95. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State1

3648. Subject: Jordan arms. Ref: Amman 3570.2

Summary: Gen Khammash has confirmed that they wish to leave F-104s in the package and are ready to sign, assuming the adjustments requested in the ground package will be granted. It appears that the arguments supplied by the Department and which we have been using in favor of F-104s have borne fruit. These have been reinforced by the apparent unwillingness of Faisal to help on aircraft and by favorable reports on the F-104 obtained from the Pakistanis. Khammash now asks only for reassurance that the $2.8 million ground control system included in our package will be adequate. (Khammash still does not wish to have the F-104’s stationed in Jordan and superficially combat ready at too early a date.) Request therefore that F-104 aircraft portion be left in whatever rewrite of memo of understanding is being done.
Elaborating on the foregoing, Khammash explained that basic problem of Jordan’s acceptance of F-104 aircraft has been negative feeling among Jordanian pilots towards this model. Crash of two 104s during College Run project last year, against background of German air force losses, confirmed their suspicions F-104 was unsafe aircraft.
Khammash said he had been doing some quiet propaganda on his own in favor of F-104 over past several weeks. He sent Jordanian Air Force Chief Colonel Kurdi to Pakistan last weekend to discuss F-104s with Paks. Kurdi, who had been dubious both about safety of this plane and whether it would serve Jordanian purposes, returned with considerably less negative outlook. He also brought news that Paks had said they would try to be helpful should Jordanians need any extra indoctrination and on the job training or maintenance.
Khammash said his trip earlier this week to Saudi Arabia (Amman 3570) had made him very dubious that Faisal would be willing to underwrite purchases of Mirage aircraft or turn Saudi Lightnings over to Jordan. Further argument Khammash had adduced for the F-104s, therefore, in session Feb 29 with King and Kurdi was economy. Lacking assurance from Faisal that Saudi Arabia would assist and in view probability Jordan stood to lose several million dollars already paid down on F-104 training and rehabilitation, he argued Kingdom could not afford to choose any other model.
In course of several hours meeting Feb 29 with King and Kurdi, foregoing points had been discussed as well as aircraft availabilities and costs. It was decided that it was essential Jordan should be able to state it was getting aircraft in relatively near future. Fact that delivery time for Mirages and Lightnings could be as much as three years away would seriously diminish credibility of King’s posture that he doing utmost to re-equip Jordanian armed forces. (Khammash, however, made clear to Emboff that he continued to have some doubts as to advisability having F-104s stationed in Jordan as early as this summer both because he might be expected to use them and because the airfields and ground control equipment would not be ready and personnel fully qualified.)
Kurdi conceded that given all these arguments and his trip to Pakistan he felt with careful indoctrination of Jordanian pilots, which should include orientation visits to USA and Pakistan, the pilots could be brought around to accept this aircraft. He therefore would withdraw his objection to acquisition of F-104s. King said that this change in Kurdi’s position removed his, Hussein’s, only serious objection to the F-104. Hussein said he would not have forced an unacceptable aircraft on Jordan’s air force: to do so would only create further problems. Khammash, Kurdi, and Hussein thereupon agreed to accept F-104s and carry out further pilot indoctrination to increase the pilots’ confidence [Page 197] in the aircraft. Khammash said he hoped we would help out in this indoctrination because there could be a lingering problem if not resolved.
Khammash said he had only one outstanding question in connection with aircraft sale. In regard to $2.8 million ground control radar system for F-104 and Hawker Hunter aircraft which we had undertaken to supply, he said he would like insurance that this system would be adequate to do the job and not just a shoestring operation tailored to fit Jordan’s budget. He said it was in neither Jordan’s nor US interest to attempt to operate F-104s with deficient ground control system.
Recommendation: That aircraft not be deleted from whatever rewrite of memorandum of understanding may be in process.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12-5 JORDAN. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to CINCSTRIKE.
  2. Telegram 3570 from Amman, February 24, reported on a February 23 meeting between Symmes and General Khammash during which Khammash made counterproposals to Symmes’ presentation of the previous day. Symmes concluded that “we may be over the hump” if the United States could agree to limited increases in tanks and anti-aircraft artillery. Symmes felt it would also be necessary to help Jordan get additional financial assistance from Saudi Arabia to help meet the costs of Jordan’s military requirements. (Ibid.)