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Lyndon Johnson Administration: CIA Survey on Arab-Israeli Arms Advantages

(September 1, 1966)

This is the introduction to a study of the Arab vs. Israeli arms and military advantage. It concludes that the Arabs have better and more weaponry, but the Israelis are much better trained and, because of Israel's small size, Israel can mobilize forces at a rapid pace.

Study Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency/1/

No. 1944/66

Washington, September 1, 1966.


[Here follows Part I, an introduction.]

II. Summary

A. Arab-Israeli Comparison

1. Israel retains qualitative superiority over any of the various combinations of Arab states with which it could be expected to come into direct conflict. In addition, Israel possesses the industrial capability to improve and alter armored vehicles and to rehabilitate aircraft. As shown in Table Ib, the six Arab states--UAR (Egypt), Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia--which are most likely to come into direct major hostilities with Israel have a two-to-one numerical superiority in tanks, three-to-one in major naval units, two-to-two in fighter aircraft and ten-to-one in bombers.

2. In armor, the Arab numerical superiority is offset by Israel's maintenance and training excellence as well as by factors of distance. For example, it is doubtful that Iraqi tanks could be sent across the Syrian desert quickly enough to play a meaningful role in conflict with Israel. This applies equally to self-propelled weapons.

3. Whatever the comparable technical qualities of the aircraft flown, the Israelis' better training, greater aggressiveness and superior maintenance give them a good chance of coping with the Arab threat. The Israelis' limitations include the small number of airfields and the short scramble time available to its aircraft because of the fact that all parts of Israel are within a few minutes' flying time of its neighbors.

4. The accelerating arms race is involving both the Arabs and Israel in advanced weapons development, particularly in the missile field. The Israelis probably will be able to deploy a French-built surface-to-surface missile with a range of about 270 nautical miles by 1967-1968; the UAR may be able to deploy a few considerably less sophisticated missiles of slightly less range by 1970. Neither Egypt nor Israel is likely to have nuclear weapons by 1970.

5. The Egyptian Navy presents the only significant sea threat to Israel, which has taken the calculated risk of not building up a comparable naval force. The Israelis believe that their air power can neutralize the sea threat.

6. During the period through 1970, it is unlikely that any major change in procurement patterns will occur. Israel will continue to look to Western sources. The danger of Jordanian and Lebanese acquisition of Soviet-built weapons seems to have been averted for this period. Both Syria and Egypt will continue to rely on the USSR for their equipment. Although Iraq will acquire major items from the USSR under its May 1966 arms agreement, it will probably continue to procure some items--artillery and possibly aircraft--from Western sources.

[Here follow Part II. B, country analyses, Part III, likely actions of arms suppliers, and Part IV, an explanation of the tables, 11 tables, and a map.]

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VI. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. A note on the cover sheet indicates that the paper was prepared in cooperation with INR and DIA. A table of contents is not printed.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 20, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1967-1968. DC: GPO, 2001.