Created: 9/12/1978

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Soviet Strategic Forces for Peripheral Attack






The following inteBigenco organizations participated in tbe preparation of the Estimate;

The Central Intelligence Agency ond the intettgence orgoniialioni of the Deportment! ol Slate, Energy, ond Detenus, and Ihc Notioool Security Agency.


The Attittont Chief ol Slolf lo< inlelligence. Depo'tmenl of lhe Army


lhe Direclor ol Naval Intelligence. Deportmenl of Ihe Novy

The Aiiritonl Chief of Slolf, tnfcCgentc, Deportment of lhe Air Force



This Estimate addresses thai sizable protion of thc USSR's strategic forces which is intended for use primarily against land targets in Western Europe. China, tbe Middle East, and other areas on the periphery of the USSR. The relevant targets are generally beyond the immediate area of ground force engagements but at less than intercontinental range. We refer to ihese as peripheral strategic targets, and to tbe Soviet forces whose mission is lo attack ihem as strategic forces for peripheral atlack.

At present, tbe Soviet strategic forces for peripheral attack consist mostly of medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF) and intermediate-range bombersg Range Aviationome intercontinental ballistic missiles of the SRF. heavy bombers of LRA. and ballistic missile submarines of the Soviet Navy also contribute to this mission. The peripheral strategic attack forces arc not organizedeparately identifiable entity bul are parts of major components of the Soviet military establishment which themselves have broader missions. Our identification of forces concerned primarily with the peripheral attack mission is based on such factors as tbc characteristics of their weapons and their deployment

The Soviel concept of warfareontinuum of action at distances ranging from the immediate area of ground engagements to thc intercontinental arena. Thc Soviets have sought flexibility of weapons employment In implementing this concept. No hard-and-fast lines can be drawn between peripheral strategic forces and other Soviet forces in all circujnstances. Some of tbe forces considered in this Estimate are capable of contributing to intercontinental strikes, whereas many other forces not discussed in detail are capable of being used against peripheral strategic targels. Included in the latter category are Soviet Naval Aviation aircraft, some missile-launching surface ships and cruise missile submarines, and many tactical aircraft and missiles.

These other forces are committed largely to other missions and have therefore been excluded from detailed consideration in this Estimate. We have, however, taken their capabilities into account in our assessment of the implications of trends in Soviet peripheral forces for strategic attack and in an annex on comparisons of Soviet and non-

Soviet forces. In particular, wc have recognized the impact of Soviet tactical forces on the USSlVs overall capabilities for theater nuclear warfare and on the conduct of any Soviet military effort in Eurasia.

For detailed discussions of other Soviet forces whose capabilities overlap those of the forces addressed in this Estimate, see especially. Soviet Capabilities for Strategic Nuclear Conflict Through the. andarsaw Pact Forces Opposite NATO (forthcoming)



Und-Based Ballistic Missiles

Ballistic Missile Submarine



Implications .

Comparisons of Soviet and



for Peripheral Attack

B Medium- and Interrrsediate-Ranie Ballistic

C Ballistic Missile Submarine

of Petlphcral Attack Fotces


A In termed iate-Ranite


C Other

D Medium- and Intermediate-Ranee Ballistic

Ballistic Missiles

of Missile Forces

allistic Missile Submarine

ther Naval Forces


A Emeigin* Theater Conirol Structure

in Flexibility and Survivability


B Employment


A Factors Affedinit Soviet Force


of the Fotce Projections


Problem of Comparing Soviet and Non-Soviet





The Soviets began after World War II to build forces capable ofariety of stralegic targets in arras adjacent to thc USSR. Large forces were deployed for this purpose in thendlthough emphasis shifted in theo strengthening Soviet intercontinental attack capabilities, strategic forces for peripheral attack continue to play an important part in Soviet plans and toignificant portion of the USSR's military strength.

International tensions, the proliferation of nuclear capabilities among several nations, uneasy relations with China, and Western technological advances in the weapons field will continue to be of sufficient concern to the Soviets to preclude any reduction in the overall capabilities of strategic forces for peripheral attack. Present trends point lo qualitative improvement rather than Quantitative growth. The deployment of new weapon systems now under way, along with some improvements to existing systems, will provide the peripheral strategic forces with greater capabilities, increased survivability, and more flexibility.


The first elements of the Soviet strategic forces toeripheral strike role were intermediate-range bombers, deployed shortly after World War II. Afterighircrafthe size of the intermediate-range bomber component of Long Range Aviation (LRA) began to declineesult of the retirement of older aircraft, the transfer of some to Soviet Naval Aviation (SNA) and to Soviet Air Force training units, and the sale of some to other countries. Currently, LRA hasntermediate-range bombers, most of ihemadgers andlinders. It is likelyorce of about this size will be retained over the nextears'

4 the Soviets began toewappears well suited for peripheral attack and naval missions. According to one view in the Intelligence Community, the Backfire alsoignificant threat to the contiguous United States, a

'Tin numericaln ihure btud on ihr modcrHr lew projection (Kited in drlall In ctiioto V.


capability which lhc Soviets could employ at theirboutackfires arc now operational with LRA. (Approximatelythers are assigned toe believeackfires will be assigned to LRAargely as replacements for older aircraft. The low-altilude and supersonic capabilities of the Backfire, as well as Its improved avionics, giveuch-improved capability "to penetrate air defenses, strike peripheral strategic targels, conduct armedand recover for additional missions

If the Soviets engagedonnuclear war against NATO or in Asia, bombers wiih peripheral strategic attack capabilities would participate. Duringonflict ihey would conduct conventional attacks against airfields, nuclear storage facilities, and other targets with the primary objective of reducing enemy nuclear capabilities. During nuclear war, these aircraft would conduct nuclear attacks designed lo complement strikes by ballistic missiles. They probably would be used primarily against those targets lhal did not pose an immediate strategic threat to the USSR, such as troop concentrations, storage facilities, and industrial centers, thus freeing lhe ballistic missile forces lo concentrate on Hme-urgent targets. ,

There are indications lhat under some circumstances, lhe Soviets plan to use some of their long-range Bear and Bison heavy bombers for peripheral strategic attacks, but we believe thai these weapons remain committed primarily to intercontinental attack missions. Some of the intermediate-range bombers assigned lo SNA also probably would be used to attack land targets on theeriphery, although this force is committed primarily to antiship missions.


The buildup of the land-based ballistic missile element of Soviel stralegic forces for peripheral attack began8 with lhe deployment of lheedium-range ballistic missilehe force grew considerably through thes thcRBM and lhentermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) were introduced. When deployment of these two systems endedhe force consisted of moreaunchers, ll has declined somewhat in total size since then. There are currentlyndaunchers deployed in lhe European and south-central USSR; aboulerceni are soft, and the remainder arc silos.

These missile systemstieved to be armed exclusively with nuclear warheads. They lack the accuracy to be used effectively against hardened targets and have slow reaction times. Despite iheir limitations.

1The hoUm of thu iA4io trr Ute Dr/mie Inielhgenee Afncv. th* Anulam Chief oli a/ <Vthe Ammm CW/ of Sufi. hueMigenct.l Ihe All Foect. For additional duannea ol ihu irrur. lee ehavin II..

(hey would be effectiveariety of targets, such as airfields, nuclear storage facilities, air defense networks, ports, and industrial facilities.

Somendaunchers are now being deactivated, evidently in conjunction with tbe deployment of tbe USSR's new IRBM, theodifications to many of the sitesowever, indicate that the Soviets probably are not considering an abrupt phaseout. Somend SSrobably will remain in service into the.

Thelight test program began4 and has been highly successful.reparations for deployment of this new mobile missile system began in areas opposite NATO and China. Seven bases with facilities for as many asobile launchers probably now have at least some operational capability. At least five more bases are under construction. We estimate thatobile IRBM launchers will be operational by the- and as manyay be deployedhcarries three multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) and is appreciably more accurate than older MRBMs and IRBMs. Eachauncher will evidently have several missiles for refire purposes which, because of the survivability of the mobileystem, are more likely to be usable than the singlc-refire missile now located with some of thendt fixed launch positions. Because of their accuracy, MIRV capability, and survivability, mobile IRBMs will become the backbone of the land-based ballistic missile forces for peripheral nuclear attack.

In addition to MRBMs and IRBMs.ovietballistic missiles (ICBMs) probably were once assigned peripheral targets. An unknown but smaller number may still be so assigned. The Soviets will probably retain the option to allocate ICBMs to peripheral strategic targets, but any requirement to do so will decline aseployment proceeds.


Submarines equipped with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles began entering the fleet in numbers in lheith the deployment ofIass andlass submarines. Until the, most of these submarines had intercontinental rather than peripheral strike missions. Since then, newer, more modern nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) apparently have relieved these older units of their intercontinental missions. The limited range of their missiles, together wiih recent patrol patterns, suggest that all of lheI-class ballistic missile submarines (withaunchers) have now shifted to the peripheral attack mission. Wo believe that these submarines will be phased out of thc force by the.


The Soviel force of modern Y-lass submarines is committed primarily to attacks on the United States. The Soviets however, almost certainly have developed contingency plans for the use of theubmarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) onlass submarines against targets in Europe and Asia. The relative importance of the peripheral attack role for these modern SSBNs would probably depend largely upon the circumstances leading uponflict and thc scenario for its initialion, We cannot, therefore, predict the number of units that might be employed for such missions.*

Considering their flexibility and survivability, we believemall number of ballistic missile submarines probably will retain peripheral strike roles or options for the foreseeable future. They most likely would conduct nuclear strikes against relatively soft targets such as airfields, some nuclear storage sites, ports, missile submarine bases, and other coastal targets.


Limited evidence concerning Soviet targeting conceptsforcesreference for countermllltary targetingan enemy's means to wage nuclear war and to createto the success of ground campaigns Until the latedoctrine that

emphasized massive theaterwide nuclear strikes, either to preempt NATO first use of nuclear weapons or in response to NATO use of nuclear weapons onmall scale. In the Soviets'assive Iheaterwide exchange still appears to be the most likely eventuality.

^The Soviets clearly would like to achieve their war-fighting objectives at the lowest possible level of conflict and to minimize increasing the risk of intercontinental warfare.imited nuclear conflict against NATO, they might withhold the use of strategic nuclear forces based in the USSR and thus seek to avoid inviting attack on the Soviet homeland.

The Soviets have devoted considerable attention to development of their command and control structure. They haveong-term and expensive program to cope with widely dispersed forces, fast-paced operations, and the massive stresses on the command and control system that would occur in high-intensity conventional or nuclear operations. Among many developments, two have been most notable: significant improvements in the survivability and flexibility of their

1 There err dtoerteal alexia aUhln iht inleMtenct Ommuiliyioneernint iht tthtkhtndlhal "idem SSBHi would be emptovedfet peripheral ilrtie mtufoni. For driaili. ia chapter II. pararrapht


Top OcuU

command and communication systems; and developmentapability toheaterwidc echelon of command with broad authority over forces of all kindsarge geographic region. In wartime, it is likely that the High Command in each theater would exercise authority over some or all bombers with capabilities to conduct peripheral strategic strikes in its region, and probably over ballistic missiles as well.


Soviet peripheral strategic forces now includeombers and missile launchers withombs and0 when refire missiles arc considered) andegatonshen refire missiles areost currently deployed Soviet weapons with strategic peripheral attack capabilities were designed innd now are obsolescent. New weapon systems such as the Backfire and Ihcill have significantly improved combat capabilities, notably in the MIRVed warheads, accuracy, survivability, and additional refire capability of the missile systems and the penetration capabilities of the bombers. We expect, however, that some ICBMs and SLBMs will continue to cover some peripheral targets, at least into thc.

The Soviets do not appear to have compelling military reasons for deploying newruise missiles for use against land targets on the periphery of the USSR. Nonetheless, improvements in enemy air defenses. US development of cruise missiles, or such developments or deployment in NATO could motivate the Soviets either to modify one of their existing cruise missiles for long-range applications or to pursue development of new systems. Thc Soviets are already testing what probablyong-range air-launched cruise missile and could test systems with more advanced technologies by the. Cruise missiles could provide thceans to augment their theater nuclear forces rapidly if they perceived changes unfavorable to them in the theater nuclear balance.

Wc believe that, in planning for, future deployment of peripheral weapon systems, the Soviets have considered the implications of the ongoing US-Soviet negotiations concerning limitations onnuclear delivery vehicles. An agreement that called for major reductions of intercontinental deliveryas an aggregate ceiling considerably lower thanurrently undercould contribute to Soviet motives for increasing the sire and capabilities of peripheral forces. Regardless of the outcome of the strategic arms limitation talks (SALT) and despite any lessening of

* Pot purpOkfi ol itoJ dijcuukm. kmcman in rim0 niutlol

i di&ingubhirw iinae limitationn (he iiritrgic irmi limitation lalu.



international tensions, the Soviets will continue toeed for large forces capable of attacking targets beyond the borders of the Soviet Union at less than intercontinental ranges.

To illustrate the direction, scope, and pace of growth in capabilities of the peripheral forces over the nextears we have developed alternative projections. There are significant uncertainties in both of these projections- Oneoderate level of effort and represents our viewontinuation of recent Soviet efforts without significant changes of emphasis. The otherigh level of effort and is intended to depict the growth we would expect if the Sovietseed for significantly greater enhancement of their peripheral forces. On the basis of present indications, we believe Soviet peripheral strategic attack forces are likely to evolve along the lines of what weoderate level of effort, and werogram like that of the high level of effort to be unlikely.

Moderate Level of Effort.oderate level of effort, we would expect changes during the nextears to result primarily from the introduction into the force of mobilend follow-on missiles and of Backfireccording to this projection, as older, single-RV missiles are replaced by MIRVed IRBMs. the total number of delivery vehicles (that is, bombers and missile launchers) declines by aboutercent. These vehicles, however, will carry aboutercent more weapons than the present force, with roughly the same equivalent mcgatonnagc. These rather gradual trends change considerably if the refire missiles projected to be available to land-based MRBMs and IRBMs are taken into account. With refire missiles considered, the number of missile RVs and bomber weapons increases by aboutercent and equivalent megalonnage by aboutercent over thc nextears.raphic presentation of trends in the size and composition of the Soviet strategic forces for peripheral attack, as illustrated by numbers of bombs and warheads in the moderate projection, see

We expect some shift in the distribution of peripheral forces between the European USSR and the Soviet Far East. Someercent of both the bombers and land-based ballistic missiles for peripheral attack are currently based in the western USSR. There is no present indication of change in the distribution of bombers, but the observed pattern ofase construction, increasing Sino-Soviet hostility, and anticipated growth in Chinese nuclear forces lead us to estimatearger portion of the ballistic missile force will be deployed against targets in Asia. Considering the likely Soviel view of the distribulion of threats and targets, however, we believe that when deployment of the

IkwwImiw* pritwtact Hmih -ouMicducrd tonnhil ifpmw ol ihr Dadf.rrtori volInleicnnlinental minimi

foi en

Composition of Soviet Forces for Peripheral Strategic Attack. Moderate Force Projection

Missile RVs and Bomber Weapons by Type of Delivery Vehicleincluding refire missiles

79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88

retire missiles

i completed, about two-thirdi of thc force will be assigned primarily to cover targets in Europe.'

If this estimate is correct and older systems ore deactivated as we have projected,8 the number of delivery vehicles in the west will decline by aboutercent while those in the east will increase bv aboutercent. Target coverage, however, will increase in bothso in the east. With refire missiles considered, the number of missile RVs and bomber weapons will increase by aboutercent in tbe westercent in the east.

Highof Effort.igh level of effort we would pect thc Soviets to increase the rate at which newer systems enter the force. There are essentially two approaches the Soviets could take: an even-paced approach, accelerating somewhat the deployment of newer systems while retaining large numbers of existing systems;uick-modernization approach, stressing rapid deactivation of older systems in order to concentrate efforts on deployment of newer ones. Both approaches would lead to about the same forceshc quick-modernization approach would give theuch more capable force in about half tbean all-mobile IRBM force by thewith considerable dislocation lo current forces and ongoing deployment and developmental programs.'

In our high proiections the number of delivery vehicles would remain fairly constant, while target coverage wouldotal missile RVs and bomber weapons would more than double, and would triple if retire missiles are considered. We would geneially expect thc same relative emphasis on thc eastern and western theaters asoderate level of effort, although the conditions that might impel the Sovietsigh level of effort could relate more specifically to one theater than the other, in which case there could be correspondingly increased emphasis in that theater.


Improvements in the strategic forces for peripheral attack appear to reflect Soviet altempts to field forces capableroad range of warfighting options The (rends we foresee will improve the Soviets' capabilities for both large-scale, high-intensity theater nuclear warfare and for limited nuclear and conventional operations. The capacity of peripheral strategic forces to conduct multiple strikes over an extended period will increase.

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' rime oriht fareCifrar*n wait* of their

iM mould be more BUIt laadoolhe*igh leueJ oft*artutli. itt chapter V. rurairdnhi U3

One implication is that improvements in the peripheral strategic forces could relieve the Soviets of most requirements to use ICBMs and other systems limited by SALT for attacks on targets in Europe and Asia. Moreover, the improvements which have been occurring in Soviet tactical nuclear delivery capabilities probably will permit thc Soviets to conduct theater nuclear warfare at higher levels of intensity before having to resort to peripheral strategic forces, which are based in the USSR, and may also relieve the peripheral strategic force of some of iu requirements for support of ground force objectives. Taken together, these developments could allow Soviet planners Iooro precise distinction between lhe levels of intensity at which nuclear warfore is waged, to exercise greater restrain! in the initial use of nuclear weapons in Europe, and to seek to control the potential for escalation.

Other indications of flexibility include the apparent Soviet intention toarge force of peripheral strike bombers. With thc introduction of the Backfire, the Soviets are improving the ability of their bombers to penetrate defended territory in conventional operations, without the need for nuclear suppression of air defenses. In addition, thehile not suitable for conventional warfare, is better able than its predecessors to conduct limited nuclear strikes in support of tactical commanders. Moreover, the mobiles enhanced survivability will make moreoviet option to withhold these Soviet-based missiles during the initial phasesheater nuclear war in Europe in the hope of reducing the risk of retaliation against Soviet territory.

Any increased confidence the Soviets may gain from these improvements to their forces is likely to be tempered by several concerns:

Uncertainty about their actual ability to controlexample, to deter the West from launching strategic nuclear strikes against Soviet territory in the faceuccessful Soviet conventional assault

The West's ability to quickly open new areas of competition in weaponin the field of cruisefrom the Soviet perspective, have the potential for adversely affecting the nuclear balance in Europe.

The improving nuclear capabilities of China, whose nuclear forces, though relatively small, are difficult to target and growing in number.

In any case, the Soviets are now far more capable of engagingide range of theater warfare scenarios than they were in thendheir peripheral strategic forces will become even more powerful, flexible, and survivable in the future. The Soviets

ccrtamly-view these improving forcesajor contributor todeterrent and war-fighting capabilities and as anin what they hope willontinuing shift in thein their


We have examined In an annex several possible views of Soviet and non-Soviet forces composed of roughly equivalent weapon systems that could be used for theater nuclear strikes against land targets at distances beyond the immediate area of ground force engagements. It is very difficult to compare forces using weapon systems with different characteristics and belonging to countries which have different military doctrines and organization and whose national security policies are shaped by different geographic and political factors. The selection of forces Io be compared involves somewhat arbitrary choices, combining such criteria as weapon system ranges and deployment areas, organizational affiliation and mission, and unit training and equipment. In some cases, thc lack of complete, timely dalaajor problem.

The comparisons presented here depict only currently deployed forces. We have not attempted to project future non-Soviet forces. Planning for US and NATO theater nuclear forces with long-range capabilities is currentlytate of flux, and our evidential and analytical base for projecting Chinese forces is weak. In making the comparisons, wc 'have used the same measures used elsewhere in the Estimate numbers of delivery vehicles, numbers of missile RVs and bomber weapons, and equivalent megatons.

In what weasic Set of Forces, we have compared lhc Soviet forces defined in this Estimate as strategic forces for peripheral attack with thc most nearly equivalent non-Soviet forces. In this comparison, the Sovietslear margin of advantage in each of lhc measures used. (Seehey outnumber lhe most nearly comparable non-Soviet forces by more lhan ^

Comparison of Selected Soviet and Non-Soviet

Basic and Expandeduly

-res WfWtyw

In Expanded Scle add on each side those tactical forces which have weapon systems with tanges of atilometers, have the mission of attacking land targets with nuclear weapons, and are currently trained and equipped to dohen these forces are added to thc Basic Set, wc can compare those forces which could be available for prompt employment against strategic targets located, in general, beyond the areas likely to be immediately involved in ground force engagements. In this comparison, the non-Soviet position improvesboth in overall totals and in the Western Theater. In numbers of delivery vehicles and available weapons, the Soviets retainlight advantage over US/NATO forces. It should be noted, however, that many of these forces would in fact be used in tactical support of ground operations. Conversely, the weight of atlacks against peripheral strategic targets might well be augmented by still other forces having intercontinental ranges and/or other missions.

In Expanded Sete add still otber forces which have weapon systems with ranges and other characteristics suitable for long-range nuclear strikes against land targets (or are externally identical to those that do) but that, for various reasons, we believe are unlikely to be available for prompt employment against peripheral strategichange in mission, relatively simple modifications, or provision of the necessary equipment and training could make some or all of this large number of additional weapons available for long-range theater nuclear strikes. In this comparison, the non-Soviet position worsens again. The Soviet forces would have significanl advantages in all measures, due largely to the addition of the several hundred Badger. Blinder, and Backfire aircraft assigned to Soviet Naval Avialion. SNA aircraft are intended primarily for naval antiship missions, but could be used lo strike peripheral land targets if the Soviets wished to allocate them to that mission. These SNA bombers represent the most significant single addition to the Soviet forces in either Expanded Set They are offset only partially by the addition of theSombers which, like SNA bombers, are currently committed to other missions.

In the Far Eastern area,heater forces are muchin the West, the Soviel and non-Soviet forces in the Basic Setequal in numbers of deliverv vehicles, weapons, andThe addition of Expandeds generally morethc Soviet forces and gives them an advantage ofoould

add still further to their advantages in terms of the measures used.

We cannot confidently judge how the Soviets would approach companions of forces for strategic peripheral attack and theater nuclear

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l bothhelino ihe Wmtrn oi Vu Faiirrn Thairn on fib Ir thou ordei


if hnniluir.1 were irtlklpatcd under My.

warfare. Thc Soviel General Staff might look at the forces differently, for example. If it were planning military operations as opposed to arguingorce structure before budgetary councils- The Soviets might take yet anotherdeliberately exaggerating the' Weslerna negotiating atmosphere.

As already noted, any comparisons of this sort involve somewhat arbitrary choices and incomplete data. In any case, the measures used do not fully reflect military effectiveness, which is heavily influenced by qualitative factors and operationalritical factor affecting the future relationship between Soviet and non-Soviet forces for peripheral strategic attack is the major improvement in the quality of the Soviet systems now being deployed.

*G9 QOJbN/trt-

Original document.

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