45. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 11-8/1-61

STRENGTH AND DEPLOYMENT OF SOVIET LONG RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILE FORCES1

The Problem

To estimate current Soviet operational strength in ICBM’s and other ground-launched ballistic missiles with ranges of 700 n.m. or more, to identify present areas and methods of deployment, and to estimate the probable trends in strength and deployment over the next few years.

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Conclusions

1. New information, providing a much firmer base for estimates on Soviet long range ballistic missiles, has caused a sharp downward revision in our estimate of present Soviet ICBM strength but strongly supports our estimate of medium range missile strength.

2. We now estimate that the present Soviet ICBM strength is in the range of 10-25 launchers from which missiles can be fired against the US, and that this force level will not increase markedly during the months immediately ahead.2 We also estimate that the USSR now has about 250-300 operational launchers equipped with 700 and 1,100 n.m. ballistic missiles. The bulk of these MRBM launchers are in western USSR, within range of NATO targets in Europe; others are in southern USSR and in the Soviet Far East. ICBM and MRBM launchers probably have sufficient missiles to provide a reload capability and to fire additional missiles after a period of some hours, assuming that the launching facilities are not damaged by accident or attack.

3. The low present and near-term ICBM force level probably results chiefly from a Soviet decision to deploy only a small force of the cumbersome, first generation ICBMs, and to press the development of a smaller, second generation system. Under emergency conditions the existing force could be supplemented somewhat during the first half of 1962, but Soviet ICBM strength will probably not increase substantially until the new missile is ready for operational use, probably sometime in the latter half of 1962. After this point, we anticipate that the number of operational launchers will begin to increase significantly. On this basis, we estimate that the force level in mid-1963 will approximate 75-125 operational ICBM launchers.3

4. In addition to 700 and 1,100 n.m. missiles now available, the USSR will probably have a 2,000 n.m. system ready for operational use late this year or early next year. The USSR’s combined strength in these missile categories will probably reach 350-450 operational launchers in the 1962-1963 period, and then level off.

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5. Soviet professions of greatly enhanced striking power thus derive primarily from a massive capability to attack European and other peripheral targets. Although Soviet propaganda has assiduously cultivated an image of great ICBM strength, the bulk of the USSR’s present capability to attack the US is in bombers and submarine-launched missiles rather than in a large ICBM force. While the present ICBM force poses a grave threat to a number of US urban areas, it represents only a limited threat to US-based nuclear striking forces.4

Discussion

6. The requirement to revise our estimates on Soviet long range ballistic missile forces stems from significant recent evidence [1 line of source text not declassified] 1961 activities at the Soviet ICBM and space vehicle test range has provided information on the new types of ballistic vehicles now being developed and on the pace and progress of the developments programs. [1 line of source text not declassified] the first positive identification of long range ballistic missile deployment complexes, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] excellent guidance as to Soviet deployment methods. [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]useful evidence on the general status and organization of long range missile forces. Therefore, although significant gaps continue to exist and some of the available information is still open to alternate interpretations, the present estimate stands on firmer ground than any previous estimate on this critical subject.

[Here follows discussion of Soviet missile tests and ICBM deployment.]

Adequacy of Recent Intelligence Coverage

19. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]since mid-1960, our coverage of suspected deployment areas in the USSR has been substantially augmented. [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] Soviet missile test range installations, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] are now known to bear a close resemblance to deployment sites in the field. On the basis of this activity, combined with other information and analysis, we now estimate that we have good intelligence coverage of [7 lines of source text not declassified] more than 50 percent of those portions of the USSR within which ICBM deployment is most likely.5

20. Of the five confirmed or possible ICBM complexes [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Yur’ya, Plesetsk, and Verkhnyaya Salda were previously suspected [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]. We previously [Page 134]had not suspected Yoshkar-Ola or Kostroma. [5 lines of source text not declassified]

21. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]many previously suspected areas did not contain ICBM complexes as of the summer of 1961. Four areas [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]remain under active consideration as suspected locations of ICBM deployment activity (see Figure 9).6 Past experience indicates that some or all of the areas now under active consideration may prove to be negative, and conversely, that deployment activity may now be under way in other unsuspected areas. [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

Probable ICBM Force Levels7

22. We believe that our coverage of both test range activities and potential deployment areas is adequate to support the judgment that at present there are only a few ICBM complexes operational or under construction. While there are differences within the intelligence community as to the progress of the Soviet program to date and the precise composition of the current force, we estimate that the present Soviet ICBM capability is in the range of 10-25 launchers from which missiles can be fired against the US. The low side of this range allows for the possibility that the Soviets could now fire only a token ICBM salvo from a few launchers, located at the Tyuratam rangehead and an operational complex, perhaps Plesetsk. The high side, however, takes into account the limitations of our coverage and allows for the existence of a few other complexes equipped with first generation missiles, now operational but undetected.

23. The Soviet system is probably designed to have a refire capability from each launcher. The USSR may therefore be able to fire a second salvo some hours after the first, assuming that the launching facilities are not damaged by accident or attack.

24. The reasons for the small current capability are important to an estimate of the future Soviet buildup. The first generation system, designed at an early stage of Soviet nuclear and missile technology, proved to be powerful and reliable but was probably too cumbersome to be deployed on a large scale. One or more first generation sites may have been started but cancelled. [3 lines of source text not declassified]The urgent development of at least one second generation system probably began in about 1958, and an intensive firing program is now underway concurrent with the construction of simplified deployment complexes. We therefore believe that in about 1958 the Soviet leaders decided to deploy [Page 135]only a small force of first generation ICBMs while pressing toward second generation systems.

25. The net effect of this Soviet decision, together with whatever slippage is occurring in the development of second generation systems, has been to produce a low plateau of ICBM strength. Under emergency conditions the existing force could be supplemented during the first half of 1962 by putting some second generation ICBMs on launcher at one or two completed complexes before the weapon system has been thoroughly tested. However, the Soviets could not have very much confidence in the reliability, accuracy and effectiveness of such a force. In any event, operational ICBM strength will probably not increase substantially until the new missile has been proved satisfactory for operational use, probably some time in the latter half of 1962. Alternatively, the possibility cannot be excluded that second generation ICBMs could be proved satisfactory for operational use somewhat earlier in 1962, possibly as soon as the first simplified complex is completed. After this point, we anticipate that the number of operational launchers will begin to increase significantly.

26. We continue to believe, for the many reasons adduced in NIE 11-8-61, that the Soviet leaders have desired a force of several hundred operational ICBM launchers, to be acquired as soon as practicable over the next few years. In addition to the complexes known to be under construction, it is probable that work is under way on other undiscovered complexes and that the construction of still others is scheduled to begin soon. Taking account of this probability, together with our present intelligence coverage and our information on site activation lead-time, we estimate that the force level in mid-1963 will approximate 75-125 operational ICBM launchers. The high side of this range allows for eight complexes of eight launchers each under construction at the present time, with four more scheduled to begin by the end of the year; it would require site activation time to decrease to about 18 months by the end of the year; it builds from a present force level of about 25 operational launchers. The low side of the mid-1963 range would be achieved if six complexes were now under construction, two more were begun by the end of the year, and the present force level were only about 10 launchers.

27. As noted in NIE 11-8-61, Soviet force goals for the period to 1966 will be increasingly affected by developments in US and Soviet military technology, including the multiplication of hardened US missile sites, the possible advent of more advanced Soviet missiles which can better be protected, and by developments in both antimissile defenses and space weapons. The international political situation will also affect Soviet force goals, and there is a good chance that the Soviet leaders themselves have not yet come to a definite decision. We have not been able as yet to review, in the light of the new evidence, these and other considerations pertaining [Page 136]to the probable future pace of the Soviet ICBM program. Therefore we are unable to project a numerical estimate beyond mid-1963. Considering the problems involved in site activation, however, we believe that a rate of 100 or possibly even 150 launchers per year beginning in about 1963 would be feasible. To accomplish such a schedule, the USSR would have to lay on a major program of site construction within the next year, which we believe would be detected [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified].

Medium and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles

28. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]confirms the large-scale deployment of 700 and 1,100 n.m. ballistic missiles in western USSR. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] approximately 50 fixed sites with a total of about 200 pads suitable for launching these MRBMs have been firmly identified in a wide belt stretching from the Baltic to the southern Ukraine. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] we are virtually certain that there are about 10 additional sites [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Taking account of indicators pointing to still other locations [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] we estimate with high confidence that in the western belt alone there are now about 75 sites with a total of about 300 launch pads, completed or under construction. (For known and estimated site locations in this area, see Figure 9.)

29. The new information does not establish whether individual sites are fully operational, nor does it reveal which type of missile each is to employ. [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]approximately three-quarters of the identified sites appeared to be complete or nearly so, some were under construction, and the evidence on others is ambiguous. Construction has probably been completed at some sites [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] the installation of support equipment and missiles could probably be accomplished relatively quickly thereafter, perhaps in a period of some weeks. Three basic site configurations have been observed, all of them bearing a strong resemblance to launch areas at the Kapustin Yar rangehead (see Figure 8).8 Any of the three types could employ either 700 or 1,100 n.m. missiles, whose size and truck-mounted support equipment are virtually identical. The sites could not employ ICBMs, but one type might be intended for the 2,000 n.m. IRBM which has been under development at Kapustin Yar.

30. On the basis of the new evidence and a wealth of other material on development, production, training and deployment, we estimate that in the western belt alone the USSR now has about 200-250 operational launchers equipped with 700 and 1,1000 n.m. ballistic missiles, together [Page 137]with the necessary supporting equipment and trained personnel. From these launchers, missiles could be directed against NATO targets from Norway to Turkey. On less firm but consistent evidence, about 50 additional launchers are believed to be operational in other areas: in the Transcaucasus and Turkestan, from which they could attack Middle Eastern targets from Suez to Pakistan; and in the southern portion of the Soviet Far East within range of Japan, Korea, and Okinawa. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] the presence of some sites in Turkestan and in the Soviet Far East, north of Vladivostok.

31. On this basis, we estimate that the USSR now has a total of about 250-300 operational launchers equipped with medium range ballistic missiles, the bulk of them within range of NATO targets in Europe. This is essentially the same numerical estimate as given in NIE 11-8-61, but it is now made with greater assurance.

32. Contrary to our previous view that MRBMs were deployed in mobile units, we now know that even though their support equipment is truck-mounted, most if not all MRBM units employ fixed sites. Like the ICBM complexes, these are soft, screened from ground observation by their placement in wooded areas, and protected against air attack by surface-to-air missile sites in the vicinity. The systems are probably designed so that all ready missiles at a site can be salvoed within a few minutes of each other. Two additional missiles are probably available for each launcher; a second salvo could probably be launched about 4-6 hours after the first. There is some evidence that after one or two salvos the units are to move from their fixed sites to reserve positions. Their mobility could thus be used for their immediate protection, or they could move to new launch points to support field forces in subsequent phases of a war.

33. The Soviet planners apparently see a larger total requirement for MRBMs and IRBMs than we had supposed. While the rate of deployment activity in the western belt is probably tapering off after a vigorous three-year program, some sites of all three basic types are still under construction. There will therefore be at least some increase in force levels in the coming months. The magnitude of the buildup thereafter will depend largely on the degree to which the 2,000 n.m. system is deployed, and whether or not it will supplement or replace medium range missiles.

34. With the advent of the 2,000 n.m. IRBM, probably in late 1961 or early 1962, the Soviets will acquire new ballistic missile capabilities against such areas as Spain, North Africa, and Taiwan. To this extent at least, they probably wish to supplement their present strength. They may also wish to deploy IRBMs and MRBMs to more northerly areas within range of targets in Greenland and Alaska. Moreover, evidence from clandestine sources indicates that the Soviet field forces are exerting pressure to acquire missiles of these ranges. In general, however, we [Page 138]believe that the future MRBM/IRBM program will emphasize changes in the mix among the existing systems, and later the introduction of second generation systems, rather than sheer numerical expansion. Taking these factors into account, we estimate that the USSR will achieve 350-450 operational MRBM and IRBM launchers sometime in the 1962-1963 period, and that the force level will be relatively stable thereafter.

[Here follow 11 pages of tables, illustrations, maps, and charts.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency Files, Job 79-R01012A, ODDI Registry. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]. A note on the cover sheet indicates that the estimate was submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence and prepared by the CIA and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, Defense, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, the Joint Staff, the National Security Agency, and the Atomic Energy Commission. The members of the U.S. Intelligence Board concurred, except the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who abstained because the subject was outside his jurisdiction. For complete text of NIE 11-8/1-61, see the Supplement.
  2. NIE 11-8/1-61 revises and updates the estimates on this subject which were made in NIE 11-8-61: “Soviet Capabilities for Long Range Attack”, Top Secret, 7 June 1961. [2 lines of source text not declassified] The new estimate is issued [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] so that the reader can fully appreciate the quantity and quality of information on which it is based.

    A brief summary of this estimate, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], will be included in the forthcoming NIE 11-4-61: “Main Trends in Soviet Capabilities and Policies, 1961-1966”, now scheduled for completion in December 1961. In that estimate, the treatment of ground launched missiles will be incorporated into a summary of the entire Soviet long-range attack capability, including bombers, air-to-surface missiles, and submarine-launched missiles. For our current estimates on these latter elements of the long range striking force, see NIE 11-4-61, Annex A: “Soviet Military Forces and Capabilities”, 24 August 1961, Top Secret, paragraphs 16-23. [Footnote in the source text.]

  3. The Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, does not concur in this sentence. See his footnote following the Conclusions. [Footnote in the source text. The footnote with the position of Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, is not printed. His position was that the Soviets had about 50 operational ICBM launchers in mid-1961 and would have about 100 in mid-1962 and about 250 in mid-1963. The early availability and high performance record of the first generation ICBM launchers indicated that by mid-1961 “substantial” numbers had been deployed, and he believed that the deployed force constituted a “serious threat to US-based nuclear striking forces.” He believed that the Soviets would continue to deploy first generation missiles until the second generation missiles became available.]
  4. The Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, does not concur in paragraph 3. See his footnote following the Conclusions. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. The Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, does not concur in paragraph 3 and the last sentence of paragraph 5. See his footnote following the Conclusions. [Footnote in the source text.]
  6. [Footnote in the source text (5-1/2 lines) not declassified]
  7. Not printed.
  8. The Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, does not concur in the estimate of ICBM force levels. For his position, see his footnote following the Conclusions. [Footnote in the source text. See footnote 3 above.]
  9. Not printed.