SOUTH VIETNAM: A NET MILITARY ASSESSMENT

Created: 4/2/1974

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

April4

MEMORANDUM FOR THE DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

SOUTH VIETNAM: ET MILITARY ASSESSMENT*

KEY POINTS

the past year, both the Vietnamese Communists and the South Vietnamese have improved their military capabilities. Even so,enerally low level of activity is expected to continue at least throughlthough the fighting may become intense in some areas- With the forces they presently have in South Vietnam, the Communists lack the capability to make significant and lasting gains against the GVN. The GVN is similarly incapable of making major gains against the Communists.

situation would change rapidly, however, if North Vietnam commits its strategic reserve to South Vietnam and infiltrates sufficient manpower to bring existing units up to strength andeplacement manpower pool. In the event of aoffensive:

North Vietnamese forces would have theto regain control of Quang Tri City, perhaps capture Hue, and make sizable gains in southern MRn MRontum and Pleiku cities might fall, and in MRhe Communists would make some temporary gains north and northwest of Saigon.

doubt that the GVN would be able to stop theoffensive without the US providing large-scale logistical assistance. Moreover, should the Communists accomplish all of the above, the adverse psychological impact might be more significant than the actual impact on the military balance. ituation could develop in which the GVN would be unable to regain the initiative without the reintroduction of US combat air and naval support.

* This memorandum has been prepared jointly by the CentralAgency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the Department of State.

OVERVIEW

the cease-fire inothCommunists and the South Vietnamese haverespective military capabilities. The Northhave increased their combat forces, improvedposition, and made extensive improvements tosystom. The South Vietnamese, for their part,strengthened their combat forces and have assumedfor most of their logistic operations. Asof the large inflow of US equipment into Southin the last weeks beforehenow have more tanks, artillery, and aircraftbefore.

Manpower

regular combat forces physicallySouth Vietnam have grownnto ann' Since the this force has markedly changed its orientation. withdrawn two infantry divisions as well as sixfrom northern MR L. Inhirdwas withdrawn in January just prior to the Partially offsetting these withdrawals, Hanointiaircraft (AAA) regiments into Southowing to continuing infiltration and unitthere also are more NVA combat infantry troops innow than in The North Vietnamesereinforced their controlled areasarge numberand field and antiaircraft artillery, creating acapability. They are clearly intent both ona capability to protect those areas of Souththey now control and on maintaining an option tooffensive action-

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SEORKT

C. On the South Vietnamese side, the GVN regular ground combat forces are now0 men stronger than they were inaving increasedoen. These ground combat forces are supportedore proficient air force (Vnaf) and effective artillery units. Higher manning levels within South Vietnam'snfantryaccountfman increase. The remaining growth results from the upgrading of Regional Forces (RF) into the regular combat structure. This was backed up by the upgrading of some Popular Forces and local self-defense forces into the RF structure. The following table compares GVN and Communist regular combat forces by Military Region and shows that the nationwide force ratio between the opposing armies is basically unchangedear agoalthough it has deteriorated (from the GVN point of view) innd MRhile improving in MR 4.

COMPARISON OF GVN AND COMMUNIST REGULAR COMBAT FORCES BY MILITARY REGION*

1

2

3

4

Si

VC/NVA Ratio

3

VC/NVA

Ratio

regular combat forces inalude personnel in combat, combat support, and air defense uttca and local forceand platoons. In earlyhereommunist infantry troops0 air defense personnel compared uithndn GVN regular combat forces include assigned personnel inC ground combat and combat support units and regional force battalions.

D. Barring major redeployments from North Vietnam, the current balance of forces will remain fairly stable throughout the remainder of the dry season. The relationship could be

altered quickly, however, if Hanoi decides to deploy some of its strategic reserve divisions from Northnwith thoso elements of theth Infantryremaining in Laos, into GVNr MR 2. In thehalf of South Vietnam, howevernlikohere is no NVA/Viet Cong reserve force in Cambodia available forintor MRnd the Communists could only shift forces among MRs to alter the balance. The GVN isimilar situation countrywide. The ARVN now has no uncommitted strategic reserve; any shifting of forces to one region can only beby reducing the force structure in another.

Firepower

South Vietnamese have improved their armor,and air capabilities; on balance, they hold an edgeassets countrywide. The withdrawal of USwith the North Vietnamese buildup of armor,air defense forces, however, significantly mitigatesadvantage.in firepower assets. Moreover, theenjoy an advantage in long-range artillery, have aapparatus, and have parity in tanks.

strengthening their combat position inthe Communists also have achieved significantin their logistic posture. Following the cease-fire,

North Vietnam's logistic and support structure in southern North Vietnam, southern Laos, northeastern Cambodia, and the western reaches of South Vietnam itselfwas further reorganized toore efficient, speedier transport of suppliesomb-free environment. At the same time, the Communistsajor road and POL pipeline construction and improvement program in Laos and South Vietnam whichyear-round deliveries to South Vietnam and greatlyaccess to portions of the coastal region2 (see map on Communist infiltration routes).

Horth Vietnam'* strategic reserve consists of six divisions, totallingen.

Over the past year, the Communists have constructed ormoreiles of roads in South Vietnam and extendedPOL pipelineS0 miles southward through the Laotian Panhandle and western South Vietnam.

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S EGRET

ambitious construction program did notthe continuing heavy pace of cargo shipments to theimprovements to theogistic system in theincluding the dispatch0 infiltrators tohave given the Communists their strongest supplyand transportation network from North Vietnam to the Moreover, they now have sufficient ordnance stockpiled

in South Vietnam to sustain heavy combat activity for at leastonths.

South Vietnamese logistic command also hasin the post cease-fire period. Moving fromdependence on the US for support of its forces,has total responsibility for the in-countrystorage of supplies. In general, the performance oflogistic system at the present fairly low level ofhas been good. Current supply stockpiles, particularlyequipment and replacement parts, are more thancurrent consumption rates. Should major countrywidehowever, the South Vietnamese logistic system wouldto the limit and would probably be unable toinfusion and distribution of the large amounts ofto support the GVN's combat forces. Even at the

.resent modest level of combat, thereroblem of getting the proper mix of supplies to GVN forcesimely basis. Moreover, interregional distribution of supplies is hampered by virtual autonomy of each MR commander, and ARVN remains dependent on US civilian contractors for aircraft maintenance and port management.

Intelligence

I. RVNAF intelligence does not provide adequate out-of-country surveillance. Such primary threat indicators as infiltration of North Vietnamese troops into South Vietnam, deployment of Communist combat units from Laos or Northor logistic movements into South Vietnam, are monitored by US intelligence assets. If early warningommunist build-upajor offensive is to be detected, it will have to be through continued US intelligence collection.

Qualitative Factors

J. Since the cease-fire, the RVNAF has improved its leadership through personnel shifts and additional training and has become more proficient in using firepower. Serious

( I

problems still exist, however, especially those stemming from inexperience in managing, supplying andarge force in combat. Moreover, lack of coordination betweencommands still impedes the RVNAF's fighting ability, while effort* are being made to rectify these problemssome of which already have been successfulRVNAF still needs more time to improve all aspects of its fighting forces before it could be expected toajor Communiston its own.

K. The Communists historically have been more disciplined, tenacious, and dedicated fighters than the RVNAF. They too, however, have their shortcomings. After the initial successes in2 Easter Offensive, the pressures ofustained offensive began to be reflected in less effective leadershipack of coordination. Moreover, as the toll of casualties mounted, they began toeduction

.Vietnamese have taken measures to overcome these shortcomings, -including comprehensive training programs in both the North and the South. In last year's fighting in Quang Due and a Pleiku provinces, the Communists used infantry, armor, artil-** lery and AAA forces effectively, suggesting that they are

making progress in coordinating the actions of their forces.

Scenarios for the Remainder of the Dry Season

L. Limited Activity: The Most Likely Scenario. to reliable agent reporting, the North Vietnamese do not plan toajor offensive in South Vietnam, at least through the remaindor ofry season. These sources indicate that Communist combat activity will be confined to the defense of their territory and limited offensive operations against selected targets. Similarly, GVN tactical plans through the dry season will consistix of defense and offense. Under these circumstances, neither side is likely to achieve substantial, permanent territorial gains in the next few months.

M. Under this scenario, the outlook for MRhorelines have stabilized, isontinued absence of heavy combat activity. In MRombat activity may intensify

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in the central highlands as both sides contest territory along strategic lines of communication Neither side, how-over,ecisive edge, since ARVN's numerical superiority in the highlands is partly offset by NVA firepower assets. In KR 3, there probably will be some high points of activity, largely confined to sapper attacks, attacks-by-fire and LOC interdiction efforts. To the south in HRommunist combat activity will be handicapped by understrength unitseak logistic system.

N. enaral Offensive Scenario. What would be theif large-scale hostilities broke out again in Southin the next several months? Both the GVN and the North Vietnamese would find it difficult to launch andajor offensive in the immediate future. Should the Communists decide to do so, however, they would have the capability by the end of4 if they committed now divisions from outside South Vietnam and substantially increased the current rate of infiltration. Since they would be the aggressors and could achieve local manpower or firepower superiority in chosen areas, the unfavorable (to the Communists) nationwide ratio of forces would not necessarilyritical factor in their decision. (In none of their earlier offensiveshaveavorable nationwide ratio of forces.)

0. Under this scenario, the North Vietnamese wouldountrywide offensive some time after increasing infiltration and redeploying several infantry divisions from the strategic reserve to GVN MRhere the weather will remain good from now through August. If this worst likely scenario developedand US support were not providedhe North Vietnamese forces in northernould regain control of Quang Tri City, and gain additional territory in the southern part of the region, probablyrovincial capital- The key to theofests with the GVN's ability to resupply critical areas if major land LOCs are interdicted. If the GVN were not able to ovorcomc resupply problemsconsidering its limited assets then Hue also could fall to the Communists. From the Communist point of view, the destruction of the elite units defending Hue would be as important as the capture of the city itself. The Marines and Airborne are the GVN's strategicand if they were rendered combat ineffective, it would undermine the GVN's overall defensive ability.

SEQRET

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