243. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


Talking with Lockheed. You’ll recall past annoyance of McNamara, Rusk, and yourself about US aircraft manufacturers causing USG trouble by overselling. Worst offender has been Lockheed with F-104, and worst case has been Saudi Arabia.

I volunteered some time ago that WH would probably have to talk with Lockheed if it needed turning off. I believe I checked this out with you.

Now the time has come. McNamara has directly advised Saudis that, if it were up to him, he’d buy the Northrop F-5.2 Regrettably this letter was leaked to Lockheed, so we want to turn off: (a) any Lockheed effort to undermine this deal; (b) any publicity here that we’re interfering with free enterprise.

Our pitch ought to be made at the top, to Courtland Gross, and I’d urge by you. Here’s a full brief, but the key selling point isn’t mentioned. It is that USG does so well by Lockheed (of $1.6 billion in 1964 sales 44.4% was to USG) that it has no need to keep pushing for an extra few bucks by selling F-104s to countries that can’t handle ’em. With Polaris, C-130, and all sorts of other big deals on (Lockheed got largest government contracts in whole aerospace industry for last three [Page 472]years’ running), it should get off our backs in trying to sell F-104s to peanut countries. In fact, we’ve done mighty well by Lockheed on F-104 itself (European consortium, Japan). What say?3

R. W. Komer 4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Komer Files, Saudi Arabia, 1965-March 1966. Secret.
  2. See Document 241.
  3. An April 26 memorandum from Deputy Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs Harrison Symmes to Talbot states that Bundy had telephoned Lockheed Chairman of the Board Courtland Gross requesting that Lockheed cease its sales efforts for the F-104 interceptor aircraft in Saudi Arabia in light of the U.S. political decision to recommend to the Saudis purchase of the competing Northrop F-5. Gross reportedly had agreed, but asked for assistance in consummating a $15 million sale of four C-130 transport planes to the Saudis. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, NEA/ARP Files: Lot 69 D 547, Defense Affairs—Saudi Arabia—1965, DEF 12-5-a-1, Aircraft (January-June))
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.