130. Memorandum From Spurgeon Keeny of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • CIA Intelligence Report on the Status of the Anti-Missile Defense System for Moscow

Bromley Smith asked that I prepare a note for you commenting on the attached report which summarizes the current status of our knowledge of the anti-missile defense system in the Moscow area since he felt it might have considerable impact on our own military planning.

This is not a new development. Information on this system has been accumulating for several years. There has been agreement in the intelligence community for over a year and a half that it was almost certainly intended for some sort of anti-ballistic missile defense and that it was probably based on the use of relatively high-yield weapons for exoatmospheric defense. The principal new piece of information reported in the memorandum is that the Soviets are now beginning to construct missile launchers, probably for the Galosh missile, at several of the radar sites associated with this system. This move had been anticipated for several months since launchers were observed under construction at the prototype installation at the Sary Shagan anti-missile development center.

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The central question is how effective the Moscow ballistic missile defense would be against US strategic missiles in the late 1960s and early 1970s when it would presumably be fully operational. While it is impossible to give a precise answer to this question since we can only guess how the Moscow system would operate, I think it is possible to make some significant general observations on the system’s capabilities that indicate quite persuasively that by itself the Moscow system would not be particularly effective even in the defense of Moscow and would have only a small perturbation on our over-all war plans.

Physical Vulnerability. The Moscow system is extremely soft and hence highly vulnerable to a well-planned large-scale attack. It appears to depend for early warning and initial tracking on the Hen House radars located at Olenegorsk in northern Murmansk and Skrunda on the Baltic coast. Both of these radars are very soft and essentially undefended. The large Dog House radar at Moscow, which may be back-up early warning and tracking radars for the system, and the radars at the triads which probably do the final tracking of the incoming missile and the tracking of the defensive missiles are also extremely soft. Finally, the defensive missiles will fire from exposed above-ground launchers.
Penetrability. By the 1969–70 period our programmed penetration aids for Minuteman-Polaris will probably be very effective against a Moscow-type system (high altitude intercept). By dispensing chaff and decoys, each missile will present the defense with some 7 to 21 separate re-entering targets even when very high-yield warheads are employed. Hence, a very small number of our offensive missiles would probably overwhelm the system.
Fire Power. The Moscow system will not have a high rate of fire. So far, we see only some 64 missile launchers under construction. When the entire projected deployment of 8 double triads is completed (some of this is not yet really started), the total system would consist of only 128 launchers. This is very small compared to the requirements of a really effective ABM system and the Soviet threats McNamara has hypothesized in his US force level projections. For example, in his Memorandum for the President in connection with the FY-1967 budget for strategic offensive-defensive forces,2 McNamara examined a worst-possible Soviet threat in the early 70’s in connection with the decision to initiate deployment of the Poseidon missile to increase the fire power of the Polaris submarine fleet. In this analysis he assumed that the Soviets put MIRVs (multiple independent re-entry vehicles) on enough of their ICBM force to completely eliminate our Minuteman force in a pre-emptive strike. (I would note that there is no evidence that the Soviets have [Page 404] done anything leading towards a MIRV capability.) McNamara also assumed that our penetration aids programs would all fail catastrophically and that aircraft would be unable to inflict any damage on the Soviet Union because of SAM defenses. He then assumed that the Soviets would deploy 4,500 exoatmospheric ABM interceptors which could effectively engage 3,000 separate incoming targets. Even in the face of this concatenation of extreme threat assumptions, he concluded that with the added fire power of Poseidon we would still be able to approximate the amount of damage required to meet his criteria of assured destruction.

Although it is not discussed in the attached document, the big area of disagreement about Soviet ABM capabilities in the intelligence community is over the functional identity of the so-called Leningrad-Tallinn system which has been suspected, particularly by DIA, as being a possible ABM system. This system is now being deployed at a number of locations from the Baltic to the Urals. CIA is now almost certain that this system is in reality a long-range air defense system to supplement or replace the SA–2 system. DIA is now in the process of reevaluating their position on this system. I agree with CIA.

In summary, there is nothing particularly new in the attached report. Although we are beginning to accumulate details that may indicate how the Soviet system actually works, we are fundamentally in the same position concerning Soviet capabilities and intentions in this area that we have been in for the last year or two. There is no question that the Soviets are interested in ABMs and are undertaking at least a limited deployment at Moscow. We have not, however, seen real evidence of a massive national deployment or of a really effective system at Moscow by the standards we are now considering.

In line with Bromley’s concern, I believe that this information will not have any special impact on the DOD since they have already assumed much worse threats in their military planning. I also do not believe the information on the Moscow system will have any special impact on Congress since McNamara has already briefed the Congress on an estimated Soviet ABM threat that is, if anything, more extensive than the current facts indicate. (See attached extract from McNamara’s classified testimony.)3 I would emphasize that the above views are my own. They are based on what I think we have seen and not what the Soviets might do in the future. There is no agreed-upon or disagreed-upon net evaluation within the US Government of the effectiveness of the Soviet ABM system and our ability to penetrate it. To correct this situation, [Page 405] Bob McNamara has just (May 21) directed Johnny Foster (DDR&E) to prepare such a study,4 working with the Services and cooperating with CIA and Don Hornig’s office. Although the organization of the study has not yet been worked out, Don Hornig and I together with some of our consultants, who are extremely well informed on this subject, will be involved in the review of the study. The study is now tentatively scheduled for completion on August 1, 1966.




USSR Pushing Ahead With Antimissile Defenses for Moscow


The Soviets are pushing ahead with deployment of antimissile defenses. Probable launch positions now are being constructed at one of the four ABM electronic sites which form an arc to the north and west of Moscow. The missile has not yet been identified. While there is no evidence of deployment elsewhere, the Soviets can be expected to extend ABM defenses to the same areas where the extensive deployment of new long-range surface-to-air missile defenses is under way.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, TKH Jan.–July 1966, Box 1. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]. An attached undated note from Bromley Smith to Rostow notes that this statement on Soviet ABMs also affected the ACDA proposal Rostow had spoken about that morning. Smith added that the President’s attention should be directed to this data during the preparation of the military budget.
  2. For a draft, see Document 103.
  3. Not printed; the excerpt is from McNamara’s testimony on February 7 before the House Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations on the FY 1967–1971 Defense program and the FY 1967 Defense budget.
  4. In this memorandum McNamara asked Foster to work with other Service Secretaries, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the President’s Science Adviser in preparing an “authoritative report” on “the character, geographical deployment, and potential effectiveness, by year for each of the next five years, of the Soviet anti-ballistic missile system” and “the capabilities of each of our major ballistic missile systems to penetrate the Soviet anti-ballistic missile system, by year for each of the next five years, and the level of confidence we can attach to these capability estimates.” (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 70 A 4662, 471.94 Penetration 1966)
  5. Prepared by the Office of Current Intelligence and coordinated with OSI, OPR, and ONE. [Footnote in the source text.]