SAN BERNARDINO — The Air Force is considering basing as many as 50 nuclear missiles at a California desert installation, either Edwards Air Force Base or the Ft. Irwin Military Reservation, according to a report released this week.
Up to 50 of the small intercontinental ballistic missiles known as the Midgetman would be stationed at each of six regional complexes being considered nationwide.
An environmental impact report, prepared for Congress by the Ballistic Missile Office at Norton Air Force Base here, considers the two Mojave Desert sites as headquarters for a Midgetman missile fleet. Edwards is about 60 miles north of Los Angeles and Ft. Irwin about 130 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
Each missile, on a mobile launcher, would be moved by tractor-trailer rigs within an area of about eight square miles. The missiles would be moved often to confuse enemy spy satellites, according to the report.
The Air Force is considering building 250 to 1,000 of the missiles, each borne on a 14-by-100-foot, 200,000-pound mobile launcher rig.
The Air Force report for a South-Central California Midgetman complex has grouped together Ft. Irwin near Barstow, Edwards Air Force Base near Palmdale, China Lake Naval Weapons Center, 110 miles north of Los Angeles, and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center near Twentynine Palms, 130 miles east of Los Angeles.
But only Edwards, a frequent landing site for the space shuttle, and the Army's Ft. Irwin would be considered for potential missile operations headquarters, the report says.
The operating base would include missile maintenance buildings and a launch control center.
A decision on where the missiles would be based is expected by early next year, said Maj. Barry Glickman, spokesman for the Ballistic Missile Office, which is headquarters for the research and development of all U.S. ICBMs.
The report notes that stationing the Midgetman at Edwards or Ft. Irwin could seriously damage the delicate desert environment and severely tax water supplies.
But thousands of new construction and maintenance jobs would be created, it says, and most would be filled by the local work force.
Staffing at the bases also would increase, it adds.