199. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1


  • Request for Decision on Conventional Arms Transfer Case


I am recommending that you approve one $120 million Foreign Military Sales (FMS) case for Saudi Arabia for notification to the Congress.


The proposed sale of additional air munitions, including Sidewinder, Mavericks, laser-guided bombs (LGBs) and cluster bomb units (CBUs) for Saudi F–5s will respond to a Saudi request dating back to 1976.2 At that time the quantities of Sidewinders and Mavericks sold to the Saudis were reduced because of a controversy in Congress. In 1976 and subsequent years we promised the Saudis that when possible we would sell additional quantities of F–5 air munitions needed for war reserves and training. Since 1976 LGBs and CBUs were added to the package. The Saudis have continued to press us on this issue which has become a growing irritant in our relationship. DOD believes that the military justification is strong for the following sale now:

[Page 650]
6603 Sidewinders (sold 1892 to date)
9164 Mavericks (sold 1650 to date)
34355 Laser Guided Bombs (sold 1,000 to date)
15186 Cluster Bomb Units (sold 3,000 to date)

These amounts are reasonable when measured by standard U.S. Air Force calculations of war reserves on the basis of a potential threat to Saudi Arabia from Iraq and South Yemen. The Departments of State and Defense support the proposed sale in the above quantities since any reduction would not effectively deal with Saudi expectations. The amounts are less than the Saudis would like and delivery schedules will keep their stocks below planned war reserve levels for the next two years.

We have held extensive consultations with Congress on the proposal. Senator Javits is key. He has expressed reservations about the number of LGBs in this proposal but has not indicated whether he will acquiesce in or oppose the entire sale. We expect hearings and controversy but believe that in the final analysis Congress will not adopt a concurrent resolution of disapproval.

ACDA has no problem with the Sidewinders or CBUs, but believe the number of Mavericks should be 850 instead of 916. ACDA believes we should sell no additional LGBs and that with these levels of transfers, fully meeting our original commitments to Saudi Arabia, we will have effectively dealt with Saudi expectations. ACDA’s full rationale is attached.7

This case can be accommodated within the ceiling on conventional arms transfers and in my view is otherwise consistent with your directive on arms transfer restraint.8 It would not cause an excessive economic burden for Saudi Arabia or stimulate arms races or regional imbalance. In addition, the sale is consistent with your human rights policy and related legislation.


I believe that the sale will contribute to U.S. foreign policy and national security interests, and I recommend approval of the full sale [Page 651] and notification to the Congress. Harold Brown concurs with this recommendation.9

ALTERNATIVELY, that you approve sale of the full number of Sidewinders and CBUs, but that Mavericks be limited to 850 and no LGBs be included.10

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 67, Saudi Arabia: 8–11/79. Confidential. Brzezinski sent Vance’s memorandum to Carter under a November 6 memorandum, in which he outlined the F–5 munitions package and recommended that Carter approve Vance’s recommendation to authorize “notification to Congress of a $120 million F–5 air munitions package for Saudi Arabia.” Carter initialed the November 6 memorandum. (Ibid.)
  2. Documentation on the request is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–9, Part 2, Documents on the Middle East Region, 1973–1976.
  3. Carter wrote “ok” in the left-hand margin next to this figure.
  4. Carter wrote “850” in the left-hand margin and drew an arrow to this figure.
  5. Carter wrote “1000” in the left-hand margin and drew an arrow to this figure.
  6. Carter wrote “ok” in the left-hand margin next to this figure.
  7. Not found.
  8. Reference is to PD–13, “Conventional Arms Transfer Policy,” issued May 13, 1977. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978, Document 33.
  9. Carter neither approved nor disapproved this recommendation but wrote “Numbers of Maverick & LGB seem excessive. I support 850 & 1000. Reclama ok if necessary JC” in the margin below it.
  10. Carter neither approved nor disapproved this recommendation.