Joint evaluation of the Soviet missile threat in Cuba (1962)

On October 18th three US intelligence bodies (the Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee, the Guided Missile and Astronautics Intelligence Committee and the National Photographic Interpretation Centre) submitted this joint evaluation of the Soviet missile threat in Cuba:

Conclusions in brief

Offensive Missiles

“At least one Soviet regiment consisting of eight launchers and sixteen 1020-nm (SS-4) medium-range ballistic missiles is now deployed in western Cuba at two launch sites. These sites presently contain field-type launchers which rely on mobile erection, checkout, and support equipment. These missiles are probably those reported moving into this area during September. Although there is continuing improvement of these sites, these mobile missiles must be considered operational now and could be launched within 18 hours after the decision to launch. A refire from each launcher could be accomplished within five hours after the initial firing.

Fixed, soft sites which could achieve initial operational capability during December 1962 are now being developed near Havana. We believe that the 2200-nm (SS-5) intermediate range ballistic missile is probably intended for these sites…

All of these offensive missile systems are Soviet manned and controlled. We believe that offensive action by these systems would be commanded from the Soviet Union but have not yet found the command and control communication links.

Nuclear warheads for offensive missiles

There is no positive evidence of the presence of nuclear warheads in Cuba, nor have weapons storage facilities of the standard, highly secure Soviet type been identified. However, there are seven large Cuban munitions storage areas south of Havana which could be converted to Soviet needs in a relatively short time. Temporary storage could be pro­vided in ships or field sites which might not be identified.

Nevertheless, one must assume that nuclear warheads could now be available in Cuba to support the offensive missile capability as it becomes operational. The warheads expected for these missiles weigh approximately 3,000 pounds and have yields in the low megaton range.

Coastal defence missiles

Three coastal defence missile sites have now been identified in Cuba, two of which must now be considered operational (Banes and Santa Cruz del Norte). In an alert status, these cruise missiles can be fired in about 10 minutes, with subsequent firings from each launcher at five-minute intervals.

Air defence missiles

There are now 22 surface-to-air missiles (SA-2) sites located in Cuba, nine of which are believed to be individually operational at the present time. The remaining SA-2 sites could be operational in two to three weeks. Each site contains six missiles with six additional missiles in an adjacent hold area. The initial firing can take place anytime after an alert, providing the site has reached readiness. Refire from a single launcher will take approximately three to five minutes.

Force levels

There are now at least 16 1020 nautical mile [range] Soviet ballistic missiles in Cuba which are in such a state of readiness that they could be fired within 18 hours of a decision to launch. It is likely that other installations now being examined in photography will raise the number to 32, all of which could be ready in the next week. Furthermore, eight launchers with sixteen 2200 nautical mile [range] missiles will probably be operational in Cuba during December 1962. We must emphasise that this is the visible threat [only] and that additional missiles may be discovered as additional photography is analysed…


The magnitude of the total Soviet missile force being deployed indicates that the USSR intends to develop Cuba into a prime strategic base, rather than as a token show of strength.

A mixed force of 1020 and 2200 nautical mile [range] missiles would give the USSR a significant strategic strike capability against almost all targets in the US. By deploying stockpiled shorter-range ballistic missiles at overseas bases, against which we have no BMEWS warning capability, the Soviet Union will supplement its ICBM home force in a significant way. This overseas strategic force is protected by an extensive SA-2 deployment in Cuba.

This same offensive force also poses a common threat to the US and a large portion of Latin America for the first time. The USSR is making a major military investment in Cuba with some of their most effective guided missile systems. The planning for this operation must have started at least one year ago and put into motion last spring.”