97. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 11–8–65


The Problem

To estimate the strength and capabilities of Soviet strategic attack forces through mid-1967, and to estimate general trends in these forces over the next decade or so.


Estimates of Soviet strategic attack capabilities for the present and the next few years can be made with high confidence; those for the period five to 10 years in the future are, of course, highly tentative. The Soviet planners themselves may not yet have set clear force goals for the 1970–1975 period. Even if they have, it seems certain that such decisions will be modified repeatedly in response to changes in military technology, in other Soviet weapons programs, in US forces, in resource availability, and in the general Soviet view of world affairs.


Over the next 10 years, we estimate a considerable strengthening of Soviet strategic attack forces, particularly in retaliatory capabilities, with chief emphasis on ICBMs. We do not believe, however, that the Soviets will expect to achieve, within the period of this estimate, forces which would make rational the deliberate initiation of general war. We believe that they will continue to adhere to the concept of a deterrent force. A stress on qualitative factors suggests that the Soviets see technological advance in weapons as a means by [Page 264]which they can improve their strategic position relative to the West. (Paras. 4–7)2 3
ICBM Force. The present Soviet ICBM force of 224 operational launchers represents a formidable capability in terms of deliverable megatonnage but it is a predominantly soft, concentrated force. Apparently recognizing its vulnerability, the Soviets are now deploying ICBMs in dispersed single silos. Within the next two years, the number of ICBM launchers will approximately double, but the number of separate launch sites will increase from about 100 to at least 300. (Paras. 8–10, 25, 31)
We estimate that the Soviet ICBM force in 1975 will be somewhere between 500 and 1,000 operational launchers. A force near the high side of the range would probably consist primarily of small ICBMs in single silos. By contrast, a force near the low side, though including substantial numbers of small, single silo launchers, would probably incorporate greater qualitative improvement and significant numbers of larger ICBMs, perhaps with multiple warheads and penetration aids. It is possible that within the next 10 years the Soviets will deploy a rail mobile ICBM system. (Paras. 23, 26–30)4
MRBM/IRBM Force. During the past year, the Soviet MRBM and IRBM force leveled off at about 735 operational launchers, some 135 hard, deployed at almost 200 sites. It is capable of delivering a devastating first strike against targets in Eurasia, but like the present ICBM force it is soft and concentrated. By 1975, the Soviets will probably have replaced the major portion of the force with new solid-fueled missiles deployed in dispersed hard sites and on mobile launchers. The flexibility and survivability of such a force may lead them to conclude that the same target system could be covered with fewer launchers. We estimate [Page 265]that in the 1970–1975 period Soviet MRBM/IRBM strength will stabilize at some 350–700 launchers. (Paras. 38, 40, 42–46)
Missile Submarines. The Soviet Navy has 43–48 ballistic missile submarines, including 8–10 nuclear-powered, with a total of 120–140 tubes. Construction of ballistic missile submarines of current classes ended in 1963. We estimate, however, that the Soviets will produce a new class which could become operational in 1968. It will almost certainly be nuclear powered and will probably carry more missiles than are carried by current classes, perhaps 6–12. A new submarine-launched ballistic missile with a range of about 1,000 n.m. will probably enter service in two or three years, and by 1975 a 2,000 n.m. missile may be available. At that time the Soviets will probably have some 60 ballistic missile submarines, including about 20 of a new type. Only recently have Soviet ballistic missile submarines regularly carried out ocean patrols; this activity will increase, and by 1975 about 25 percent of the force will probably be on station. (Paras. 47, 49, 51, 53–54, 65)
In recent years, the USSR has emphasized construction of cruise missile submarines. The Soviet Navy now has 39–43, including 16–18 nuclear-powered with a total of 195–210 launchers. These submarines were initially intended to counter naval task forces, but their mission may be expanded to include land targets. Construction appears to be tapering off, but will probably continue at a reduced rate for several years. By 1975, the Soviets will probably have 60–70 cruise missile submarines, possibly including some of a new type. At that time, they will probably also have available new types of cruise missiles. (Paras. 47, 55–57, 65)
Bomber Force. Long Range Aviation, a force of some 200 heavy bombers and 800 mediums, is in general much better suited for Eurasian than for intercontinental operations. This force will decrease gradually through attrition and retirement. The Soviets may develop another new aircraft of medium bomber range, but we believe it unlikely that they will introduce a follow-on heavy bomber into Long Range Aviation. By 1975, the heavy bomber force will probably be reduced to about 50 aircraft, and the medium bomber force to some 250–500, comprised largely of Blinders.5 (Paras. 66, 70, 72–76)
Space Weapons. Our evidence does not indicate that the USSR is developing offensive space weapons, but it is almost certainly investigating [Page 266]their feasibility. We do not believe that they will deploy such weapons within the next 10 years. This conclusion is based upon our judgment that such systems will not compare favorably in cost and effectiveness with ground-based systems and, to a lesser extent, upon our view that the Soviets would see political disadvantages in deploying weapons in space. The USSR has, however, orbited reconnaissance and communications satellites, and is probably developing other military support systems. (Paras. 83, 86, 87)

[Here follow the Discussion section (Parts I–VII, pages 5–31), Annex A (pages 33–45), and Annex B (following page 45).]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 263. Top Secret; Controlled Dissem. A cover sheet, prefatory note, title page, and table of contents are not printed. The cover sheet indicates that this NIE supersedes NIE 11–14–64, December 10, 1964. (Ibid., National Intelligence Estimates 11–64, USSR, Box 3) 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. Deterrence is defined as the prevention from action by fear of the consequences. Deterrence is a state of mind brought about by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. The Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, would reword the last two sentences as follows:

    “We believe they will continue to adhere to the concept of a deterrent force so long as they continue to be in a posture of strategic inferiority, but the intensive Soviet military R and D effort raises the possibility that Soviet leaders already are focusing on achievement of a strategic superiority which would enable more aggressive pursuit of their political aims, perhaps within the time frame of this estimate.” [Footnote in the source text.]

  4. The Director, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Intelligence), Department of the Navy, do not concur in the high side of the estimated ICBM launcher spread for mid-1975, believing it to be too high. See their footnote to paragraph 27.

    The Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, estimates that the Soviet ICBM force in 1975 will include at least 1,000 operational launchers and could well be above that figure. [Footnote in the source text.]

  5. The Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, believes the Soviets will continue to consider manned strategic aircraft an important element of their intercontinental striking forces. He estimates that the USSR will introduce a follow-on heavy bomber into Long Range Aviation. He further estimates that in 1975 LRA will still include 150–200 heavy bombers and 450–600 medium bombers, up to half of which could be a follow-on to the Blinder. [Footnote in the source text.]