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Where next for MX

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Be it noted that the Congress of the United States has not nixed the idea of building a new generation of nuclear missiles to balance any advantage the Soviets may be thought to have in such weapons.

Congress has said loud and clear that it thinks the idea of mounting a hundred of such weapons in a ''dense pack'' sounds about as silly as it previously thought was Jimmy Carter's proposal for sending 200 of them around thousands of miles of race tracks in Utah and Nevada.

The race track idea was scuttled (or was buried - if you prefer a non-nautical figure of speech) by the Mormon Church. The members of that religious body, who are plentiful in those states and not without political influence there, decided that they did not want MXs in their neighborhood where they might attract unwelcome attention from similar missiles mounted in the Soviet Union.

The ''dense pack'' idea was politically easier for any neighborhood. A hundred could be mounted inside the area of an existing air base. And the idea was to put ''the pack'' in Wyoming which has the necessary air base and where there are plenty of existing land-based nuclear weapons (Minuteman type) in fixed silos. Besides the population of Wyoming is small. It is 4.8 per square mile, the second lowest in the American union. The only other state with lower density is Alaska at 0.54.

But ''dense pack'' is gone now simply because it did not sound plausible to a majority in Congress. After they turned it down they learned that their doubts were shared by three of the five members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. The majority of the ''chiefs'' thought the money could better be used for more and better conventional wea-pons.

But Congress is willing, and has said so, to continue to provide funds for research and development on a new strategic weapon. There is nothing super special about the MX version which they blocked. It was merely one version of a new experimental missile (what MX means). Other versions are on the drawing boards. The special merit in the vetoed version of MX was that it was big enough to put into space 10 warheads of 350 kilotons blast each, or 7 of 500 kilotons. By dropping to fewer warheads, higher blast powers can be reached.


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