APPROVED FOR4 CIAEVIEW PROGRAM
TITLE: Cratology Pays Off
AUTHOR: Thaxter L.
A collection ol articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol intelligence.
All statements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies tn Intelligence are those of ihe authors They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the CentralIntelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.
A new kind of intelligence lore struggle* for recognition and U
CRATOLOGY PATS OFF Tharter L. GoodcD
came- into general use fa the fatrjffigenooo
from tbe appears
of theirthe Cuban crisisnet rolek
rcsporrjfhlo for tho development of the technique^ tt hadnt issue the word would probably never haveof inicernafaoo con-
rtifaung cratology was acepired and how ft paid offrucial moment Its success restedoundation of dora, of separate Koorts, photographs, and other pieces of evidence, most of them tadrriduaBy Incc^ucntial. which proved favaroablo collectively.
PriorL reasonably complete reporting on arms deliveriesreceiving Soviet military assistance was made possible byof sources. In%umber of these sources
np, and an fatensive search was mounted for new methods of
n^toring the movement of Soviet mffitary equipment Although reeded for the entire Soviet military aid program, tins effort was
1 flwhere the Erst delivery
of MIC Jet fighters was imminent fa the springL
officers discussed with the Office of Naval Intelligence ways to
reporting on Soviet arms traffic and at ONI request agreed
tooDection Guide on bow Soviet nulitary equipment is
Tailored especially for observers in the Turkish straits and
other waterways where Soviet merchant ships must pass, the guide was to lay out the broad outlines of Soviet mOrtary aid policy and then detail methods of spotting arms sluprrsents. It could explain that almost an such shipments moved from tbe Black Sea on Soviet ddps. point out that rmhtary and dvilian cargoes were seldom mixed.
lis. characteristics such as light loads, false declarabons, and
oiner tipoSs betraying the Soviet arms carrier.
Deliveries on Deck
Primarily, however, the guide was lo ibow examples ol military deck cargoes oa Soviet ships andttf"'" the kinds of axle nsed fat aircraft Exterxdve repeating had established that all Sovietaircraft ate delivered as deck cargo, which alert observers can easily report oa If they know what to look for. MIC crates, for example, bad frequently been reported as looking like railroad cars.
combed for riktnres of crated deck cargoes. Officeswere asked to dredge op examples of crates. Aircraft
production ipecsahstj and merchant shipping experts werehew aircraft are shipped. Most irrrportaotry, hundreds ofSoviet ships passing through the Turkish straits were scannedcargoes. US. Navy perscrine! hi Istanbul bad been taxingfor years although there were relatively few consumersfat the Intelligence
Quantities of photographss the search went on. Most of them were discarded ashowing deck cargo, and In many that had good pictures of cm tea these could not hebut by collating the photos with other intelligence it became clear that cliff emit kinds of Soviet aircraft were invariably shipped in distinctive crates on deck. Aside from the Cuba problem, air order-of-battlo intelligence for such countries as the UAH andbad become Increasingly important as Soviet military aid deliveries had mushroomed, trail crate countingeasonable way to make upack of other delivery information.
At tbfs time the moat dearly Idenunabie crate was that for theighter, which had just began to be shipped abroadoyal Air Force reconnaissance missionhip In the Red Sea which had on deckratesype never seen before,Subsequent clandestine reporting had that ship delivering lfjo Iraq. Four shorter crates aboard tba same slap later Identified as fora puzzle for some time during this infancy of ontology. Nevertheless, tbe Incidentdlestooo In thement of tbe new techniquc
Tbe incident also uTustrates well the cUScu! ty at that time of getting good reporting on Soviet military shipments. Earlier photographs than those tho British took in the Red Sea and passed to the US. analysts had been taken when this ship sailed past Istanbul, but
these had been lost to the shuffle and did not becomeashington foe many weeks; and the interim repeating descsibed daontainers as large vans. Then later, as the ship proceedec up the Shattnlarab toward Basra, it was photographed again, bu the Washington analysts concerned were not even aware that the was being done. Thanks largely to efforts of personnel to ths Cfaphics Register, these photos were obtained for use In the guide they were the best shots then available of crated aircraft and tl* most osefalcollected farriMfhotixoe theaTptibrisn^.
Even after ft was dearly established that these crates were used9 fighters, there wen few toho would accept the evidence. When to June of thathip en route to Coha was seenozen of them on deck. It proved nearly impossible, to report the ssbrptpentoordinated publication before It washlgh-eltfrode photography. The faOure to observe tbe first deliveries ofo Cuba tbe month before. In May, was not due to any eatraordinary Soviet aecurfty measures but to the fact that US. Intelligence did not photograph ships en route to Cuba and did not yet accept eratology as an analytical technique.
Sup Toward Respeclabua-y
In the summer1 tbe CbQcctno Guide finally took shape. It described tbe reporting needed to follow Soviet maritime arms traffic, and It included all photographs possible of Identifiable deck cargoes. It correctly klerrcrbed the crates forndet tighten,elicopters,ombers. Although ftelatively primitive effort, the putting It together had been good exercise to the nse of intelligence from all sources. Thedentifkatiao depended on the cited BAP recorrnaissance mission to combination with clandestine reports from Iraq-and the UAR and an East European defector's sketch of the crate. Identifying the MIC-I5 crate was pertly guesswork,landestine report from Indonesia giving fix dimeatsjons narrowed theonfsrnxatksa was achieved ranch Later by putting together clandestine reports and ihfp photography.elicopter crates were identified chiefly through the reportS, ak attache fa Morocco: It described the one used for anhippedoviet trade fair to such detail that photo-
giaphs of similar crates taken In tbe Shattalarab were rccegni/rri and could bebe guide.
The rnott important crate identification in the guide, that (oromber fuselages, had also been madeombination offrom different sources. The clandestinely procsired report of an Indonesian arms mission which visited the USSR and Eastern Europe fn theontained accurate dimensions for these crates. Photographs of Soviet ships taken at Istanbuleriod
ships showed they had all gone to countries holdingombers.
The copdusioo that these were indeedrates was virtually
When the Collection Cuide was first published1 its authors
were generally skeptical about bow much interest or effort it would
arouse. To their surprise, it stimulated considerable Interest faon arms shipments, including photography and reports on crates and tbe contents of crates. Observersstanbul but also In the UAH, Indonesia, and other countries where Soviet arms aid fa prominent began to increase their reporting on crates. This enhanced awareness of cratesource of information on Soviet military aid led gradually to tbe solution of addition*!problems. At the same time tbe acquisition of most of the major documents concerning Soviet-Indonesian arms dealsold mine of detailed data on Soviet military aid practices,mdudmg information useful In solving crate puzzles. Similar information obtained later fn Iraq also contributed substantially to the development of cratology.
An officer from the US, naval attache's office in Djakarta turnederfect performance fn using the guide toroup of crates on the docks in Indonesia As instructed fn the guide, he paced off the dimensions of the crates, he photographed them, be noted their markings, and beeport describing them.he did not hesitate to reach conclusions about them:elicopter crate andomber crates. His photos of the latter turned out to be most Important; they were the only dose-ups ofrater available to the intelligence community.
In1 another advance was made whenransportwere moved by sea for the first time. Previously they had
always been flown lo their uVstinatioos, but when Cuba bought then (hey had to be seat by ship. The Soviets placed them, wingson the dock of sliips designed to carry timber, usually twe or three aircrafthip. Around each theyarge wooden structure, usuallyhapeello.ozen of these nansports reached Cuba in1 andutew of them were photographed and these could not be specificallyby the photo interpreters, who were not working with ether
nafor step forward was taken when MIC-il tot fighter crates were spotted fa tho UAR. Several rnonths were to pan before photographs became available, bat alert case officers fa Egyptescription of the crates soon after the Soviets had begun shipping this plane abroad. In the summer2 tbe firstwere received, from the assistant navalffice to Istanbul. Alone these would have been useless, but taken fa coo-functioo with the earlier information from Egypt they dearlyhe shipment lo consist of MIC-2U.
The Cuban Buildup
By the rime2 Soviet military buildup to Cuba started fa Jury, cratology was an established technique, bat its adherents were confusedery small cnele. It was not accepted fa many quarters of the community, and coordinated Intelligence based on crate countsarity. Nonetheless, what knowledge there was of crates was tocorporatcd Into the efforts that were being made to bolsteron Cuba. Photos of ideritrfiable crates were includedarge Cuba collection guide, and efforts to improve the monitoring of Soviet shipping were continued Bnt because so many fa the fatelh'gence community were unconvinced of the usefulness of theseonrtation on the first military shipments of the buildup was moat Incomplete.
Tbe first military shipments were detected as they left the Black Sea fa mid-Jury, and steps were taken immediately to provide for pliotographlng all ships and kientifymg any significant dock cargoes; joint ONI-OA efforts at tbe Bosporus bad improved considerably byut now many of thesenfortunately transited tbe straits at night or fa bad weather, making photography impossible.
izable numberbe military shipments were for tbe first time made from Soviet Baltic ports, where our capabilities were rather limited. And In the Atlantic there was no adequate network to cover Soviet shipping and get photographs. Thus not all of the ships carrying military cargoes were photographed during the first sir weeks, and the results on those that were were seldomm rime to be useful By mid-August the system for ship photography was much improved, but ft was not perfected until after
tine and refugee report) from Cuba. By mid-August ft wasclear that scanetiiing extraordinary was going on there, involving an rarer*fcorsaBy large amount of materiel and of Soviet manpower. Military construction was under way at many separate locations. By mid-August many were convincedissile-equipped air defense system, among other things, was being set op. Toe evidence Included ship photography and descriptions ofIn many separate reports. Some of the reports were remarkably similar to those generated when the Soviets first snippedtiles to IrsoVxtesia.
High-altttude photography ofugust gave the first confirmation of this conclusion It also showed for the first time that six Komar guided missile boats bad been delivered to Cuba. There was no Immediate explanation of how these boats reached Cuba; It seemed tbe system for watching shipping most have broken downeview of the ship photography, however, turnedhip which appeared to beig pile ofharp-eyedoviet naval matterreen interest In the Roman correctly concluded that the pile of wood was fn fact twoXornar boats coveredooden housing to protect and disguise them. Eventually all six Koraan were pinned down to specific ships, and subsequent Eomar shipments were detecteddvance of arrival Tbe Kornar "orate- had taken it* place fn the files of cratology.
ere tbe next ma for crate Issue fn Cuba. Itigh-dtitude photographyeptember showed one assembled MIC-t Santa Clara airfield and fuselage cratesozen car mere others. At that time no photographs of ships en route to Cuba had come in showing crates like tho recently identifiedontainers. Was
it possible tlie Soviets were changing tbeir waysarting to carry aircraft crates below deck? Those lieptjcal of cratology quickly seiied on this failure as reason to distrust crate counts foraircraft inventories.
Gradually, however, the pictures belatedly came in. Cratesthe decks of two ships accounted for atew more. These, along with somephotographyobserver reports, led to the conclusion thatere at keas*rfc* Kj^<wv
ton tbe basis of new ship photography touchediver/controversy over the validity of crate counts. There was soil only onehat bad actually beenigh-altitude photography, and thatonth before. The backers ofargued that In the absence of new photographs of Cuban airfields one had to reach conclusions on tbe basis of whateverwas
Cratology received Its vindication onctober, when aerial photography over Santa Clara showedully assembledighters, as well as four other aircraft identified as probablebe acbievenvant was lost In tbe crush of events, of course, for by now the photos of medium-range missiles bad touched off the oh-mactlc East-West confrontation. Nevertheless tbeuildup of high-performance jet fighters fn Cuba bad been of considerable value. Without the warning provided by cratology, the rnilitary planners who went into crash programs In October would have been far more startled by the photos ofh showingoeady to bolster Cuba's air defense system.
From Defeat* to Offense
While the resolution of theontroversyriumph for cratology, the moat important contribution tbe technique made to the Intelligence effort fa the Cuban rrnU'rp was fn identifyingombers.ever leads to another significant conclusion, this one achievement assures cratology atmall niche fn theof intelligence.
In early October the increasing tension generated by the buildup was illustratedisputearge "cello-like" object seen on tbe deckhip. The container was large enough for anyariety of aircraft, induding theeapon of offense
The cralologists. however, were sure thattructureaircraft, being exactly the same as those usedo Cuba. Again argument flared over the validityanything about contents front tbe shape of aon deck. This trine, however, the negative concluiioostructure probably did not contain anomberimely clandestine reporthotograph froman aircraft being loaded onto a
tfnued to pde tip. Aerial photography bad established thatuildupumber or defensive systems, but ground observer reports increasingly suggested sterns which could not be reconciled with defensive measures. Two observers reported the arrival ofomber crates abouteptember, and at least one of the two had based his identification on photographs ofrate* in the Cuba collection tprlde. As usual, these reports were not consider rd "hard" evidence, although sn retrospect at least one was valid.
Tbe moment of troth for cratology occurred onctober, when the first photographs ofrates en route to Cuba reached bead-quarters. Taken oneptember, these showed the Soviet ship EUsfcnov carrying ten crates which could only be forombers. To make doubly sure and to convince others, however, the cratolo-gists drew together all tbe precedents andand report from tbe naval officer to Djakarta showing an end section of the crates, the Indonesian document giving the dimensions forontainers, an old picture from Istanbul showing such crates being shippedecent Istanbul photo showing therate still in usehip en route to the UAR, and of course tberepeats that the bombers had recently arrived in Cuba. Awas prepared for the DCI reporting the new Information and detailing the basis for the weighty conclusioo.
Tbe observer reports which during tbe previous three weeks had pointed to the pea.ilnlityadical change fn the nature of the military buildup in Cuba had not been generally accepted as firm. They had raised the flag of caution, but so-called hard evidence was requiredoodusaon that there really had beenhange. Therates provided this evidence. On the heels of persistent reports pointing to MRBMs on the island they led to thectober flight ofhich brought back tbe first photos of strategic missile insullations.
Additional air photography shortly thereafter fumed up solidft were still needed, of the validity of crate counting.at San Julian airfield in Pinar del Rio province caughtbeing undated and assembled.evidence of the validity of crate information wasat tbe time by the threat of the Soviet strategic nussfles,evidence was obtained during the withdrawal of theCuba in early December, The Soviets, In order to show
allow. personnel hovering nearby In helicopters.
As the crisis receded and efforts were directed toward sorting out the pieces and reviewing the status of Soviet forces on theew other bits of cratology were ptrodrxed. Largely by means of crate counts, for instance. It was discovered thatoviet helicopters bad been delivered to Cuba, perhaps two-thirds of them during the buildup. The size of this formidable countramsurgency weapon In Cuban hands waa not apparent from other sources. Crates for two types of cruise missies were also identifiedesult of the repeated high and low altitude photography over Cuba, andthe information has since proved useful fn other countries.
The upshot was acceptance of cratology; the Cuban experience demonstrated that thisegitimate tool for tntcQigence analysts.roader sense, ft demonstrated the way many of the intelligence community's resources cast be successfully combined to solve asort of problem which normally looms large forew specialists but fn this Instance took on greatly Increased significance.
Since tbat time regular procedures have been adopted to insure tbat photographs are obtained of every Soviet ssrfp whichotential arms carrier. The intcHipaicc community has never worked together better than now lo following Soviet arms shipments. On those to Cuba, the intense effort now appliedar cry from the ratherpicture-taking described at the beginning of this article.
Oddly enough, despite public attexrbon to cratology. the Soviets do not seem to have radically cliangod tl>eh" procedures In shipping arms abroad. We continue to see combat aircraft being crated fn precisely the way they have been for the past decade. With the notable exceptionecent delivery ofto Cuba, aircraft continue to be carried as deck cargo. Recently it was determined
that Egypt! holdings ofet fighters have climbed to. and this corcktnoo was based almost entirely on crates; fewer than half this number have ever been seen on the ground
The lirt of Identifiable crater has grown to cover aboutiHerent containers, including all the type* of combat aircraft the Soviets have shipped abroad, ll will probably continue to lengthen. Theecoming tbe standardbeing shipped ova-seat, and theelling the hugeelicopter to noo-
Mi^iiw aj^jsuy. a* cannoc nope
to have answers for moreery limited number of Intelligence ponies, and its chief use may lie in helping to get accurate air-crder-of-battlo Information on countries receiving Soviet military aid. Bat the story of its use In Cuba docsoral applicable lo dozens of intelligence problems, Dsunefy, that momentous conclusions most frequently rest oa evidence piled apumdrum fashion, and obscure knowledge can often provide the key pieceollecting officer abroad must wonder why anyone would want some of the information the cratologlst asks for. The individual pieces are indeed trivial, but together they have frequently served useful purposes and in at least one Instance paid offOriginal document.