Pershing I-A missile destroyed


KARNACK, Texas -- A missile crew burned off the fuel and then destroyed the last of the Army's Pershing I-A missiles Thursday while a team of Soviet inspectors verified the explosion to meet nuclear treaty obligations.

The firing of two Pershing motors at the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant in East Texas was part of the agreement under the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty signed by both superpowers last year.


'The destruction of the Pershing I-A system is proof positive that we have moved forward in our relationship with the Soviet Union,' said Maj. Gen. Marvin Brailsford, commander of the U.S. Army Armament, Munitions and Chemical Command. 'This also indicates a giant step toward reducing the risk of war.'

The two motor rockets fired for 40 seconds each, vibrating the ground and shooting huge flames out of the back. When the motor had consumed the rocket's propellant, Thiokol Corp. workers crushed and destroyed the motors.


A 10-member Soviet inspection team watched the firing from a nearby bunker to verify the destruction of the missile and its contents.

'This is an important step in the direction of the implementation of the treaty, and this is also an important step in the direction of future peace,' said Soviet Gen. Maj. Vladimir Medved'ev, the director of the Soviet Risk Reduction Center.

The United States and the Soviet Union entered into the INF treaty on June 1, 1988, when President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev exchanged agreements at the Moscow Summit. The treaty calls for the elimination of all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems in the next three years.

Under the terms, the United States and the Soviets may destroy the missiles only by either 'static' firing, open burning or launching for destruction.

So far, all of the U.S. Army's 139 Pershing I-A rockets have been destroyed, most of them with static firing. Army officials said 18 of the 400 larger Pershing IIs have also already been eliminated.

Both the Americans and the Soviets have already destroyed about half of the missiles designated under the treaty in only the first 13 months, said Army spokesman Dave Harris.


'Pershing I-A helped keep the peace,' said Brig. Gen. Larry Capps, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Missile Command. 'We hope now that its passing will help preserve peace.'

The Longhorn plant was the site of the first elimination of Pershing I-As and Pershing II missiles last September, attended by then Vice President Bush and Army Secretary John O. Marsh.

The Soviet inspection team arrived before the initial elimination. The Soviet government has rotated their inspectors, but the occupations of team members has remained classified, Army officials said.

While in Texas, all of the Russians have lived in a motel and have been treated to Thanksgiving Day dinners, barrel racing lessons, high school football games and trips to churches.

'We have come to understand Texas much better,' Medved'ev said.

Longhorn was chosen for the firing because of its location and environmental safety record after more than 550 missile firings in the past. Extensive environmental studies have shown damage caused by the firing at other locations.

Longhorn spokesman Dorothy Grant said the facility has not had a safety or environment problem since the firings began. Officials from Thiokol, the maker of the Pershings, said the firings can only be performed on an average of 200 days of the year, when the weather is dry with few clouds.


In October, the mass destruction of the Pershing II missiles will begin under the treaty's guidelines at Longhorn. The Soviet instructors flew out of East Texas back to Moscow on Thursday, but they are scheduled to return in October.

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