Per your request, enclosed is my analysis of the recent Memorandum to
Holders of NIE 11–8–68, Soviet Strategic
In my judgment, the Memorandum fails to present anything like a clear
analysis of Soviet strategic offensive capabilities and of possible and
probable developments in Soviet strategic offensive forces and their
implications for the U.S.
Instead, the text, which is primarily the responsibility of the Director
of CIA, appears to be a strenuous
exercise in avoiding meaningful conclusions and postulations. As a
result, this is, I am told, one of the most badly split estimates in
some time; DIA, the Services and State
have taken many exceptions to the text in footnotes, and some of the
disagreements are fundamental.
I think we are faced with a rather serious problem. After all that has
transpired, the intelligence community has still produced a murky and
confused picture of Soviet strategic offensive forces and developments.
I am confident that if we repeated the events of the last few weeks with
respect to Soviet strategic defensive forces, we would get a similar
result; the disagreements might be just as basic, e.g., over the
capabilities of the Talinn system against ICBMs and the nature and purpose of Soviet ABM developments.
At the same time, we are being asked to have high confidence that the
intelligence community can verify Soviet compliance with the most
complex and far reaching arms control agreements and that they will keep
the Government’s key officials informed of the most subtle developments.
I do not have that confidence.
Analysis of Memorandum to Holders of NIE 11–8–68 Prepared by Laurence Lynn of the National
Security Council Staff
In the first half of 1969, we have detected a total of 30 additional
SS-9 silos under construction; 12 of these new starts (two new
groups) have been confirmed since June 22, 1969. When all current
construction is completed, the Soviets will have 258 SS-9
Last year, 36 new SS-9 starts occurred in the first six months, but
no SS-9s were started in the last six months.
Comment. In the June 22, 1969 Memo to Holders of NIE 11–8–68,3 it was noted, “the detection of only three group
starts in the past 12 months … suggests no particular urgency in
deployment activity …” With the discovery of two more group starts
since that memo was written, this language has been dropped.
Present SS-9 accuracy is estimated to be 0.5–0.75 nautical miles
CEP.4 There are three views concerning future SS-9
- —The majority of USIB
(principally CIA) believes it
likely that the Soviets will use a new guidance system and a new
re-entry vehicle (RV) to improve
SS-9 accuracy over what it is now. They recognize that accuracy
improvements could be achieved using the present RV. They are “not persuaded,”
however, that the Soviets are now trying to improve SS-9
accuracy; [less than 1 line not
declassified] A CEP of
0.25 n.m. could not be achieved before 1972.
- —DIA, Navy and Air Force
believe, [less than 1 line not
declassified] that the Soviets do have an accuracy
improvement program with existing RVs. By 1970–71 the Soviets could achieve 0.35 n.m.
CEP (90% probability of
destroying a hard silo) with the present RV.
- —State (INR) reserves its
position on this issue.
Comment. CIA seems to have
established an arbitrary standard (0.25 n.m. CEP) by which to judge Soviet progress toward a hard
target capability. However, it is irrelevant to estimate when the
Soviets can achieve 0.25 n.m. CEP.
What is relevant is when they can achieve a high probability of
destroying a Minuteman silo and whether they are trying to do so. On
this point, the CIA and DIA views are fundamentally
We are given no explanation as to why the evidence that persuaded
DOD that the Soviets are
increasing SS-9 accuracy did not persuade CIA.
SS-9s have been tested with a “light” 12–18 megaton payload and
“heavy” payload consisting of either a 25 megaton warhead or a
multiple re-entry vehicle (MRV).
[1 line not declassified]
With the light payload, SS-9 range is 7,000 n.m.
On the range with a heavy payload there are two views:
- —The majority of USIB
- —that the demonstrated range to date is 4,700
n.m., insufficient for the SS-9 to reach the
continental United States; (The majority notes that
“it seems implausible that the Soviets would develop
an ICBM payload so
heavy that it could not reach important targets in
- —a 5,000 n.m. range would be achieved [4 lines not declassified] At
this range, the SS-9 would reach five of six
- —longer ranges are possible by burning more fuel,
but because of the uncertainties of planning down to
such a small fuel residual, the Soviets would test
at longer ranges before targeting their
- —in summary (page 14) that “the SS-9 does appear
to have range limitations if we assume it to be used
against Minuteman silos from present
- —DIA, Navy and Air
Force believe the SS-9 configured for operational
deployment, has a range of 5,400 n.m., enough to
reach all six Minuteman complexes. “They do not
believe that the Soviets would deploy [the SS-9] so
extensively if they had doubt about it reaching
important targets in the U.S.”
Comment. CIA is reluctant to endorse
estimates of longer ranges unless hard evidence is in hand, i.e.
they refuse to rely on circumstantial evidence. Yet, from various
places in this estimate we can determine that:
- —[1 line not declassified]
- —the MRV system requires
the heavy payload,
- —the original purpose of the SS-9 MRV program may have been to penetrate a U.S.
ABM defense, presumably of
- —at the range demonstrated to date, the SS-9 with a heavy
pay-load could not reach the U.S.
It is difficult to understand the diffidence of the CIA on the range question, implying as
it does a reluctance to endorse any explanation for the SS-9 MRV or heavy payload program. Yet they
have supplied no hint of any other conceivable explanation for the
SS-9 heavy pay-load developments.
Again the CIA and DIA view are fundamentally
The Soviets have the capability to retarget the SS-9—i.e. to target
and launch a backup missile on information that the original missile
failed in flight. “There is no evidence of such a development, but
it is unlikely that we would obtain such evidence.”
The Soviets have conducted seven tests of a three RV system, each of which could carry a 5
megaton warhead. These RVs were
“certainly not independently guided after separation from the launch
vehicle.” As to the implications of these tests, there are two
- —The first hypothesis is that the Soviet objective is to
achieve a simple MRV
capability. The main purpose of the system has been and is
to counter a U.S.
ABM. “Except as a possible
counter to ABM, … the system
as demonstrated does not improve Soviet capabilities to
attack individual targets. In general, an ICBM so equipped would be no
more effective against a soft target than one with a single
large payload, and it would be less effective against a
single hard target.”
- —The alternative hypothesis is that their system is
designed with the mechanical flexibility to allow each
RV to be targeted against
closely spaced targets such as Minuteman silos. “Evidence
[less than 1 line not
declassified] suggests that the mechanism within
the ICBM itself is more
sophisticated than necessary if this development were to
achieve a simple MRV.”
However, [less than 1 line not
declassified] have provided insufficient evidence
that the size, shape and orientation of the impact pattern
is adequate to target Minuteman silos. “Further testing
would certainly be required to develop the flexibility in
spread and dispersal pattern needed for such a system, and
we would be able to identify such testing when it
Comment. The inconsistencies and logical flaws in the estimate are
most evident in the development of these two hypotheses. If the
first hypothesis is plausible.
- —how do we explain the SS-9 range limitations?
- —how can we explain the complexity of the MRV mechanism (do the Soviets
typically overdesign their weapons)?
- —how do we explain the continuation of MRV testing in the face of
evidence that the system as a simple MRV will not be an effective ABM penetrator or hard target
[2 lines not declassified] This raises the
question as to how we can have such high confidence that we can
rapidly and accurately interpret Soviet tests in the face of evident
holes in our collection efforts.
There are two somewhat fuzzily drawn views about the purpose and
future of the SS-9 program:
- —The USIB majority
believes “the tests thus far observed provide insufficient
evidence that the second hypothesis is the probable explanation. They go on to note that “in
any event, if the Soviets intend to create a force to target
1,000 Minuteman silos in a single strike, they will have to
deploy many more SS-9 launchers than are now operational and
- —DIA, Navy and Air Force
believe that “although there are still unresolved technical
issues [the second hypothesis] offers the more plausible
explanation of the nature of the weapon system under test …”
(They concur, however, that more SS-9s would be needed for a
first strike capability.)
Comment. Elsewhere in the estimate (page 3) it says “there is no
evidence of the duration of the SS-9 deployment program or of the
SS-9 force goal; we would judge now, however, that it will exceed
It is difficult to see why the sentence downplaying the first strike
threat was included or why DOD
didn’t object. No one knows what the Soviet SS-9 goal is. Moreover,
it is quite possible for the Soviets to develop an accurate MIRV with more than 3 RVs. Last year’s NIPP considered the possibility of 6
RVs “representative.” A force of
258 SS-9s with the 6 RVs each and a
retargeting capability would do nicely for targeting 1000 Minuteman
Summary of SS-9
The overall impression created by the USIB majority view recorded in the text is that:
- —We can say virtually nothing about the purposes and
objectives of the SS-9 program; the evidence does not
justify our making any presumptions or any
- —An improved system will not be deployed without further
- —[2 lines not declassified]
In general, the USIB majority
(mainly CIA) appears to be quite
conservative and unimaginative in developing the implications of
available evidence, and quite optimistic about the ability of U.S. intelligence to stay abreast of
Soviet weapons developments. (In justifying [Page 160] this view CIA
analysts point out that they were wrong in calling the Tallinn
system an ABM, implying that a major
reason for caution now is the desire to avoid similar errors.)
The impression created by the minority view recorded in the footnotes
is very different: a willingness to formulate and accept hypotheses
based on a combination of limited evidence, inductive logic, and
If the purpose of an intelligence estimate is to present the evidence
and indicate what it may mean, the USIB majority has clearly evaded its responsibility,
preferring to avoid judgments rather than presenting informed
judgments derived from available evidence.
Since last September we have discovered 110 new SS-11 launchers; 10
of these have been discovered since June 22, 1969. When all SS-11
launchers now under construction are completed, there will be a
total of 790. “Nevertheless, it seems clear that the SS-11 program
passed its peak in 1966–67.”
To improve its accuracy significantly, (it is now 1.0–1.5 n.m. CEP) would require a new guidance
system and a new RV. We have no
evidence that they are doing this.
[2 lines not declassified]
Comment. What could be a highly significant event—deployment of
SS-11s at an IRBM complex—is put in
a footnote without comments.
A new group of 10 launchers has been discovered since June 22, 1969.
When completed, the single SS-13 complex active to date will include
50 launchers. One group is now operational and another soon will
Its maximum range to date is 4700 n. mi. [2 lines
not declassified] we do not know what the maximum range may
Comment. After almost a year in which no new SS-13 starts were
discovered, a new group of 10 silos was discovered in the last two
weeks. This fact draws no comment.
Based on construction of new, large silos at the Tyuratam test area
two years ago or so, USIB estimated
that a large follow-on to the SS-9, the SS-Z-3, would be deployed in
1970–1972, that it would carry MIRVs and that it would have quarter mile accuracy.
Work on these silos ceased over a year ago, but construction on a new
group in the same general area began this year. These may be for a
new, large missile. If so, initial deployment will be later than
Other Missile Systems
There is no evidence that development of a mobile SS-13, an improved
SS-11, a new, small solid-fueled ICBM, or a new, small liquid-fueled ICBM—all considered probable or
possible last September—is underway.
Ballistic Missile Submarines
Since last September’s estimate, production of Polaris type
submarines has begun at a second shipyard. This possibility was
taken into account in the high estimate, however, so there is no
reason to change the estimate of 35–50 Polaris-type submarines by
Size and Composition of the ICBM Force
When present construction is completed and all silo groups are filled
out, the Soviets will have by 1971 1,318 operational ICBM launchers plus about 87 test and
training launchers, most of which “could be readied to fire at the
U.S.” (The equivalent number of
test and training launchers for the U.S. is 17.) They will doubtless build some more new
launchers and phase out old, vulnerable ones.
By 1971, then, the Soviets will have reached the mid-point of the
ICBM range of 1100–1500
predicted for 1974–1975.
Soviet force goals may not be fixed. They may seek either equality or
a substantial advantage. There are two views about how far they
—The USIB majority
continues to endorse a high estimate of 1500. They point
out, however, that this estimate is not the limit of
their capability but one which takes into account costs,
problems of resource allocation and the Soviet wish not
to stimulate a new, large-scale arms race with the
“It is clear that the SS-11 force [now at 790] will
exceed the 700–750 that we projected in NIPP-695 … It is also clear that the SS-9 force
[now at 258] will exceed the high side of the 234–246
launchers projected in NIPP 69.” However,
- —the SS-13 force has not developed as expected, so there
is no reason to believe that the number of small ICBMs [SS-11s & SS-13s]
will exceed the earlier projection of 800–1,100
- —if the SS-9 program levels off, and if the Soviets do not
develop a new large missile, the number of large ICBMs will fall short of the
334–396 projection. If both programs proceed, Soviets can
build up to our projection.
Thus we have no basis for changing our projections.
- —State, DIA, Army, Navy and
Air Force believe 1500 may not be exceeded if Soviets deploy
multiple re-entry vehicles extensively. Otherwise, the Soviets
may have considerably more than 1500 launchers by the late
1970s. They note that construction of 100 launchers a year from
now on would produce an ICBM
force level in excess of 1800 by 1978.
Comment. The CIA reasoning on force
goals is almost completely tautological: if they don’t build as many
missiles as we said they would, their force will fall short of our
projections, etc. It is not surprising that virtually every other
agency with intelligence responsibilities is starting to break away
from the 1500 projection, though it is not a clean break.