CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., said Saturday that the MX missile could disrupt lifestyles in the Southwest and he suggested a reassessment of the country's commitment to a joint land, sea and air-based ballistic missile deterrent.
Thurmond, president pro tempore of the Senate, told reporters at a U.S. Navy ceremony commemorating the 2,000th patrol by a ballistic missile submarine that future missile needs must be determined.
The Navy claims its capabilities to launch missiles from submarines anywhere in the world makes it the strongest leg of the air, sea and land-based triad of defense deterrents to a nuclear attack.
'I am very anxious for the military experts of this country to look into (underwater-based missiles) most carefully because it could save billions of dollars and could mean for the foreseeable future that they would be less subject to attack than if based on land,' said Thurmond.
The Senate Armed Services Committee member said placing greater emphasis on the new class of Trident submarines when a new generation of ballistic missiles is developed is worthy of consideration.
'I think we have got to look into it because the land-based missile would take in Utah, Nevada and Texas and would disrupt to a certain extent the life of the people in those states,' he said, referring to the Air Force's plans to station MX missiles in those areas.
On the other hand, the question exists as to how long it will be before technology is developed to locate missiles under water, which would make them easy targets and provide a new danger, he said.
Vice Admiral John G. Williams, deputy chief of naval operations for submarine warfare, said later that the MX missile is too big to fit into a Trident submarine, the Navy's largest underwater vessel at 18,500 tons.
The Navy has been working on improved sea-launched missile systems since beginning with the Polaris in the the mid 1950s, he said. The D-5, also known as the Trident 2, is the latest effort and has a multiple warhead, greater range and accuracy and an increased hard target kill capability, he said.
'We will wait for the national decisions to be made,' he said.