The battleship Iowa will be returned to sea duty next month while still awaiting repairs on its badly damaged No. 2 turret, defense officials said Saturday.

The officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, indicated the Iowa would serve a normal tour, of four to six months, in the Northern Atlantic and Mediterranean before being returned stateside for repair of the turret next winter.Aside from the disabled turret, where an explosion killed 47 sailors during practice firing on April 19, "the ship is sound," said one official. "Don't forget," he added, "she's still got two other turrets of three 16-inch guns and a whole mess of cruise missiles."

In addition to their big guns, the Iowa and three sister battleships, the Wisconsin, the Missouri and the New Jersey, each bear 32 Tomahawk cruise missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads 1,000 miles, as well as four 20mm anti-missile guns and 16 Harpoon missiles than can hit ships up to 60 miles away.

While declining to specify dates of the Iowa's new tour, officials said the ship likely would leave its home port, at Norfolk, Va., next month.

The ship could use its two other turrets, as well as other weapons systems, if it became involved in hostilities, but a moratorium against test-firing the 16-inch guns remains in effect until the Navy determines the cause of the accident.