252. Special National Intelligence Estimate1

SNIE 11–6–60
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To estimate the strength of the armed forces of the USSR as of 1 January 1960.


1. On 14 January 1960, Khrushchev declared that the personnel strength of the Soviet armed forces was 3,623,000. We have thoroughly reviewed the evidence available to us, and we conclude that Khrushchev’s statement was substantially correct.

2. In a number of instances it is impossible to be confident as to the subordination of elements of the Soviet armed forces. Accordingly, we have presented the estimates in categories corresponding generally to the primary missions or functions which the various elements perform. In this connection, it ought to be noted that the part played by civilians in the Soviet military organization is considerable, especially in research and development, in construction, and in various other support functions.

3. The following paragraphs give estimated strength figures, with explanatory comments. They are followed by a table which presents the same figures in summary form. The evidence is, however, insufficient to establish the precise accuracy of any of these figures.


4. Headquarters. The Ministry of Defense—including the General Staff and the Main Staffs of the Ground Forces, Air Forces, Air Defense Forces, and Navy, other staffs and directorates, and military missions abroad—probably comprises about 25,000 military personnel on active duty, as well as an undetermined number of civilians.

5. Research and Development. Military scientific research and development in the USSR is conducted largely by civilians. In addition, we estimate that there are about 35,000 active duty military personnel in research and development, primarily subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. These include principally the personnel at missile test ranges, and in electronics, nuclear development, and aviation technology. These are not the only military men in R&D and allied functions, such [Typeset Page 1053] as ordnance development, weapons proving, submarine development, etc., but these latter groups we consider to be counted under other headings in this estimate.

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6. Draft Boards. We estimate on the order of 10,000 active duty military personnel serving on local draft boards, and as military instructors at civilian schools and clubs.


7. Ground Forces, Field. Based on identification over the last two or three years, and information on strength levels, in particular of line divisions, we now believe that the Soviet ground forces include:

About 100 combat ready line divisions, at high level (averaging about two-thirds) strength.

About 70 line divisions at low level (averaging about one-third) strength, and requiring replenishment with reserves before combat.

Of the 100 combat ready divisions, we estimate there are 57 motorized rifle/mechanized, 13 rifle, 22 tank, and 8 airborne divisions. Most of the low strength units are rifle divisions, but also in this category are 2 tank, 2 airborne, and 21 motorized rifle/mechanized divisions. The total strength of line divisions is estimated to be about 1,275,000 men.

8. Our estimate of strengths of combat support forces and service support units rests on less certain and less comprehensive information; it is based on known Soviet organization and the requirements of the line divisional force. The combat support forces consist of about 550,000 men organized into some 16 artillery divisions, a substantial number of separate artillery, antiaircraft artillery, antitank and rocket artillery brigades and regiments, as well as other combat support units. Headquarters, service support units, and certain schools account for about 425,000. The ratio of support to line units is austere, with only a little over 25 percent in combat support and about 20 percent in the logistic and administrative tail.

9. Tactical Aviation. The operating and support personnel of Tactical Aviation, exclusive of air transport, is believed to be in the neighborhood of 195,000 men. This and other estimates of the personnel strengths of the operational military air components are based on the estimated aircraft Order of Battle, on a detailed calculation of field support requirements, and on some information concerning the actual Soviet support establishment.


10. Antiaircraft Artillery. The estimate of Air Defense Forces is complicated by the circumstance that a substantial shift from antiaircraft artillery guns to surface-to-air missiles is in process, and that the subordination of the various AAA units which have been [Typeset Page 1054] located is usually not known. Altogether the antiaircraft gun units of the PVO Strany, those guarding air bases, and those protecting key coastal areas and under naval control, probably total about 100,000 men. Additional AAA units are with the field ground forces and are counted with them, although they also contribute to the overall air defense capability of the country. We estimate that as of 1 January 1960 there were at least 60,000 men in surface-to-air missile systems, including men in training.

11. Fighter Aviation of Air Defense. The estimate for Fighter Aviation of Air Defense (125,000 men) is calculated from the estimated aircraft Order of Battle, exclusive of transport aircraft.

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12. Warning and Control. The estimate of 80,000 personnel, from all service branches, for the warning and control system rests on a calculated manning level which we believe appropriate to meet observed standards of operation for Soviet radars.


13. Long Range Aviation. Based on the estimated aircraft Order of Battle of this force, not including its transport aviation, the operation and support of Long Range Aviation probably requires about 70,000 men.

14. Surface-to-Surface Missiles. The organization, subordination, and manning levels of Soviet long range (700 n.m. and above) missile systems are uncertain. The personnel required to operate these systems on 1 January 1960 was probably no more than 10,000 men. Adding a substantial number for training, we estimate that as of 1 January in all about 15,000 men were serving in the long range missile systems.


15. The personnel strength of the Forces Afloat is estimated, partly on the basis of information and partly on the basis of Western standards for manning of fleet units, to total about 185,000 men. The number for Ashore Support can only be inferred; we have assumed that the Soviet requirement is for a ratio of one man ashore to each man afloat. Of the Ashore Support strength, 10,000 men are counted in the Ministry of Defense category; the figure carried here is therefore 175,000. We do not know how many, if any, men in training are not in billets afloat or ashore; we estimate that 40,000 men should be counted above the ship and shore total.

16. Naval Aviation. We estimate this force to have about 80,000 men in operational units. This estimate is based on a calculation of manning levels comparable to those of the other air forces, but with account of the fact that the great majority of naval air stations are co-located with or near other naval base installations, and obtain a large portion of their support from the general shore support establishment.

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17. Coastal Defense. There is little evidence concerning the size of coastal artillery; our estimate is about 15,000 men. As earlier noted, antiaircraft artillery for defense of key naval bases and coastal areas is included in our total for antiaircraft artillery. Naval personnel also participate in the overall air defense warning and control system.


18. The overall Soviet military air transport is estimated on the basis of calculations from the aircraft Order of Battle to total about 55,000 men. The assignments of transport units from Military Transport Aviation are indicated in the Table.


19. In addition to the more than half-million men in the five operational air forces, there is a substantial preoperational training establishment. In light of the probable requirements of the Soviet Air Forces, we estimate the strength of these training facilities at about 110,000 men. [Facsimile Page 4] A substantial part of the ground crews and general support personnel probably receive their initial training in courses conducted within the operational field establishment.


20. The strength of the Border Troops of the KGB can be estimated with some assurance; including customs guards, about 5,000 maritime security men, and support personnel, they total about 150,000 men. The strength of the Internal Troops is much more uncertain, but one division and a number of small independent “regiments” (of about 800 men each) have been identified, and there is evidence of many personnel guarding bridges and other installations. In all, we estimate the internal troops to total about 75,000 men. In addition, there are about 15,000 men in special Signal Troop Regiments of the KGB, and on the order of 10,000 men in the Convoy Troops, who guard prisoners in transit and in detention.


21. There are a substantial but unknown number of civilians working for the Soviet military establishment. The major part of scientific research and development with military uses is conducted by the Academy of Sciences, by the State Committees for Defense Technology, Aviation Technology, Scientific-Technical matters, Radio-Electronics, and Shipbuilding, and by the Ministry of Medium Machine Building (nuclear weapons development and production). Moreover, there is evidence that some functions previously conducted by military personnel have in the course of reductions in recent years come increasingly to be filled by civilian employees, particularly in construction activity and other aspects of logistics.

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Ministry of Defense 70,000
Headquarters 25,000
Research and Development 35,000
Draft Boards 10,000
Theater Field Forces 2,445,000
Ground Forces, Field 2,250,000
Tactical Aviation 195,000
Air Defense Forces 365,000
Surface-to-Air Missiles 60,000
Antiaircraft Artillery (Gun) 100,000
Fighter Aviation of Air Defense 125,000
Warning and Control 80,000
Long Range Attack Forces 85,000
Long Range Aviation 70,000
Surface-to-Surface Missiles (SS–4, 5, and 6) 15,000
Naval Forces (excluding personnel counted elsewhere) 495,000
Forces Afloat 185,000
Ashore Support 175,000
Training 40,000
Naval Aviation 80,000
Coastal Defense 15,000
Military Transport Aviation 55,000
Central Subordination 5,000
Aviation of Airborne Troops 20,000
Tactical Aviation Transport Units 20,000
Air Defense Transport Units 5,000
Long Range Aviation Transport Units 5,000
Preoperational Aviation Training (for all aviation components) 110,000 110,000
TOTAL 3,625,000
Security Forces (not included in Total) 250,000
Border Troops 150,000
Internal Troops 100,000
  1. Source: “Strength of the Armed Forces of the USSR.” Secret. 7 pp. DOS, INRNIE Files.