[Page 866]

185. Memorandum From the Chairman of the United States Intelligence Board (Colby) to the Chairman of the 40 Committee (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Intelligence Value of Project AZORIAN

1. The United States Intelligence Board has reviewed and updated its intelligence assessment of Project AZORIAN (attached). On the basis of this review, the Board concludes that there have been no significant developments since the last Board assessment which would detract from the unique intelligence value of this target.

2. Successful recovery and exploitation of the cryptographic materials expected to be on board would represent a major milestone for the U.S. [less than 1 line not declassified] effort against Soviet naval forces. [1½ lines not declassified]Acquisition of the nuclear warhead and the SS–N–5 missile system, together with related documents, would provide a much improved baseline for estimates of the current and future Soviet strategic threat. The Board also expects that recovered documents would provide important insights [1½ lines not declassified]

3. In its evaluation the Board assumed a successful mission. On this basis the Board continues to believe that recovery of the AZORIAN submarine would provide information [less than 1 line not declassified] on subjects of great importance to the national defense.

W. E. Colby
Chairman
[Page 867]

Attachment

Memorandum From the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee of the United States Intelligence Board (John T. Hughes) to the Chairman of the United States Intelligence Board (Colby)2

SUBJECT

  • Intelligence Value of Project AZORIAN

REFERENCE

  • JEN–0009/72(U) dated 7 August 19723

1. The Ad Hoc Committee has reviewed and updated the assessment of intelligence value of Project AZORIAN. In the conduct of its review, the Committee found that there have been no significant intelligence developments since the last Board assessment which would detract from the unique potential of the AZORIAN target, particularly with respect to cryptographic materials, the nuclear warhead, and SS–N–5 missile components. A recommendation for Board consideration is set forth in paragraph 4.

2. In conducting this review, the Committee did not address the technical or political feasibility of AZORIAN. Its conclusions assume successful recovery and physical possession of certain weapons components, cryptographic materials, and sensitive documentation in a condition adequate to permit detailed technical examination.

3. The Committee examined the five major categories of equipment which are believed to represent the more significant acquisitions potentially derivable from the AZORIAN target. Committee conclusions are summarized below:

a. Cryptographic Machines and Materials (Annex A). A major justification for Project AZORIAN is the intelligence value of the cryptographic materials. [5½ lines not declassified]. Such equipment and related material would be of very high value to the U.S. intelligence effort against Soviet naval forces. It could also be an important factor in our overall [less than 1 line not declassified] of the Soviet Union.

b. Nuclear Warheads and Related Documents (Annex B). Acquisition of data in this category, particularly on nuclear weapon design, would be extremely valuable. [2 lines not declassified] Recovery of nuclear warheads [Page 868]and related documents from the AZORIAN target would provide important new insight into Soviet nuclear technology, weapon design concepts, and related operational procedures.

c. The SS–N–5 Missile (Annex C). The SS–N–5 missile, although not in itself the major SLBM threat, would provide important information on technologies relevant to the SS–N–6, and possibly to some aspects of the SS–N–8. [4 lines not declassified] acquisition of the SS–N–5 would represent an important milestone and be of high intelligence value.

d. Navigation and Fire Control Systems (Annex D). Most navigation equipment probably would be relatively unsophisticated in terms of more recent systems and would provide little data pertinent to them. On the other hand, equipment and documentation in the missile fire control category are considered to be of high value. Instruction books, internal circuit diagrams, spare parts, and related documentation probably would add significantly to our technical understanding of the GOLF–II strategic weapon system.

e. Sonar and Other Naval Equipment (Annex E). Sonar and ASW equipment is generally expected to be of modest value, due to obsolescence, but would provide evidence of Soviet progress in areas [less than 1 line not declassified] Sonar communications systems, self-noise data, and ASW decoys would be of higher value.

4. Recommendation: It is recommended that USIB approve the major conclusions of the Ad Hoc Committee as summarized in paragraph 3 and supported in detail in Annexes A through E.

John T. Hughes Chairman
Ad Hoc Committee
  1. Source: National Security Council Files, Nixon Administration Intelligence Files, AZORIAN Project. Top Secret; JENNIFER; [codeword not declassified]; AZORIAN.
  2. Top Secret; JENNIFER/[codeword not declassified]; AZORIAN; [codeword not declassified]; RESTRICTED DATA.
  3. Not found.