69. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 11–3–64


The Problem

To evaluate the capabilities of the Soviet air and missile defense forces, and to forecast probable trends in Soviet air and missile defense programs through mid-1970.


A. The combination of area and point defenses provided by the USSR’s present force of interceptors and short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems affords a good defense for major target areas against medium and high altitude bomber attacks. However, the air defense system has limited low altitude capabilities, and special difficulties are posed by supersonic aircraft and air-to-surface missiles (ASMs). We believe that a major Soviet effort during the remainder of this decade will be focused on meeting these particular problems. (Para. 55)

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B. We believe that improvements in the Soviet air defense system over the next few years will make progressively more difficult successful penetration by manned bombers to major target areas. Successful penetration by manned bombers will require increasingly sophisticated forms of attack. Soviet air defense capabilities can be degraded by the increasingly complex forms of attack which the West will be able to employ, including air-launched missiles, penetration tactics, electronic countermeasures, and low-altitude attack. Despite these limitations of their air defense system, the Soviets would expect to destroy a number of the attackers. We doubt, however, that they would be confident that they could reduce the weight of attack to a point where the resulting damage to the USSR would be acceptable. (Para. 57)

C. There are critical uncertainties in our knowledge of Soviet R&D and deployment in the antiballistic missile (ABM) field. From the evidence now available, however, certain general conclusions can be drawn: first, the Soviet R&D effort has been extensive and of long duration, and the USSR several years ago probably solved the technical problem of intercepting ballistic targets arriving singly or in small numbers; second, some initial ABM deployment activity was probably begun as long ago as 1960, but both the deployment and R&D programs were evidently interrupted and modified; third, the magnitude of R&D and the probable early deployment activity point to a strong Soviet desire to obtain ABM defenses rapidly; fourth, R&D continues, a new antimissile missile (AMM) has appeared, and some additional deployment activity may now be underway, but the USSR does not have any operational defenses against strategic ballistic missiles today. (Para. 58)

D. Much of our evidence indicates that the USSR has been exploring methods of ABM defense which differ in important respects from those now favored by the US. Low frequency radars may play an important role in the Soviet program. An early Soviet effort may have involved a missile designed to have dual capabilities against ballistic and aerodynamic vehicles. The new AMM which was recently displayed by the Soviets is probably designed to conduct exoatmospheric intercepts at considerable ranges, using a large nuclear warhead to achieve its kill. We believe, however, that the Soviets have probably not conducted many AMM firings to exoatmospheric altitudes, and that they have probably not attempted full system tests involving interceptions at these altitudes. (Paras. 37–42, 59)

Recent Defensive Deployments

E. The Soviets began construction of three defensive complexes at Leningrad in 1960–1961. We believe that the Leningrad system was originally designed to have a capability against ballistic missiles, and perhaps against aerodynamic vehicles as well. However, we believe [Page 196] that the initial design has been changed. We cannot determine the nature of this change, or whether it was caused by serious technical difficulties, a realization that the system was vulnerable to penetration aids, or important new developments in the state-of-the art. There are similarities between new construction at one of the Leningrad complexes and two recently discovered defensive complexes under construction in northwestern USSR. In light of these similarities, at least these three complexes may now be intended for the deployment of the same defensive system. (Paras. 46–47)

F. We are unable to associate the new complexes with any systems equipment, and any explanation for the mission of these complexes and the modified Leningrad complex is open to some doubt. There is some support for the belief that the complexes are for a SAM system to defend against aerodynamic vehicles. On the other hand, we have noted intensive Soviet research on missile defenses for several years and indications that the USSR has been working toward new and different ABM capabilities. In light of this factor and other considerations, we think there are also persuasive reasons for believing that the new complexes are related to missile defense. However, any judgment at this time on their mission is in our view premature. (Paras. 47, 50)

G. We have observed at Moscow three developments which may indicate ABM deployment there. A large radar now under construction could be the acquisition and early target tracking element of an ABM system. Other facilities also under construction could serve as the final target tracking and missile guidance element. SA–1 sites which are now being modified could be used as the AMM launch positions for the systems. However, the activities we have observed thus far may not be related, and some of them may represent improvements in Moscow’s defense against aerodynamic vehicles or serve a space function. The missile to be employed is a major unknown; the recently displayed AMM could be used at Moscow to conduct exoatmospheric intercepts of ballistic missiles, perhaps at distances of several hundreds of miles from the city. In sum, we continue to believe that the Soviets may be deploying ABM defenses at Moscow, but we do not yet understand how the installations we have observed would function as an ABM system. (Paras. 41, 51–54)

ABM Prospects

H. If ABM deployment activity is now underway at either Moscow or the other locations we have noted, the USSR is likely to have some initial strategic ABM defenses operational within the next two years or so. Limited deployment, especially at Moscow, could be a special, highest-priority effort to defend the Soviet capital with an early and still unproved system. But widespread ABM deployment activity, whenever [Page 197] it occurred, would imply that the Soviets consider their ABM systems good enough to justify extraordinarily large new expenditures. It would indicate that the Soviets had achieved excellent R&D successes, and perhaps, that they had taken high-risk production and deployment decisions. We cannot exclude this possibility, but our evidence suggests that the Soviets have been proceeding cautiously since they modified their program. (Paras. 60–61)

I. In considering whether to provide ABM defenses for many of their urban-industrial centers and other targets, the Soviet leaders will have to weigh the great cost of such an effort against the likely effectiveness of the ABM systems available. Area defenses might offer considerable savings over point defenses, but we cannot be sure of this and in any event a major commitment of resources would be required. The Soviets may defer widespread deployment pending further R&D work on existing systems, or in the hope of achieving better systems at a later date. They might even decide that the cost of large-scale ABM deployment would not be commensurate with the protection it could offer against anticipated Western strike capabilities. We are certain that the Soviets will push ahead with their R&D effort, but we cannot forecast whether or when they will achieve ABM systems with capabilities and costs justifying widespread deployment. (Para. 62)

Antisatellite Capabilities

J. We believe that the Soviets are now constructing a series of large, new radars, most of which will probably be completed in 1966. We believe that some or all of these radars will be linked together as a space surveillance system. Such a system will, we think, have a capability considerably in excess of that required merely to detect the passage of US space vehicles. In our view, the chances are better than even that the Soviets intend to provide themselves, not only with a space surveillance system, but with an antisatellite capability as well.2 If existing types of missiles were used in an antisatellite system, a nuclear warhead would probably be required, but a missile for non-nuclear kill could be developed in about two years after flight tests began. (Paras. 63–66)

[Here follow the Discussion section (Parts I–IX, pages 5–24) and Annexes A and B (pages 25–27 and following page 27).]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates 11–64, USSR, Box 3. Top Secret; Controlled Dissem. A cover sheet, prefatory note, title page, and table of contents are not printed. According to the prefatory note, the CIA and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the National Security Agency participated in the preparation of this estimate. Representatives of the State Department, DIA, AEC, and NSA concurred; the FBI representative abstained, the subject being outside his jurisdiction.
  2. The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, believes that on the basis of available evidence, this affirmative judgment is premature. While he does not exclude the antisatellite function as a possibility, present evidence does not persuade him that the Soviets intend to develop and deploy within the next two years and at great cost an extremely complex antisatellite system. [Footnote in the source text.]