How the CIA got data on the Soviet SA-75M anti-aircraft missile system from Indonesia
The Hong Kong online edition "Asia Times" published an amusing article by John McBeth "How a CIA operation in Indonesia turned the Vietnam War. New book reveals how Dutch informant obtained Soviet weapons manuals in Indonesia used by US to outfox communist defenses in Vietnam" (John Macbeth " How the CIA operation changed the course of the Vietnam War. The new book tells how a Dutch agent in Indonesia managed to get his hands on the documentation for Soviet weapons, which helped the United States to overcome the air defense system of North Vietnam "). Transport-loading vehicles PR-11B with V-750 anti-aircraft missile system SA-75M "Dvina" of the Indonesian armed forces at a military parade, mid-1960s (c) Ministry of Defense of Indonesia
A former member of the Dutch Resistance Movement during the Second World War, he played a key role in the theft by the CIA of secret Indonesian documents for the SA-2 anti-aircraft missile system [S-75 - according to domestic data, the SA-75M "Dvina" air defense system was delivered to Indonesia - bmpd] . The capture of documentation allowed the Americans to develop countermeasures to counter these deadly weapons during the early stages of the Vietnam War.
The rationale behind this long-forgotten episode was revealed in a new book, In Red Weather, by Daniel Cameron, an illegal scout operating in Surabaya as the Indonesian army was preparing for a bloody purge against the Indonesian Communist Party (CPI ), which claimed more than half a million lives in 1965-1966.
Wim Vermeulen, the husband of a Dutch gallery owner, received a CIA commendation in 1970 for his undercover work, during which he handed over to the CIA four documents with an operating manual, as well as a guidance system block for the Soviet S-75 [CA-75M], the first air defense system tested in combat conditions and used by the VNA (Vietnamese People's Army) against American aviation.
The first confirmation of the effectiveness of the C-75 was the 1959 incident, when a Taiwanese bomber [actually a reconnaissance aircraft] Canberra, flying at an altitude of 65 thousand feet, was shot down over PRC territory. However, the S-75 gained worldwide fame a year later, when a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft piloted by Gary Powers was shot down over the territory of the USSR.
The C-75, which was adopted by the VNA, became an effective means of engaging high-altitude bombers flying combat missions to bomb Hanoi and Haiphong and out of reach of 23-mm and 37-mm anti-aircraft guns.
Another key figure in the Surabaya spy saga was CIA agent David Barnett, who was in Surabaya from 1967 to 1970. A decade later, he became the first agent in the then 33-year history of the CIA to be prosecuted [in the US] for espionage.
He was sentenced to 18 years in prison for selling information about the so-called Operation Habrink, one of the most successful operations ever conducted against the USSR. He also gave Vermelen's KGB and 29 other CIA agents in Surabaya in exchange for $ 92,000, which he needed to pay off a debt to an Indonesian businessman.
The data obtained during the Habrink operation was not limited only to the documentation for the CA-75M, which made it possible to jam radio frequencies that ensure missile guidance to the target, and to take other countermeasures. This made it possible to ensure the suppression of the Hanoi air defense system, which combines air defense systems and anti-aircraft guns with radar control.
Over time, the CIA also acquired information about Whiskey class submarines [Project 613], Sverdlov-class cruisers [Project 68bis - Indonesia, in 1962 the Ordzhonikidze cruiser was transferred], SS-N-2 anti-ship missiles [P-15 ] and Tu-16 bombers, that is, about various types of Soviet weapons supplied to Indonesia as part of a major $ 2.5 billion deal concluded in the early 1960s.
Also, despite the fact that the USSR provided strict control over these types of weapons, in developing countries importing these types of weapons, the severity of control was lower, according to Cameron.
In the case of Indonesia, Indonesian military officers, worried about the growing alliance between President Sukarno and the CPI and the potential consequences of this alliance for newly independent Indonesia, may have turned a blind eye to the leak of such important technical information.
Cameron claims that the information disclosed by Barnett provided an answer to a question that tormented the Soviet military throughout the Vietnam War: how the vulnerable B-52 bombers of the US Strategic Air Command fly deep into the territory of North Vietnam and drop their 30-ton bomb load without suffering damage from air defense? [it is unlikely that this issue "tormented the Soviet military", since the B-52s were practically not used over North Vietnam until 1972, and if they were used, they tried to avoid the positional areas of the air defense missile system, and with the beginning of massive use over the territory of the DRV at the end of 1972, they immediately became incur losses from the air defense system. - bmpd ]
B-52 Stratofortress flew first combat missions over [South] Vietnam in 1966 from Anderson Base in Guam, and a year later relocated to Utapao Base in the Gulf of Thailand [Thailand] with a 4 km runway.
The sorties of these high-altitude bombers did not meet with resistance until 1972 [that is, while the sorties were being carried out over South Vietnam. - bmpd ], when on November 22 a B-52 was first shot down by a VNA air defense missile system near the coastal town of Vinh.
A month later, Linebacker II, the last major air campaign of the Vietnam War, began. The VNA air defense forces were forced to launch volleys of missiles with radio fuses to provide protection from the waves of B-52 bombers and aircraft equipped with radar jamming equipment.
The lower flight altitude to reduce civilian casualties resulted in the loss of 15 aircraft [B-52s], including one that crashed into the runway barriers at Utapao while attempting an emergency landing with five engines damaged by ground fire.
We regret to note that co-pilot Robert Himel, one of two crew members who managed to escape from the blazing debris of this B-52, died 29 years later during the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
Barrett was discovered in 1979 by Colonel Vladimir Piguzov, a KGB officer in Jakarta who was also recruited by the CIA during nightly pub parties in the city. Piguzov, in turn, was discovered by the CIA renegade Aldrich Ames in 1985 and subsequently executed [according to Soviet data, Piguzov was recruited by the CIA not in Jakarta, but later during a business trip to the United States; shot in 1986. - bmpd ].
Later, as head of CIA operations in East Asia, Cameron described Barnett as follows: “He was always focused on the abstract, no matter what his colleagues were discussing. He was, as it were, here, but his thoughts were in the clouds. "
“David never showed interest in the successful development of Habrink, even during the active phase of the operation. This partly contradicted his usual flattery and interest in money. "
Cameron arrived in Surabaya in late 1960 under diplomatic cover. The port city in East Java was a bearish corner, and management hardly expected the young intelligence officer to do well on his first mission in Southeast Asia.
But in the midst of the Cold War, Indonesia was a hot spot, and in the words of one CIA officer in Washington, “nine out of ten cases, the best sources of information come from chance and intuition.” Vermeulen became such a source.
Critical of Sukarno for his "flirtation with the USSR," the eccentric Dutchman has been circulating among high-profile sources of information, including a mysterious informant with ties to the Indonesian foreign ministry and military command, whose identity has never been revealed.
"Wim's self-control, even under the most difficult circumstances, convinced me that he would be an excellent lead agent with the necessary access to information, especially in the military arena," Cameron writes. He is now 89 years old and lives in New York.
Vermeulen submitted the CA-75M documentation to the CIA in June 1964. Photographs of these documents were sent to the CIA headquarters in Langley. The photographs were followed by a block of the guidance system, but the details of this episode were edited by the CIA censors.
"Half of the original version of the book was deleted when it was sent in for review four years ago," says Bali-based historian Bruce Carpenter, a close friend of Cameron's who convinced him to write the book. “Sometimes the demands were ridiculous. He was not even allowed to indicate that he was sent to Indonesia. "
Meanwhile, tensions in Indonesia were heating up, driven by rising levels of violence as the leaders of the CPI sought to gain greater influence over Sukarno.
Cameron's friends included Colonel Sutoyo Siswamiharjo, a Javanese aristocrat who was promoted to Adjutant General in mid-1965. When the American asked him about the increasingly hostile position of the CPI, he replied: "We are waiting for the first step from them."
A few months later, he became one of six generals killed by the [left] and thrown into a well on October 1, 1965. The KPI was accused of this coup attempt. The result was the creation of Unity Against Counter-Revolutionary Movement (known as Gestapu), whose actions were the prologue to Suharto's 32-year rule, who became president in 1968.
“It was part of the ever-present standoff in the KPI-army-Sukarno triangle,” said Siswomiharjo's son, retired Lieutenant General Agus Vizjo, head of the Indonesian Institute of National Resistance and one of the main reformers of the Indonesian army. “It was a stressful time,” he added.
Cameron left the country in July 1965, but returned briefly in October. Recalling this, he speaks of the feeling of insecurity and even danger while driving through the city. “There was an atmosphere of suspicion everywhere,” he adds.
A supporter of a specific ideology that combined the ideas of nationalism, Islam and communism, the charismatic Sukarno was never a convinced communist. But after the creation of Gestapu, his fate as the founding president of the republic was a foregone conclusion.
Vermeulen's departure almost simultaneously with Cameron's departure, as well as the attack on KPI, meant that the spy network formed during Operation Habrink had been disbanded by the time Barrett arrived in Surabaya in 1967.
Initially, Vermeulen went to his homeland. Then, after the death of his wife Hilke, after retiring, he went incognito to Portugal, where he lived until his death in 1989, keeping in touch with the leader of his group in the CIA, who remained his lifelong friend.
In retrospect, Cameron notes that Suharto was aware that the United States could provide the arms supplies needed to strengthen Suharto's regime after the fall of Sukarno. Also, the coming to power of Suharto helped to end confrontation with Malaysia and improve relations with the countries participating in the Five-Party Agreements on Collective Defense [Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore - in fact, these agreements were concluded only in 1971. - bmpd ].
"It also led the United States to turn a blind eye to the indescribable bloodshed orchestrated by the military," Cameron says of the massacre of KPI members, which the Indonesian military is still trying to silence. “It was in our interest to defeat the communist movement at the time,” he adds.
However, although the US passed information on prominent communists to the Indonesian military, Cameron denies that the CIA and the US government were directly involved in planning and organizing the barbaric actions carried out by the Indonesian military in 1965 and early 1966.
“Looking at these events from the perspective of 2020 and having recently released information, I have a different view of these killings and regret that the US did not find a way to warn the world about the impending massacre of unprecedented proportions and could not prevent it in one way or another,” Cameron notes.Bmpd comment... Although information that the United States received through Indonesia after the change in its regime as a result of the events of the fall of 1965, access to a number of modern Soviet weapons at that time [SA-75M air defense systems, P-15 anti-ship missiles, MiG-21f-13 fighters, Tu-16KS missile carriers) are,
in principle, well known, but this material reveals that the Indonesian military leaked to the Americans information about the received Soviet weapons even before the events of 1965 - in fact, almost immediately after receiving the equipment. This clearly demonstrates the adventurousness and ill-conceivedness from the point of view of Soviet interests developed by N.S. Khrushchev's broad support for the regime of the "progressive" Indonesian President Sukarno, including the unprecedented supply of Soviet arms to Indonesia.
Recall that, according to domestic data, Indonesia managed to receive in 1963-1965 seven divisions of the SA-75M "Dvina" air defense system, four technical divisions and 132 V-750 anti-aircraft missiles. In Indonesia, these complexes were in service with the 100th air defense wing specially formed as part of the country's air defense forces (command at the Halim Perdanakusuma airbase in Jakarta), which eventually included three anti-aircraft missile squadrons (two combat and one technical battalion in each) and a technical squadron, and providing air defense of the capital of Indonesia. Finally, the CA-75M was discontinued in Indonesia in 1980.
The assertions of the author of the article that the receipt of information by the United States from Indonesia about the SA-75M air defense system allegedly "changed the course of the Vietnam War" is generally ridiculous, since the use of air power by the Americans just could not change the course of the Vietnam War in their favor, and the initiated use of air defense DRV since 1965, the SA-75M air defense system led to a significant increase in the combat losses of American aircraft and to a serious complication of its combat activities. Measures to organize countermeasures to the SA-75M air defense systems were used by the American side throughout the war and as a result were able to significantly reduce the effectiveness of the use of these air defense systems, but the contribution of the data on this complex, obtained from Indonesia in 1964, to this is difficult to single out from the large volume of information collected by the Americans in a variety of ways, including methods of electronic intelligence before and during hostilities. Suffice it to say that the frequencies of the combat operation of the S-75 series air defense system, it seems, were known to the Americans even before the Vietnam War, and already in 1963 in the United States, a compact QRC-160-1 electronic warfare suspension container for tactical aviation was created and quickly tested for staging interference to missile guidance stations CHR-75 (CHRA-75M) SAM family CA-75 / S-75, operating in the 10-cm range (2.94-3.06 GHz). Already in 1965, the Americans had Douglas RB-66C (EB-66C) electronic reconnaissance aircraft and EB-66B, Douglas EA-3B and Dougas EF-10B jamming planes adapted for intersection and suppression CHP-75 (CHRA-75M). although the power of their jamming transmitters was often insufficient (as was the power of the QRC-160-1 container transmitters), while the equipment of these aircraft,
Since 1965, the US Navy aviation has also used AN / ALQ-51 suspended containers, which put simulated impulse interference to the guidance stations of the SNR SAM SA-75M missiles, as well as missile control receivers and their radio fuses. It is possible that Indonesian information could be used here, but it is indicative that the US Air Force, which has been using these containers since 1967, considered them ineffective.
Finally, in 1967, the United States received complete S-75M and SA-75M complexes captured by Israel from Arab countries, as well as, apparently, full access to the SA-75M air defense system in Indonesia itself, so that, by the time the authors described the use of large-scale strategic bombers B-52 over the territory of the DRV at the end of 1972, the Indonesian "trophies" of the 1964 CIA have clearly lost all relevance. B-52 bombers were equipped with new electronic warfare systems since 1967, and by the end of 1972 these aircraft actually had the "third generation" of airborne defense systems since the beginning of the war.
Probably, only access to the complete air defense systems of the C-75 series allowed the United States to create by the end of 1967 highly efficient suspended containers of active interference QR-160-8 (AN / ALQ-87), which was a multi-mode station, which made it possible to simultaneously set both noise and imitation jammers of the CHR SAM, and interference on the radio imaging channel. The use of interference over the radio visualization channel turned out to be completely unexpected for the Soviet and Vietnamese air defense systems, led to a sharp drop in the effectiveness of the SA-75M systems at the turn of 1967-1968 and forced the Soviet side to urgently revise all the SA-75M air defense systems in Vietnam in order to introduce three different frequency ranges (including the introduction of frequencies of 1.5 and 3 MHz) in the CHP and missile transponders blocks and increasing the power of the missile response signal transmitters.