A report drafted by the Defense Intelligence Agency for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress shows that the Soviet Union outstrips the United States by as much as three to one in the production of most types of strategic and tactical weapons.
The report, declassified by the DIA last week, estimates annual Soviet production for the past five years at 3,000 tanks, 5,500 other armored vehicles, 1,300 fighter planes and 400 short-range ballistic missiles for battlefield use. While precise U.S. figures are secret, the DIA said the United States produced in 1980 one fourth as many tanks, one third as many armored vehicles, half the fighters and half the number of battlefield ballistic missiles.
While giving precise Soviet production figures only for 1980, the DIA emphasized that the Soviet Union had sustained production of most of its arms for the past five years, a period of U.S. cutback. Defense observers point out, however, that each country often goes into arms production spurts, that neither country's arms output is ever in phase with the other.
The transmission of the DIA report to Congress is seen in some quarters as a sneak preview of the Reagan administration's campaign to back up its charge that the Kremlin has been involved in an unwarranted arms buildup that can be matched only by higher Pentagon spending. Even now, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger is fighting to save his five-year defense budget from Budget Director David A. Stockman's ax.
The DIA material was included in testimony on the Soviet's economic situation before the Joint Economic Committee earlier this year. The committee released its report publicly Thursday.
Sen. William Proxmire, a member of the committee, said that he thought the combination of economic problems in the Soviet Union plus the vast amounts that were being spent both here and in Russia on armaments, meant that this would be a good time for both superpowers to get back to arms control measures to try to limit the economic damage of an arms race.
Besides tanks, fighter planes and short-range ballistic missiles, the DIA report said, the Soviet Union has outstripped the United States in arms production in almost every category but major combat ships. In 1980, the DIA said, each country produced 11 combat ships.
In 1980, it said, the Soviets produced 11 submarines while this country launched only one. The report said the Soviets produced 700 submarine-launched cruise missiles in 1980, the United States none. The Soviets outproduced the United States in submarine-launched ballistic missiles by three to one last year, the DIA said.
The Soviets produced 10 times more surface-to-air missiles and almost five times as many antitank missiles as Americans did in 1980, the DIA report said. Soviet production of bombers outnumbered the U.S. 30 to none and of transport planes to carry military cargo 350 to none. Helicopter production given for 1979 said the Soviet Union outproduced the United States, 700 to 175.
In explaining some of the huge production differences, defense experts pointed out that the Soviet Union traditionally produces more weapons than the United States simply because it has a larger standing army and air force.
This country attempts to balance larger Soviet quantities of arms with better, more technologically up-to-date weapons.
In such strategic weapons as long-range intercontinental missiles, the United States once had a big lead over the Soviet Union but decided in the late 1960s to stop producing these expensive weapons. The latter has now caught up and even passed the United States, in large part because it sustained missile assembly lines when the United States was closing them down.