The Defense Department has had no first-hand information since Feb. 10 about hundreds of classified documents in Iran pertaining to U.S.-supplied F14 jets and Phoenix missiles, a Pentagon source said yesterday.
While there is no evidence that the secret and confidential manuals and publications have fallen into unauthorized hands, there has been governmental concern over their fate since heavy street fighting occurred around the Tehran location where they are stored.
At the same time, the course acknowledged that at this time the United States has virtually no control over and only spotty information about, the advanced American weapons systems that were owned by Iran at the time of the country's revolution.
A total of 77 F14 jets and more than 200 Phoenix missiles are now in Iran, at air bases outside the cities of Esfahan and Shiraz. The source siad that there is "no evidence, direct or indirect," that the equipment has been moved or that its security has been compromised to persons or countries outside Iran.
The new Iranian government has said that it will honor previous security commitments, which include a pledge not to transfer the equipment to other countries.
The source, who briefed reporters on condition that he not be identified, said he had no information concerning statements here Thursday by a representative of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's government suggesting the F14s might be destroyed.
The F14 armed with Phoenix missiles comprises the Navy's "first line" weapons system, with a capability of destroying several attacking aircraft at a distance of up to 100 miles.
Since Feb. 19, when the last verified information about the planes and missiles was obtained, intelligence has been intermittent, the source acknowledged. Foreigners, including U.S. military personnel and private technicinas, have not been given access to them and there are now no American officials outside Tehran.
Information about the F-14s is being obtained by "technical means" and from travelers who are able to move around the country.
The planes are in shelters and the missiles are housed in concrete structures behind double perimeter fences.
The bases themselves apparently have been taken over by junior officers acceptable to the cadre of technicians, or homofars, who played a key role in swinging air force support behind the revolution.
In the early days of the revolution, the source said, fear that the planes would be seized and returned to the United States produced "paranoid" security measures at the bases.
Acquisition of one or more Phoenix missiles by the Soviet Union could help it develop countermeasures against one of the mot sophisticated U.S. air defense systems. Loss of the F14's secrets would also be a blow. Other advanced U.S. weaponry in Iran includes improved Hawk missiles, the "maverick" television-guided bombs and F4 aircraft.
According to the source, some of the most advanced U.S. electronic equipment for disrupting attackers had been sold to, but had not arrived in, Iran at the time the shah's government was overthrown.
The manuals that went with the F14s were held in Tehran under extremely tight security until recently. While the Defense Department would not view the loss of some of the manuals as a danger, other of the documents contain information that could be useful to the Soviet Union.
"I'm not confident that every single document and every single publication in Tehran is secure," said the source.
The source noted that while the advanced hardware was in remote, heavily guarded outposts, the documents were kept in a vault near the Iranian air force headquarters where bloody fighting took place and mobs moved about freely.
A Khomeini representative said here Thursday it was his "strong feeling" that no military advisers would be invited back into Iran.
However, without these advisers, it would be "difficult" to operate the aircraft for more than a few missions the source said.