WASHINGTON — The United States will exceed the limits of the 1979 SALT II arms agreement early this week, as a new cruise missile-carrying bomber becomes operational at Carswell Air Force Base in Ft. Worth, government sources said Saturday.
The B-52 bomber is to be transferred from the Air Force Air Logistics Center in San Antonio, where it was overhauled and given the capability to carry cruise missiles. An Air Force official said the transfer will occur "at the beginning of the week."
Administration and congressional sources say the United States will then be in clear violation of a key provision of the unratified second strategic arms limitation treaty allowing no more than 1,320 missile warheads and bombers with cruise missile-carrying capability for each side.
Some officials say the United States has been in technical violation of the pact since the bomber with the cruise missile attachments was moved outdoors three or four weeks ago. But other officials said the violation will occur after the plane is flown to Carswell on Monday or Tuesday.
Senior Administration officials said that deployment of the additional cruise missile-carrying bomber is in keeping with President Reagan's decision in May to stop respecting the SALT II limits and to base strategic weapons decisions on "the nature and magnitude of the threat posed by Soviet strategic forces."