The treaty to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear forces is fueling a high-level drive in the Pentagon to force the military to spend more of its budget on "smart" weapons that could be fired from NATO's rear areas, defense officials said yesterday.
Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci has commissioned a study on how far the Pentagon could go in this direction and is expected to decide within the next few days whether to order the services to restructure their budgets to accommodate additional spending for unmanned, standoff weapons at the expense of manned aircraft, tanks and ships. Traditionally, the armed services have strongly favored manned weapons over unmanned ones.
Carlucci in a NATO report sent to Congress yesterday said a "win early" master plan for using advanced conventional munitions (ACM) to stop a Warsaw Pact invasion quickly by aiming smart weapons at weak points in Warsaw Pact forces should be ready for implementation by this April.
The Defense Department also is accelerating efforts to provide NATO partners with more U.S. technology to allow them to employ smart, unmanned weapons to defend Europe, officials said. The recent departures of Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and his deputy, Richard N. Perle, have reduced Pentagon opposition to such technology transfers, they added.
Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. John R. Galvin, NATO commander, are allied with Pentagon civilians pressing to reduce the time it now takes to get smart, unmanned, standoff weapons out of U.S. laboratories and into the European defense zones. The weapons could have nuclear or conventional warheads, although the greater emphasis at the moment is on nonnuclear. Smart weapons can be launched from ships or aircraft without violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Ground-launched weapons with ranges of less than 310 miles also are permitted.
In testimony endorsing the INF Treaty, Crowe told the Senate Armed Services Committee that to keep the alliance strong "at reasonable levels of investment . . . we must exploit key areas where we enjoy potential long-term technological advantages . . . . The United States did make certain that the INF Treaty would leave the door open for NATO to exploit fully emergent technologies in the modernization of strategic nuclear, theater nuclear and conventional forces . . . . It is imperative for the alliance to take stock of its military posture and to reassess the way it is preparing for the long haul."
A secret "competitive strategies" report detailing such moves as using smart, unmanned weapons to decapitate Warsaw Pact command centers from their invading forces is circulating in the Pentagon. The rationale is that NATO will never spend enough money in peacetime to match the Soviet Union gun for gun or tank for tank, so the alliance must identify the chinks in the Warsaw Pact's armor that could be speared with smart weapons.
Officials who worked on the report cited the unmanned "Tacit Rainbow" cruise missile under development as an example. The missile can be launched from aircraft, and with modifications, from the ground. It can be programmed to orbit over Eastern Europe, detect radar signals and ride them down to the sending complex, blowing it up.
"It makes more sense to buy Tacit Rainbow than the F15E," said one Pentagon official who is campaigning to change the mix between manned and unmanned weapons, "but the Air Force will fight it. They want to buy weapons which need pilots." The F15E is the bomber version of the Air Force fighter.
Another idea being debated in the Pentagon is to take many of the U.S. warplanes out of West Germany and base them in NATO countries farther to the rear where they would be safer. Rings of unmanned antiaircraft missiles would substitute for many of the manned fighters assigned to shoot down Warsaw Pact planes.
New generations of antitank missiles deployed on the NATO front, some military leaders contend, would free alliance tanks from this defensive role and enable them to rush up from the rear to plug holes in the forward lines. Implementing those ideas under tight military budgets would force the military to choose between buying more "platforms," such as aircraft and missiles, or redirect the money into advanced weapons.