The cost of a ground-launched cruise missile has increased to $6.4 million, $500,000 more than estimated 18 months ago, according to an Air Force report filed with Congress l w0118 ----- r a BC-06/14/83-MISILE 06-14 0001 Cost Jumps On Weapon For Europe Estimate Is Doubled For Cruise Missiles By Walter Pincus Washington Post Staff Writer

The cost of a ground-launched cruise missile has increased to $6.4 million, $500,000 more than estimated 18 months ago, according to an Air Force report filed with Congress last week.

The United States plans to deploy up to 464 of the nuclear-tipped weapons in western Europe over the next five years beginning in December. The missile has created political problems in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization over location of its bases, but until now costs have not been an issue.

When the cruise missile program was put together in 1978, each missile was to cost $2.2 million and the program, which involved purchase of 702 missiles, was to total $1.5 billion.

According to the current estimates, the program will cost $3.6 billion and the government will buy only 565 missiles. Allowing for inflation, according to the Air Force report, cruise missile costs have more than doubled since the program began five years ago.

"Most of the cost and schedule difficulty on this effort has occurred in the transporter-erector-launcher and launch control center," the Air Force report noted. "In both areas, the development and manufacture of tooling has experienced significant problems, including a large amount of rework."

Four cruise missiles are to be fired from one launcher and controlled by a single center. Problems have been encountered in developing the sophisticated computer software needed for the missile system, according to the report.

The cruise missile, along with Pershing II, the other missile set for deployment in Europe, are being produced at the same time they are being tested. This type of hurry-up production also has led to big cost increases in the Pershing program.

The new Air Force report was required because the year-to-year cost growth of the cruise missile program jumped 25 percent in the past 12 months. However, the Air Force termed that a technical problem and blamed the increase on Congress, which cut the program $64.2 million in fiscal 1983.

To meet that reduction, the Air Force said, it deferred purchase of 36 missiles from fiscal 1983 to 1987. The postponement raised the individual cost of the 84 missiles being procured in fiscal 1983, according to the report.