A House Armed Services subcommittee has denied the Department of Energy $3 million in fiscal 1984 advanced weapons production money, part of a $500 million program to produce the Navy's new standard nuclear long-range antiaircraft missile (SM2), according to congressional sources.
The subcommittee decided that the proposed weapon had so large a yield that, if exploded, its blast and electromagnetic pulse could black out radars and other electronic equipment on friendly aircraft, sources said.
In addition, these sources said, subcommittee members are concerned because the president must pre-designate, or grant in advance, his legal authority to release these nuclear antiaircraft weapons. There is no way to call back for such authority in the midst of combat.
According to recently declassified Pentagon documents, the Army since the mid-1950s has been authorized to use its nuclear Nike Hercules surface-to-air missiles in the event of surprise attacks whenever it is considered impossible to wait for specific clearance to fire.
"This type of advance authorization had been proposed by a Pentagon report in 1955, and endorsed by National Security Council document NSC 5602/1," according to an article by Houston University professor David Alan Rosenberg in Harvard University's quarterly, "International Security."
According to congressional sources, that same directive still exists with regard to both Army and Navy nuclear air defense systems.
The Army, however, has retired the nuclear Nike Hercules that were operational in the United States and plans to do the same with units deployed in West Germany. They will be replaced by the Patriot air defense system, which has a conventional rather than a nuclear warhead.
As a result of the House subcommittee's action, sources said, the Navy is having "second thoughts" about building the little-publicized SM2 nuclear missile. The SM2 is supposed to be a follow-on for older nuclear-tipped systems--the Talos and Terrier--that have been carried aboard ships for more than a dozen years.
The Navy already has in operation a conventionally armed standard ship-to-air missile. The nuclear version, which has been in the works for more than 10 years, was designed to attack Soviet cruise missile-carrying Backfire bombers, and the missiles themselves once they were launched.
In other actions, the subcommittee also cut advanced production funds for several other nuclear systems, including $19.3 million for the Navy's Trident II submarine-launched missile and $17.6 million for a nuclear antisub device.
The production funds for the Trident II were deleted, sources said, because members did not believe they were needed in the fiscal 1984 budget.
The reductions, which will be contained in a report to be released within the next few days, were made last week when the subcommittee marked up its version of the fiscal 1984 authorization bill for the Department of Energy's defense programs. DOE builds nuclear warheads for the Defense Department, which produces the weapons systems.