The Pentagon's new weapons chiefs favor building the B1 and Stealth bombers, provided the Air Force cuts back on other projects to free money for the two-bomber approach, according to defense officials.
Richard D. DeLauer, who as under-secretary of defense for research and engineering is the Pentagon's top civilian technical adviser, buoyed Air Force hopes in expressing this preference for pursuing two bombers simultaneously, these sources said.
DeLauer, asked about his position, said yesterday that his memo to Defense Secretary Casper W. Weinberger on the bomber question detailed pros and cons, rather than express a personal preference. But DeLauer would not comment on reports of other defense officials that he has verbally opted for the two-bomber approach.
Weinberger took briefcases of papers on the bomber and other defense issues, possibly including the DeLauer memo, with him to Maine to study on vacation, according to Pentagon officials. The delay in Weinberger's bomber decision has impelled partisans to step up efforts, with two senators taking opposing positions yesterday.
Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) wrote Weinberger that "as a former test pilot and program manager for developing aviation systems in the Marine Corps," he doubted that Stealth could be ready soon because "there are serious technical problems, the sensitivity of which prevents discussion in this letter."
Glenn recommend building the Rockwell B1 to get a new bomber in the shortest possible time. Part of the plane would be built in Ohio.
Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) wrote Weinberger that by opting for Stealth "we will leap-frog over a generation of Soviet investments, technologies, military habits of mind and air defense systems."
Former president Carter conceled B1 bomber production in 1977, drawing fire from President Reagan during the 1980 campaign. In his letter, Hart congratulated Weinberger for moving "beyond campaign-year politics to a thorough and fresh reassessment" of which bomber should be built.