships. The USSR will probably also develop missile systems for antisubmarine warfare: surface ship-launched and submarine-launched versions could probably enter service between 1962 and 1966.

Space Program

14. The probable main objectives of the Soviet space program are: to conduct scientific research, to develop military applications, to attain manned space travel, and to support Soviet propaganda and policy. The actual launching program has, like the ICBM test firing program, proceeded at a fairly deliberate pace. Its recent emphasis has been on scientific and propaganda objectives. In addition to high altitude research vehicles, the program since mid-1958 has included three space vehicles which reached the vicinity of the moon. All three lunar probes were major feats of theory and technology.

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15. Supported by high thrust propulsion systems and a wealth of scientific and technical know-how, the Soviet space effort will achieve large and increasingly refined satellites and space vehicles with scientific and perhaps military utility. Judging by the USSR’s known and estimated capabilities, and in light of the obvious Soviet desire to achieve worldwide propaganda and psychological impact, we believe that during the next 12 months or so the Soviet space program will include one or more of the following:

vertical or downrange flight and recovery of a manned capsule;
unmanned lunar satellite or soft landing on the moon;
probe to the vicinity of Mars or Venus;
orbiting and recovery of capsules containing instruments, an animal, and thereafter perhaps a man.

[Here follow the Discussion section and a series of tables, comprising 36 pages.]

  1. Source: Department of State, INRNIE Files. Top Secret. A dissemination notice, table of contents, and list of tables are not printed. A note on the cover sheet indicates the estimate was submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence. The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force; the Joint Staff; AEC; and NSA participated in its preparation. The U.S. Intelligence Board concurred on November 3. The Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation abstained because the subject was outside his jurisdiction.
  2. See Document 33.
  3. Neither printed. (Department of State, INRNIE Files) See footnote 7, Document 82.