224. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia 1

641. Joint State/Defense Message. Air Defense Survey. Realize Saudi leaders have had little time available in last two weeks to consider Air Defense Survey package. However, with settlement political crisis, hope Embassy and USMTM will again be able encourage SAG in whatever ways appropriate make early decision accept Air Defense recommendations and request US assistance in their implementation. In view backing initially given last year to F-5 by US authorities (in order assist MAP production program), might now be particularly useful for CHUSMTM to remind Saudis that F-104H as well as F-5 was included in Survey recommendations, that both aircraft meet Air Defense interceptor requirements, and that US would not object to Saudis’ purchase [Page 431]of either. (FYI. Hope that early selection will be made between the two US-produced aircraft rather than continue possible risk that foreign aircraft might be chosen. End FYI.)

With regard selection of aircraft Department has just received formal note from Saudi Embassy2 indicating that Lockheed has presented proposal to SAG on F-104H; that SAG understands (correctly) F-104H is same as F-104G minus certain electronic packages; that “because F-104G more capable carrying out required mission RSAF”, SAG requests approval consider offer F-104G from Lockheed. (Lockheed has submitted application through normal US Government channels for approval export technical data on F-I04G.) This request obtain 104G being strongly pushed by SAG Assistant Attach Washington, but unclear if represents reasoned desire on part MODA or perhaps only request from lower echelon Saudi military. Department strongly doubts advisability selling more advanced model to SAG in view initial price difference (approximately quarter million dollars per plane), heightened maintenance problems and cost (difference between G and H estimated at quarter million dollars per plane per year), and problem for general Middle East arms balance presented by increased limited all-weather attack capability. We are inclined, however, to approve export technical data this model (with caveat that decision reserved on approval export aircraft itself) on basis that this information useful in order dissuade Saudis from increased expenditure for this much more complicated aircraft.

Appreciate Embassy and CHUSMTM comments and, as appropriate, attempts dissuade Saudis from going beyond recommendations Air Defense Survey.

Rusk
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 1–4 SAUD. Secret. Drafted by Moore; cleared by Quinn (OSD/ISA), Bunte, George L Warren (C/PM), and Deputy Director of the Office of Munitions Control John W. Sipes; and approved by Davies. Repeated to Paris for DEFREPNAMA, Dhahran for CHUSMTM, and CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA.
  2. Not found.