Four Soviet missiles were blown apart Monday at a test range on the steppes of Central Asia as the Soviet Union began destroying more than 1,700 missiles banned by a superpower treaty, Tass said.

U.S. inspectors were at the Saryozek test range in Soviet Kazakhstan, about 1,800 miles southeast of Moscow. Western reporters watched from a distance of about two miles as a single explosion tore apart the four missiles at about noon Moscow time.The blast dug a crater about 65 feet wide and spread debris from the missiles over several hundred yards, they said. The explosion sent a huge cloud of smoke into the blue sky over the steppe, the Western reporters said.

Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci hailed the destruction of the missiles as a "great event."

Col. Stanislav Petrenko, chief of operations, told reporters the nuclear warheads mounted on the SS-12s had been removed before the rockets were destroyed and that the charges would be used for peaceful purposes.