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U.S. Breaks SALT II Limit, Deploys 131st Nuclear B-52 : Rep. Aspin Raps 'Bad Decision'

November 28, 1986|From Times Wire Services

The United States broke the arms limit of the unratified SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union today when a B-52G bomber--fully equipped to carry nuclear-armed cruise missiles--landed for duty at a Strategic Air Command base in Texas.

The Pentagon reported that the big, eight-jet Stratofortress touched down at Carswell Air Force Base outside Fort Worth, Tex., after a flight from Kelly Air Force Base at San Antonio, where it had been modified to carry the sophisticated cruise weapons.

The bomber is the 131st B-52 to be so equipped, surpassing the 1979 SALT II treaty limit of 1,320 missile launchers allowed on the U.S. and Soviet sides.

The United States for seven years had abided by the treaty--never ratified by the Senate--despite frequent American charges of Soviet violations. As previous cruise missiles had come on the B-52 line, aging Poseidon submarines and their missile tubes had been dismantled to maintain the treaty limit.

'Shores Up . . . Reagan'

Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said exceeding the limits of the never-ratified treaty was "a very bad decision" and maintained that the Administration is doing it now because the move "shores up Ronald Reagan with the right wing."

Aspin said on "CBS Morning News," that conservatives want to get rid of SALT II limits and are experiencing "such unhappiness with Ronald Reagan over the hostages-for-equipment swap and the way that that was done (that it) is going to damage" future congressional approval for contra aid.

Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Reagan's decision will aid the Soviets, distress U.S. allies and hinder the arms-control process.

'Soviet . . . Advantage'

In a statement, Nunn said:

"I believe the President's decision . . . gives the Soviet Union a military advantage, with its near-term missile production capabilities, as well as a substantial world propaganda advantage. It will cause our allies abroad considerable political discomfort, and it will now be much harder to reach a bipartisan consensus on strategic weapons and arms control here at home."

Gorbachev, concluding a visit to India, accused the United States of showing "contempt" for arms control by treaty limits.

"We regard this as a major mistake, which will make it more difficult to search for the approaches for disarmament," he said.

Next Deployment in '87

President Reagan on Tuesday made the decision to deploy the latest B-52 with cruise missiles and no longer abide by the SALT II pact after a policy review at the White House with Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.

The 132nd B-52 will be deployed with cruise missiles early next year.

Although the cruise missile-equipped B-52 had been rolled out of the maintenance hangar at Kelly Air Force Base days ago and presumably could have been spotted by Soviet space satellites, the Pentagon did not consider the bomber deployed until it reached Carswell.

The Kelly base is an air logistics center that maintains most B-52s, C-5s and other aircraft. Carswell is an active SAC base, home of the 7th Bomb Wing.

The bomber that flew today did not carry any cruise missiles, only the external launch fittings and interior operating apparatus for 12 of the weapons. The missiles themselves can now quickly be loaded at any time.

About 33 other B-52s are stationed at Carswell.

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