If the Reagan administration decides against basing the planned MX missile system in the Nevada and Utah desert, what would take its place? This imaginative solution was dreamed up by three Sierra Club staff members in San Francisco and published in the April Fool issue of Not Man Apart, the monthly newspaper of Friends of the Earth .

THE NEW SYSTEM is called MWX (Migratory Whale Experimental), but is referred to around the Pentagon as Project Mobile (Moby) Dick. MWX is the latest and most sophisticated in a series of Biological Basing Modes (BBMs) explored over the past few years. A high Pentagon official, in describing the crucial policy switch, said, "We finally began to fathom that deployment of a whole new generation of missiles was a leviathan undertaking, so that's how we're going to do the job."

The plan consists of deploying four-stage nuclear missiles on board 200 Gray Whales (Eschrichtius robustus ) which will cruise incognito among their clan. Since these socially garious mammals migrate, of their own accord, over 18,000 miles per year between the Aleutians and Mexico, the desired geographical, mobile basing and multiple decoy characteristics are attained without disturbing the whales' time-tested and comfortable lifestyles.

The tremendous economic benefits of the system are readily apparent. While the landbased mode called for the building of 4,600 shelters and would cost over $100 billion to conceal just 200 missiles, Moby Dick utilizes over 10,000 in-place shelters requiring "0" construction outlay. Moreover, the Soviet Union will quickly see the futility of trying to deploy enough missiles to target all the MWX decoys, since the whales are continually increasing their ranks -- and at no expense to U.S. taxpayers! Systems Components

When fully operational, each designated Cetacean Basing Shelter (CBS) will carry one Jonah-Class Intra-Cetacean Deployed Missile (ICDM), equipped with 10 HARV. (Hopefully Accurate Recentry Vehicle) warheads. The loading of the missiles will be carried out by a fleet of 10 Ahab-Class Whale Holder and Tender (WHAT) submarines, which have bows especially designed for "mouth-to-mouth" docking (see Figure 1).

The WHATs will travel among the migrating whales, enticing them into the Front End Eatery & Deployment-Modules (FEED-M) with a nutritious and tasty blend of plankton. Of course, one out of approximately every 50 whales will be a CBS and will be armed with the ICDM payload in the course of feeding. According to the official, "enemy satellites will be unable to distinguish between those whales which are simply getting a free lunch and those which are simultaneously getting loaded." Obfuscation/Verification

There is only one hole in this system to be covered in order to frustrate Soviet attempts at detection -- the blowhole. However, Any System Adopted (ASA) must provide for Some Means of Periodic Verification (SMPV) to assure the U.S.S.R. (USSR) that we have not exceeded our Negotiated Limit of Deployed Missiles (NLDM). So, to accomplish both ends, each whale will be retrofitted quickly and painlessly during WHAT docking with a Blowhole Verification Deflector (BVD). This simple vent cover, not unlike a chimney hood, will be remote-controlled to open when missile disclosure is required. At all other times the vents will remain closed (see Figures 2 and 2a). While this system may seem somewhat complex, the Pentagon source was emphatic in assuring that "this nation will not b e caught with its BVDs down." Launch Contingency Not Ignored

The source stressed the feasibility of MWX, explaining that, "any deterrent system must, of course, acknowledge the remote possibility that launch may one day occur -- whether by intent or some fluke.

"therefore, the 200 armed CBSs will undergo special deep-breathing training which will enable them to rotate from 'cruise' mode to 'launch' mode (see Figures 3 and 3a). Preliminary tests have already proven the success of this training, a credit to our Navy's far-sighted research in marine mammal communications, begun in the 1950s."

The official sought to allay any concerns for the physical well-being of the gentle giants in a launch scenario. "Should a firing actually occur, our CBSs will be protected from internal injury by an exhaust pipe running from rocket engine nozzle to blowhole. These cranial outlets suit whales perfectly to structural safety modifications, unlike the other BBMs we considered and discarded, among them Kangaroo Pouch Developmental (KPD), Pelican Bill Experimental (PBX), and Ostrich Withdrawal Contemplative (OWC).

"The MWX represents a generational leap forward in mobile missile system design," continues the source. "While in the land-based MX systems, the missiles are not really on the move all of the time -- that is, they are Static & Mobile (S&M) -- the MWX Will keep all the missiles in motion all the time, making it Mobile & Mobile (M&M). And perhaps with the exception of remote areas on the east and west coasts, it is clear that the mood of the country indicates a preference for M&Ms over S&Ms."

The source, who insisted on remaining anonymous, speculated that, far from encountering popular opposition, the MWX will prove an idea whose time has come. He cited the existence of a nation-wide grassroots "Nuke the Whales" bumper sticker campaign. But when sounded out on a projected time frame for MWX deployment, he demurred. "I prefer not to dislcose any further details, as they might represent a breach of U.S. security," he concluded.