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'Race track' for MX is scratched

By With Analysis from Monitor Correspondents around the world, Edited by Debra K. Piot / May 7, 1980



Washington

The defense Department said Tuesday it has abandoned the planned "race track" deployment of the MX missile system in the southwestern United States and will opt for a "loading-dock concept" to save money and land, Monitor correspondent John Cooley reports.

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The race-track method of basing the MX required loop-shaped roads to shuttle the missiles on their giant transporters between shelters. The loading-dock concept will make possible using grids of parallel roads, as favored by Sen. Jake Garn (R) of Utah. This would require nearly as much land as the race-track system, but Senator Garn and other MX supporters feel that the small reduction would make the MX more acceptable to Utah and Nevada residents. The grid system would use existing roads crossing state highways in Utah and Nevada at one-mile intervals -- the exact interval the MX proposed system requires.

Instead of using a kind of tractor-trailer, which transports, lifts, and launches the missile, the loading-dock method would require a detachable trailer that could be detached from its transporter unit. The detached part of only (not the truck) would be placed in the shelter, reducing the size of the shelter and the construction cost.

Defense Secretary Harold Brown said in a letter explaining the system that a special railroad leading from the assembly area to the missile deployment zone could be replaced with a much cheaper road. Engineering of the entire system would be cheaper, too.