A new Navy study has confirmed that the United States should build medium-sized, non-nuclear aircraft carriers in the future, Navy Secretary W. Graham Claytor said yesterday. Claytor said that the just-concluded study found that two oil-burning medium-sized carriers could be bought for the price of one Nimitz-class nuclear carrier.
"Given the budgetary constraints we will continue to face, and our need for more, rathern than fewer, ships, my own preference continues to be" a medium-sized carrier for the future, Claytor wrote Chairman Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wash.) of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Congress last year directed the Navy to conduct a fresh study of future aircraft carrier needs in hopes of resolving the debate of big nuclear carriers versus medium or small non-nuclear ones.
Although the Navy study sent to Congress over the weekend concluded that a 94,000-ton Nimitz-class nuclear carrier costs about $2.4 billion compared to $1.4 billion for a 62,000-ton "midi" carrier, this is not expected to end the argument.
Adm. H. G. Rickover and congressional allies have been fighting for continuing the Nimitz class rather than switching to smaller carriers. They are expected to continue this fight in the current congressional session.
Claytor, in his letters to congressional committee chairmen summarizing the Navy report, conceded that the nuclear Nimitz carriers are more capable than the midi carriers. But he aid the latter, even though smaller, could still handle all the Navy's present fighter aircraft. The plan is to build V/STOL (vertical/short takeoff and landing) aircraft for the future to go aboard the midi.
In its fiscal 1979 budget sent to Congress last month, the Pentagon did not ask any money for a new carrier pending completion of the study.
In a separate development at the Pentagon yesterday, officials denied that Soviet progress on antiaircraft missiles threatens the cruise missiles that President Carter has decided to build instead of the B1 bomber.
Defense Secretary Harold Brown is "confident" that the cruise missile will "outstrip any defense that the Soviets can muster against it," Pentagon spokesman Thomas B. Ross said.
A column by Roland Evans and Robert Novak published in The Washington asserted that Gen. David C. Jones, Air had "started actual deployment" of an SA10 missile that threatened to stop the cruise missiles. The column further Post Friday asserted that the Soviets Force chief of staff, had received the "alarming news" at a top-secret briefing Jan. 26.
Ross said the Soviets have not deployed the SA10 missile and that Jones attended no such briefing and had told the columnists this before they filed their column.
Defense officials, Ross continued, are "not concerned" about the SA10 missile but are "watching it closely."