146. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 11–3–66


The Problem

To estimate the strength and capabilities of Soviet strategic air and missile defense forces through mid-1968, and general trends in these forces through 1976.


The Soviet leaders give a higher priority to strategic defenses than does the US; they allocate about equal resources to their strategic attack and their strategic defense forces. The Soviet object in building their strategic defenses is to contribute to deterrence and to foreign policy support, and to limit the damage the US could inflict on the USSR. The Soviets will continue to emphasize strategic defense throughout the next 10 years, and will pursue their efforts to meet the changing US threat. They will seek, through both offensive and defensive programs, to improve their strategic position relative to that of the US. (Paras. l-5)
The Soviets have steadily improved their strategic defenses against aerodynamic vehicles over the last decade, by upgrading their air surveillance system and by developing and deploying both manned interceptors and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems. Through these systems they have achieved a formidable capability against subsonic and low-supersonic aircraft attempting to penetrate at medium and high altitudes to principal target areas. Current systems are progressively less effective against higher performance aircraft, standoff weapons, and low-altitude penetrations. At present, Soviet strategic air defenses have virtually no effectiveness at altitudes below about 1,000 feet.2 (Paras. 10–16, 20–22, 29–32)
The Soviets will be deploying over the next few years improved air surveillance radars, air defense communications and control systems, and defensive weapon systems with capabilities against aero-dynamic vehicles. They are now deploying an interceptor with improved low-altitude capabilities. We believe they will also deploy new interceptors with a better capability to defend against standoff weapons and higher performance aircraft. Although we think the Soviets will continue to work on the problem of defense against penetrations below 1,000 feet, we do not expect any system with such capabilities to be operational before about 1970. (Paras. 17–19, 23–28, 38)
Since 1964 the Soviets have been constructing complexes for a new missile system for strategic defense, which we call the Tallinn system. There are now probably 20–25 complexes (each with multiple launch sites) under construction. We believe all of these will become operational in 1967 and 1968. The deployment concept appears to include both forward defense on likely approaches to the industrial region of European USSR and local defense of selected targets. We believe that the rate at which new complexes have been started has increased in the past year or so, and that this system will be widely deployed throughout the USSR. (Paras. 33–34, 37)
The information available at present is insufficient for us to estimate with high confidence the capabilities and mission of the Tallinn system. Such evidence as we have leads us to believe that the system has significant capabilities against high-speed aerodynamic vehicles flying at high altitude and that its mission is defense against the airborne threat.3 Depending on the characteristics of some components, however, the system could have capabilities against ballistic missiles. We have therefore assessed the potential of the Tallinn system in both the SAM and antiballistic missile (ABM) roles. (Para. 35)
In the SAM role, we believe the Tallinn system represents a considerable improvement over currently operational Soviet SAMs in terms of range (on the order of 100 n.m.), altitude (up to 100,000 feet), and ability to deal with supersonic targets (up to Mach 3 or 3.5). We [Page 448] do not believe it is the Soviet answer to the low-altitude threat. If the system was designed as an ABM, then data would have to be fed to the complexes from off-site radars in order for them to defend areas large enough to provide a strategic ABM defense. Some of the Tallinn complexes are in locations where they could take advantage of such data from known radars of appropriate types, but some are not. With such data, the Tallinn complexes may be capable of exoatmospheric intercept of incoming ballistic missiles at distances out to about 200 n.m., and thus each complex could defend a fairly large area. Without such data, the ABM capabilities of each complex would be seriously reduced and limited to local and self-defense. (Paras. 36, 51)
After an intensive ABM research and development program, the Soviets decided at least five years ago to deploy an ABM system at Moscow. This system (which we call the Moscow system) will achieve an initial capability in the next year or two, and all sites now under construction will be completed by about 1970. We believe that it is a long-range exoatmospheric system with a large kill radius, and that the primary purpose of its present deployment is the defense of Moscow. (Paras. 39, 43–47)
The Moscow ABM system probably will have a good capability against a numerically limited attack by currently operational US missiles. Its capabilities could be degraded by advanced penetration systems, and it could not cope with a very heavy attack. Furthermore, the system utilizes data from large radars for it to function most effectively. Without these radars, the capabilities of the system would be seriously reduced, though if the launch sites were designed to operate autonomously, the system could still intercept some missiles targeted against Moscow. The present deployment will cover only a part of the Polaris threat to Moscow. (Paras. 48–50)
We cannot now identify any wholly new ABM system in development and we do not expect any to become operational before the early 1970’s. In view of the presently limited capabilities of the ABM defenses now under construction, we believe the Soviets will devote substantial efforts to upgrading their present hardware, developing improved ABM systems, and improving their detection and tracking capabilities. The Soviets might decide that ABM defenses for the general defense of the USSR are too costly. We think it likely, however, that they will extend their ABM defenses. But we think they will be cautious about committing themselves to a fixed policy with respect to ABM deployment over the long term. They will probably adjust whatever program they pursue on the basis of a number of factors, including the capabilities of present defenses to deal with penetration aids, the advances in ABM technology, the cost of additional deployment relative [Page 449] to the protection it is likely to afford, and the US reaction to Soviet strategic developments.4 (Paras. 52, 55–60)
In the course of their ABM program, the Soviets have developed large radars which have good capabilities for tracking ballistic missiles and space vehicles. A number of radars of this type, now under construction, will become operational in 1967–1968. Although they do not all have the same functions, we believe that in the aggregate they will provide the USSR with a national space surveillance capability. Within the next 5 to 10 years the Soviets will probably develop and employ a variety of space systems (such as infrared detection and other types of warning) in support of their strategic defensive forces. (Paras. 40–42, 53–54, 62–63)
We have no positive evidence that the Soviets are developing antisatellite defenses, but we believe they have had an incentive to do so for some time. It would be technically possible for them to have a limited antisatellite capability already, based on existing radars and missiles and requiring a nuclear weapon to achieve a kill. When their new space surveillance radars are operational in 1967–1968, they could have a capability to destroy satellites by either nuclear or nonnuclear means after the satellites had passed over the USSR a few times. The Soviets may also explore techniques for neutralizing satellites without destroying them. A manned satellite inspection and antisatellite system could be developed in the 1970’s. We believe, however, that the Soviets would seek to destroy or neutralize US satellites only if they believed general war were imminent. There might also be some other special circumstances in which they would use antisatellite systems in peacetime, such as an occasion in which they believed they were retaliating against US interference with their own satellites. (Paras. 61, 64–67)
Over the past decade or more the Soviets have developed an extensive civil defense program, which is now administered by the [Page 450] Ministry of Defense. The current program is characterized by widespread public training, the use of simple shelters, and plans for urban evacuation in advance of hostilities. Shelter space is available for less than one-sixth of the urban population, and adequate shelter for key personnel only. We have detected no recent major changes in the priority or pace of the program and we have no indication that the Soviets would regard a stepped up civil defense effort as a necessary adjunct to extended ABM deployment. We anticipate continued slow but steady improvement in overall civil defense effectiveness. (Paras. 68–73)

[Here follow the Discussion section (Parts I–VI, pages 6–23) and an Annex (pages 24–27).]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates, Box 11. Top Secret; Controlled Dissem. A cover sheet, prefatory note, title page, and table of contents are not printed. According to the prefatory note, on the inside of the cover sheet, the CIA and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense, the AEC, and the NSA participated in the preparation of this estimate. Representatives of CIA, State Department, DIA, NSA, and AEC concurred; the FBI representative abstained, the subject being outside his jurisdiction.
  2. Rear Adm. E.B. Fluckey, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Intelligence), Department of the Navy, believes that the strategic defense manned interceptors have a greater capability at altitudes below 1,000 feet than indicated in the text, particularly in some sea approaches. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. Lt. Gen. Joseph H. Carroll, Director, DIA; Maj. Gen. Chester L. Johnson, Acting Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army; and Maj. Gen. Jack E. Thomas, Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, believe that the many uncertainties stemming from analysis of available evidence do not support a confident judgment as to whether the mission of the Tallinn-type defensive system is SAM, ABM, or dual purpose. They acknowledge that the available evidence does support a conclusion that these sites may have a defensive mission against the aerodynamic threat. However, on balance, considering all information available, they believe it is more likely that the systems being deployed are for defense against ballistic missiles with an additional capability to defend against high flying supersonic aerodynamic vehicles. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. For the views of Rear Adm. E.B. Fluckey, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Intelligence), Department of the Navy, see his footnote to paragraph 58, page 20. [Footnote in the source text. This footnote reads: “Rear Adm. E.B. Fluckey, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Intelligence), Department of the Navy, believes that the Galosh system could be a part of a Soviet retaliatory assured destruction defensive weapons system. Moscow, at the hub of all defense and counter strike and the center of command and control, must avoid destruction long enough to provide time for decision, retaliation, damage assessment of the Soviet Union, and rapid communications with the outside world. Should the US strike first, the Soviets would have only about 10 minutes tactical warning, compared to our own short 15 minutes if the Soviets strike first. They may consider this reaction time insufficient and so are willing to expend substantial funds to cover Moscow with an effective ABM system to gain as much as 24 hours grace before fallout moving in from other attack areas would degrade their capability to decide and respond. Having attained this, they might decide that ABM defenses for the comprehensive defense of the USSR are too costly.”]