"MX Reliability in Question" {front page, Dec. 28} contained several gross misstatements of fact and false conclusions that may have misled your readers. Both the accuracy and the reliability of the Peacekeeper are considerably better than called for at this stage in the program.

The claim by Rep. Jim Cooper that we could possibly launch a nuclear attack against ourselves is baseless sensationalism. Redundant safeguards make it virtually impossible for any Peacekeeper warhead to land anywhere other than in the vicinity of its intended target. The General Accounting Office and the independent scientists and engineers of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board have both reported that Peacekeeper accuracy is better than the specifications and that its reliability has exceeded Air Force projections. Even the least accurate Peacekeeper flight is more accurate than the Minuteman III, for years the world standard.

The Air Force is confident that there are no faulty guidance systems in any of our missiles on alert. These missiles, and all their components, are tested repeatedly by several agencies and then monitored electronically 24 hours a day to ensure every component is functioning exactly as it should. Any problems, regardless of their source, would be detected and corrected before any missile was put on alert.

The lead anecdote, describing an incident during Northrop pressure testing, is inaccurate in its implication and overly dramatic. The test had nothing to do with the ability of the inertial measurement unit, which is the guidance system of the missile, to withstand the force of a launch. Screws on the test stand failed, not the IMU. The implication that IMUs are not reliable or flight-worthy is completely unfounded. In addition, Brig. Gen. Charles May Jr. is not the commander of the Ballistic Missile Office, as erroneously reported twice.

The unfortunate aspect of the article is that Gen. May and others in the Air Force spent considerable time with Molly Moore ensuring that she had the correct information, which it appears she simply chose to ignore. In the free marketplace of ideas, the American people deserve better from a paper as influential as The Post.


Brigadier General and Director of Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force