87. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Jordan1

14726. Subject: Jordanian Request for Additional F–104s. Ref: State 5624, Amman 265 and State 11160.2 Joint State-Defense Message.

1. FYI We reluctant to sell Jordan additional military aircraft because any such transaction contributes to escalation arms race in Near East—at least in psychological sense—and because current squadron of F–104 aircraft still not rpt not operational. We recognize, however, that King Hussein has legitimate defense requirements and that both internal and inter-Arab considerations require him to maintain a ready military posture. Moreover, Soviet offer3 makes prompt positive US response essential. At same time we shall continue to endeavor to restrain GOJ appetite for weapons and, as in the past, meet only those needs we consider wholly justifiable. In case of additional F–104 aircraft we have already agreed in principle to sell additional squadron. Our tactics have been to delay sale as long as possible, using argument that preferable hold up pending clarification GOJ absorptive capacity. King’s request we now carry out our undertaking (Amman 5460),4 together with Rifai follow-up (Amman 265), necessitates our now moving ahead. We are, nevertheless, puzzled as to how GOJ intends to pay for aircraft, particularly in light of fact GOJ plans purchase more artillery. We definitely do not rpt not intend in any event to make FMS credit available for this transaction. End FYI.

2. You therefore authorized to inform GOJ that we are agreeable to providing eight additional F–104 aircraft in accordance following commitments:

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A. In March 1968, when agreement for first squadron was signed,5 we informed GOJ that we would be prepared to consider supply of second squadron at some future date.

B. On April 2, 1969, in response to King Hussein’s expression of desire to exercise GOJ option re acquiring second squadron, Secretary Rogers informed Hussein that USG agreed in principle to sell Jordan 18 additional F–104 aircraft with delivery to be mutually agreed upon.6

3. You should make clear in context foregoing that we consider eight F–104 aircraft requested to be part of option for second squadron and not rpt not additional thereto. You may state that we are earmarking eight F–104 aircraft for sale to Jordan and as soon as GOJ makes official request to us in writing we will begin processing. Because of necessary modifications in bringing aircraft up to latest standards we estimate lead time of approximately one year between signing of letter and delivery of aircraft. More precise info will be provided later. If appropriate at this time, you may state that transaction will be strictly on cash basis. You might also inquire as to how GOJ intends pay for aircraft in view other pressing requirements. FYI Aircraft, which are models F–104 A and B, must be reconfigured to take larger engine in order to conform with F–104 models now on hand in Jordan. Current strike at GE plant may delay J–79 engine production and further extend lead time. End FYI.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 614, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. III. Secret; Nodis; Immediate. Drafted by Seelye; cleared by Sisco and in OSD/ISA, NEA,NEA/RA, and PM; and approved by Richardson. Repeated to Tel Aviv.
  2. Telegram 5624 to Amman, January 14, transmitted the Department’s approval of the Embassy’s suggestions of how to respond to Jordan’s request for F–104 aircraft. In telegram 265 from Amman, January 19, the Embassy reported a conversation between Symmes and Rifai. during which the Foreign Minister asked if the Department had replied to Jordan’s request for the aircraft. In telegram 11160 to Amman, January 23, the Department responded with the message: “This matter is receiving our urgent attention and we plan to have a reply for you early next week.” (All ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 12–5 JORDAN)
  3. See footnote 3, Document 69.
  4. In telegram 5460 from Amman, November 10, 1969, the Embassy reported a message from Rifai informing Symmes of Jordan’s decision to exercise its option to purchase a second squadron of 18 F–104 aircraft. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 613, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. II)
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1967–1968, Documents 95, 107, and 111.
  6. See Document 24. A record of Rogers’s response to Hussein has not been found.