STRENGTH AND COMPOSITION OF THE SOVIET LONG-RANGE BOMBER FORCE (SNIE 11-7-58)

Created: 6/5/1958

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NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE NUMBER SvpwtedMof)

STRENGTH AND COMPOSITION OF THE SOVIET LONG RANGE BOMBER FORCE

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STRENGTH AND COMPOSITION OF THE SOVIET LONG RANGE BOMBER FORCE

THE PROBLEM

To estimate the strength and composition ol the Soviet long range bomber force, through

CONClUSIONS

At present,ng Rangeisedium bomber force, best suited for operaliona against tax-teu on the Eurasian periphery andof large-scale attacks against the con unental US through extensive use ofmissions. Considerable effort has been devoted to the development of heavy bombers, but it appears that within the pail yar or two Soviet planners decided toapid buildup with present versions of the BISON and BEAR. (Para

n estimating the operational strength and composition of Soviet Long flange Aviation, we have pro)cctcd heavy bomber and tanker figuies90 as lyingange The low sidea Soviet option to forego further buildup of their heavy bomber force throughhe high sidea Soviet option to produce someaircraft of BISON and/or BEAR types, and toew subsonic heavy bomber into opctatlonal units be-

foreew medium bomber with supersonic "dash" capability will probably be introduced some time. the Soviet jet medium bomber force inayew auch aircraft in addilion to BADGER*

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here is no quesUon that byhe Soviets could produce and put into operational units five or sis hundred heavy bombers and tankers, should they desire thisorce ol such subsonic aircraft, augmented by small numbers of advanced types It seems to us more likely, howevrr. that the Soviet heavy bomber and tanker force will remain smaller lhan litisabout two or Ihree hundredand that by about mid-

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the USSR wUl be placing majoron ICBMs for Intercontinentalof nuclear weapons.)

he number of medium bombers In Soviet Long Range Aviation will prob-

ably decrease byupersonic "dash" medium bombers may become an Important element in the force, but BADGERs will probably have continuing utility.

DISCUSSION

STATUS OF SOVIET LONG RANGE AVIATION

A rapid expansion of Soviet Long Range Aviation occurred with the Introduction of the present generation of long range bombers.0 the Soviets began devoting high-priority efforts to developing the BADGER Jet medium bomber and the BISON jet and BEAR turboprop heavy bombers, which were placed In series production, after lead-times which were relatively short by US standards. Thc greatest expansion In total strength took place4t apparently levelled off arounde estimate that asong Range Aviation included moreombers in aboutegiments, against an4 strength ofn aboutegiments.

Medium Bomber Force. Most of the recent expansion has occurred In medium bomber strength, which comprisedandbsolete BULL pistonbombers asheof BADGERs. and their introduction Into operational units, has proceededairly high and steady ratehis rate is now tapering off somewhat, but production is still estimated to be in excess ofer month, and deliveries to Long Range Aviation units continue. BADGERs are also being supplied to some Soviet air components other than Long Range Aviation. BULLs began phasing out of the force with the introduction of the BADGER, but the present rate of retirement Is slow.

About four-fifths of these medium bombers are based in the area west of Moscow between Leningrad and the Black Sea; most of the remainder are in the southern portion of the

Soviet Parew are In tho Caucasus. Their base locations and normal patterns of activity would facilitate bombing missions launched directly from home bases to targets In Eurasia and its periphery. The majority of land targets o( strategic importance to the US outside theair bases, potential IRBM sites, allied ports, and industrial, military, governmental and communications centerswithin the combat radii of Soviet medium bombers operating directly from home bases. Many Important naval operating areas are also within their combat radii.

he Soviets have also taken measures to prepare medium bomber elements for the type of operations necessary for attack on North American targets. Training activities over the past several years have included more realistic, larger-scale exercises and long-range flights. More recently, there havecertainly been an Increasing number of flights to potential staging bases in theArctic, though tar fewer than would be expectedully combat-ready capability against the US. Inflight refueling techniques have been developed foronvertible tanker-bomber version of thc aircraft, although at presentimited operational capability exists.certain BADOER units have been trained and equipped to employ air-to-surf aceof aboulautical miles range,designed primarily for anti-ship use but also suitable for attacking well-defined radar targets on land. By staging through Arctic bases, UADGERs could reach: Alaska,and part of Canada on unrefueled two-way missions; more or Canadamall portion of the US on refueled two-wayall of Canada and much of the US on

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one-way missions; all US targets on refueled one-way missions.

Heavy Bomber Force. In strong contrast to trie apparent rapidity with which the BISON and BEAR were developed, theirand introduction Into units has been at very low and uneven rates. The BISON program was characterized by repeatedto the aircraft until abouthen an Improved version appeared.rates at the one Identified BISON factory (Moscow/Ktli) roseaximum of three to four per month In the summernd then began to decreaseanner suggesting the phase-out of production of this model. Aircraft design work and/or retooling were apparently Instituted at Moscow/Pill in thc fallnd we arc reasonablythat no other factory is producing BISON. We therefore believe that production of the present version has virtually slopped, and that asotal cumulative BISON production amounted to about 85

Considerably less evidence Is available on BEAR production, but at no time does moreraction of the capacity of one aircraft factory (at Kuibyshev) appear to have been allocated to the program. BEAR production has probably averaged no more than about two perontinuing absence of good indications of BEAR production sinceogether with the subsequentat Kuibyshev of theransport version of the BEAR, leads us to believe that the BEAR program was probably terminated, at least temporarily, bylthough It Is possible that production continuesow rate. Total cumulative BEARas8 may have been betweenndircraft.

Tlic activity of Long Range Aviation units has likewise failed toecent enlargement of the heavy bomber force,unit structure could readilyexpansion. We estimate totalstrength In BISON and BEARircraft ashe bulk are based In Southwestern USSR,mall number in the Far East.

perational BISON units ixx> ductedmall amount of training In Arctic staging and inflight refueling, both of whkh would be essential for two-wayagainst most US targets, Moreover, discernible BISON activity has virtually ceased during the past six months, while BEAR actlv. ity has continued at modest rates.

sum. Soviet Long Rangeedium bomber force,for operations against targets onperiphery and capable ofattacks against the continentalextensive use of one-wayeffort has been devoted toof heavy bombers, but Itwithin the past year or two Sovietdecided toapid buildupversions of the BISON and BEAR.

FACTORS AFFECTING SOVIET POUCY

Dissatisfaction with thc BISON and BEAR probably affected the Soviet decision.technical difficulties apparentlythe BISON program In Its early stages and may still be plaguing the Soviets.the combat radius of the current BISON, even with Inflight refueling, appears to be Insufficient to ensure flexibility In two-way operations against the continental US. The BEAH's combat radius is adequate, but ils speed and altitude are somewhat Inferior to those ot the BISON and Its turbopropsystem probably has less growth potentialurbojet system.existing heavy bomber models haveprogressively less effective In relation to US defensive capabilities. While the Soviet program lagged, the West continued counter preparations which included improved active air defense, early warning, and othercalculated to reduce thehances of successfully neutralizing US retaliatory forces.

Progress tn developing more advancedweapon systems probably also played an Important role In the SovietEvidence in technical fields leada to the conclusion that the Soviets have active and well-advanced programs In those primary

areas which support new long range bomber development; they have probably made good progressuccessor to BISON and BEAR. Moreover, In the past two years the Soviet leaders have probably becomeconfident of their ability to acquire an early operational ICBM capability, in view of the Impressive results achieved to date in missile testing and earth satellites. Soviet plans for submarine-launched missiles may also have contributed to the decision.

the curtailment of BISON andbefore acquiring even ancapability with either an ICBMfollow on bomber Involved Sovietat least some calculated risk. Thealmost certainly appreciate thatthe USSR could not launch anatuck against the US and itsreceiving unacceptable damage inbut at the same time, they arethat their existing capabilitiespowerful deterrent to Western initiationwar. Moreover, the risk involvedby the existence of aforce. In the face of knownSoviet planners have lived with amedium bomber capability against thesome ten years, and may think theywith it atittle longer. Thusmay consider its mediummall heavy bomberat least temporarily acceptable forSoviet foreign policy objectivesuse against the US if general war

the USSR Is almostto strive for technologicalover the US In intercontinentalIt Is clear that Soviet plannersgreat store by the ICBM as posingnew type of threat. However,also take into account that acapability Including bothand missiles would furtherWestern defensive problems, and thatand payload of the ICBM willtime be Inferior to those ofIn this connection, last year'sremarks about bombers byand others have been considerably

mitigated by subsequent statements. Wethat manned bombers, especiallytypes, will almost certainly eontlnue toonsiderable role, with emphasis on those functions for which they arewell-suited, such as attacka on small, hardened targets, damage assessment, and reconnaissance.

bomber development ano production capabilities

e estimated Inhat over the next few years tho USSR could: (a) Improve the BISON and BADGER try modifying them between now0 to increase their range and altitude capabilities; (b)ew subsonic heavy bomber having performance somewhat belter than that of an Improved BISON, especially in range, Introducing it Into operational units; (c)ew medium bomber with supersonicange roughly equivalent to that of an Improved BADGER, Introducing it Into operational units. We also noted, however, that none of the above types would add substantially to Soviet intercontinental attack capabilities, and that the USSR may be proceeding directly toward considerably more advanced aircraft for operational use. It was estimateduclear reactorfor propulsion of subsonic aircraft could probubly be availableovietof two-way operational capabilities against all targets In the continental US with manned delivery systems capable ofspeed was estimated to require longer. probably until after2hemical-powered aircraft andor either nuclear-powered aircraft or hypersonic boost-glidevidence received since publication ofoes not justify any change in the above estimate of Soviet bomber development capabilities, but it strengthens the likelihood that the USSR now has one or more types of

: Poulble Soviet Lone Range nc-mber8cter. however, to the footnote to the following paragraph by Lhe Assistant Chief of sua. Intelligence. USAT.

luge bomber aircraft In flight-testonsidering the available Information ondevelopment, flight-testing andplant activities, we believe that aof at least one new or Improved type of large bomber has probably been completed, possibly earlyhrushchev recently stated that the USSR would soonnew and very interestinglthough we are still unable to determine what specific type or types of aircraft may have reached flight-test status, we expect torototype at any lime, possibly on Soviet Aviation Day this summer. In the Interim, we do notthe rurthcr possibility that the USSR Isery advanced Intercontinental bomberaster pace than we estimated in.

eanwhile, Soviet capacity to produce long range bombers and other large aircraft has continued to expand. Major newhas been reported at most Soviet airframe plants over the past four years;at bomber plants has beenby high-bay buildings well suited to the assembly of large aircraft. Expansion amounting to someoercent additional floor space has already occurred at some bomber plants, and it Is probable thatIncreases will have been completed at othersuch of this added capacity Is believed to be for the production of large transport aircraft. Nevertheless;f the USSR's announced transportgoals would still leave sufficient plant capacity to build bombers at more rapid rates than those of the past few years. In recent years the USSR has also expanded ora number of airfields. Including some ln potential Arctic staging areas, which are identified with or suitable for heavy bombers of current or advanced types. This program Is still under way.

onsiderable lead-time is required prior to achieving an operational capability with

' The Aulstant Chief ot Staff, intelligence. USAF. believes the evidence does. In fact, chance tha cslimate of Soviet bomber development eapablll-In this rtspect, he believes an aircraftpropulsion lysUm could now be undergoing flight testsrototype airframe.

large, complex military aircraft. Analysis of past Soviet experience Indicates thattimes to be expected are: (a) about two yearsinimum of eighteen months,completionrototype andof the first series produced aircraft; (b) aboul an additional year until theof aircraft into operational units. ew prototype wis completed early7 (see para.ndriority program was undertaken withoutthe first series produced aircraft could probably be completed In8 orndew type could probably be Introduced into operational units ln9 orecause of deficiencies In our Information, we recognize that the USSR could already have Institutedew long range bomber type entirely without our knowledge, but consideration of all the factors Involved leads us to believe that no new bomber type will appear In Long Range Aviation units until some time aftern the other hand. If the recent cut-back ln heavy bomber production merely marked the modification or redesign of existing types,of an improved model could begin at any time.

SHORT-TERM ESTIMATE, TOe believe lhat during the five-year period of this estimate the USSR will continue toeavy bomber force. It follows from what has been said In previousthat the Soviets may either begin at an early date to produce improved versions of the BISON and perhaps additional BEARs, or may forego any buildup at leastew subsonic heavy bomber can be made available, some time after Even in the first case, thr numbers produced would probably not be very large, because Soviet planners probably do not feel compelled. In the Interim before the advent ol more advanced weapon systems, toeavy bomber force of much larger site but with aircraft of only marginally better performance.

ubsonic heavy bomberInould help the USSR overcome the geographic disadvantage It faces in the application of strategic nuclear

power against the US, but Its capabilities to penetrate North American defenses would be little better than those of an Improved BISON. Thc Soviets might nevertheless produce such an aircraft during the early years of ICBM availability and prior to the advent of more advancedhedge" against slippage in either of the latterew might be Introduced Into operational units by

The BADGER force will probably be strengthened somewhat over the next year or more. Soviet planners will continue toarge medium bomber forceecessity, not only for potential employment against targets in and near Eurasia, but also forne-way intercontinental strike capability. However, the rate of introduction of new BADGERs will probably continue to decline,eak strength ofincluding convertible tanker-bombers) will probably be reachedrogram of modification and improvement of BADGERs may be undertaken during the next two years. The BULL will continue to be useful for some purposes; its phase-out will probably bereducing the piston medium bomber strength of Long Range Aviation ton

Thc new supersonic "dash" medium bomber mentioned inouldseful successor to the BADGER, particularly if equipped with advanced air-to-surfaceWe believeew medium bomber will probably be introduced some timeew might have reachedunits by

In estimating thc operational strength and composition of Soviet Long Rangewe have projected heavy bomber and tanker figures90 as lyingange. The low sideoviet option to forego further buildup of their heavy bomber force throughhe high sideoviet option to produce some additional aircraft of BISON and/or BEAR types, and toew subsonic heavy bomber into operational units before

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Soviets will continue their effortsthe capabilities of their longforce. Over the next two years,probably improve Inflight refuelingand make them more generallyThe weight of present evidencecontinued employment ofbut one or more of thetransport types could be modifieda tanker role. Improvednavigation andand other supportingprobably be provided. Alr-to-surfacelaunching capabilities will probablyOperations into and fromArctic staging areas will probablyand base facilities in thesecontinue to be improved.

IONGER TERM TRENDS, TO

estimates of trends in Sovietbomber strengthith more uncertainty, especiallyto heavy bombers. If our estimatesguided missile capabilities arecould see the advent of aICBM capability, increasedmissile capabilities, and abuildup of ballistic missiles withmedium ranges. The same periodthe introduction of very advancedbombers, of newand of improved air-to-surface mis-

. siles. The range of options open to the Soviet planners Is wide and the number of variables great. Indeed we question whether decisions which the Soviets may have made along these lines will remain firm.

key factor influencing Sovietto military force levels is of course theestimate of the likelihood of all-outwar with the US. We believe thatleaders do not intend during the period

C KG RET.

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this estimate to Initiate generaleliberate act of policy, and that they Judge that the US is likewise indisposed to do so. It Is true that the Soviets, likeare well aware that general war may arise out of accident or miscalculation. Their armed forces must be reasonably prepared forontingency. Yet lt is obvious from Soviet policies, both military and non-mili-tary, that the Soviet leaders do not believe the likelihood of general war In itself to be so great as toapid buildup in force levels.

Regardless of the Immediate politicalhowever, the Soviet leaders would probably build up their force levels veryIf they believed that by doing so they could acquire the capability to attack the US and at the same time to prevent an unacceptableblow. The achievement of such awould be tantamount to theof military superiority over the US.ilitary and technological point of view,ain factor determining Soviet decisions as to force levels will be theiras to whether the attainment of this capability is practicable. Their judgment will be influencedreat extent by programmed improvements in US air defenses, the dispersal and alert status of retaliatory forces, and the dispersal and hardening of IRBM and ICBM launching sites. The structure of the forces would be influenced by thc Soviet assessment of the effectiveness of missiles and bombers in various employments, and of their ownin using these weapon systems.

Soviet military planners would probably feel that even though they had available sub-

stantial numbers of ICBMs and somamissiles, lt would still boto introduce advanced intercontinental bombers Into operational units. Lata In the period of this estimate these could include chemical-powered aircraft capable ofspeed at high altitude or possiblynuclear-powered aircraft with longat various altitudes. Including very low altitude. They are likely to be equipped to launch improved alr-to-surface missiles as well as bombs, and to be fitted withimproved defensive and otherSome aircraft of either or both these types could probably be In operational units by

There Is no question that byhe Soviets could produce and put Intounits five or six hundred heavy bombers and tankers, should they desire thisorce of such subsonic aircraft, augmented by the advanced types mentioned In the previous paragraph. It seems to us more likely,that the Soviet heavy bomber and tanker force' will remain smaller than thissay about two or three hundredand that by abouthe USSR will be placingreliance on ICBMs for intercontinentalof nuclear weapons.

We believe that the number of medium bombers In Soviet Long Range Aviation will probably decrease in the later years of the period. BULLs will probably have phased out entirely shortly afterupersonic "dash" medium bombers may become an Important element In the force byutito will probably have continuing utility.

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