155. Letter From Secretary of State Vance to Secretary of Defense Brown1

Dear Harold:

Thank you for your letter of August 15 which forwarded the JCS evaluation of the Saudi request for sixty F–15 aircraft.2

When I spoke with the Saudi leadership during my recent trip,3 I explained that the F–15 case had to be held until the notification of the Egyptian non-lethal package had completed the Congressional review period. The Iran AWACS case will also be before Congress when it reconvenes.4 I believe we should wait until those cases clear the Congress before deciding when to move on the F–15’s.

There is no question that going forward with notification of the F–15 sale will generate substantial opposition. We would have to be fully prepared and consequently I appreciate your offer of additional data and support. A detailed analysis of the Saudis’ military need for the aircraft as well as an analysis of the impact of the sale on the area military balance would be most useful. As you are aware, State (PM working with NEA) is chairing an interagency study on Saudi Arabian requirements which would mesh closely with this effort. I would like to suggest that Dave McGiffert work closely together with Les Gelb and Sid Sober to meld your analysis with this study, concentrating on expediting a full understanding of the F–15 sale.

Additionally, the Arms Export Control Board on September 9 will hold a preliminary discussion of the proposal. This will bring to bear other views which should be of use.

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Because of probable Congressional questions, your analysis should include discussion of possible alternatives to the F–15 (F–14, F–16, F–18, or additional F–5’s).


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770146–0371. Secret.
  2. In the August 15 letter to Vance, Brown indicated that he concurred with JCS findings in an evaluation of the Saudi request for 60 F–15s. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770146–0373) Brown also forwarded the JCS report, which consisted of a July 18 memorandum to Brown from Major General Philip Shulter and an appendix entitled “Military Requirement for 60 F–15 Aircraft for Saudi Arabia and Appropriateness of Delivery in CY 1981.” In the July 18 memorandum, the Joint Chiefs concluded: “The Saudi request for 60 F–15 aircraft fills a valid military requirement to modernize its fighter force, maintain operational force level, and acquire an all-weather fighter capability.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770146–0374)
  3. Vance visited Saudi Arabia August 7–9. For records of his meetings with Saudi leaders, which mostly concerned the Arab-Israeli peace process, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978, Documents 74, 75, and 77.
  4. Documentation on the issue of AWACS for Iran is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. X, Iran: Revolution, January 1977–November 1979.