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Edited by Christian Lowe | Contact

Another Missile Defense Success (yawn...)

Isn’t it funny how news like this is greeted with a collective yawn from most of the media?

gmd-test.jpg

It’s another example of what they call in the journalism world a “dog bites man” event.

Boeing announced this weekend a successful intercept of a ballistic missile in space of its mission representative exo-atmospheric kill vehicle. In the past, there would have been much made of this successful test, but now, it’s only news of a test fails – the “man bites dog” event.

The test of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system began at 4:01 p.m. Eastern when a long-range ballistic missile target lifted off from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska. Seventeen minutes later, military operators launched an interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. As the interceptor flew toward the target, it received target data updates from the upgraded missile-warning radar at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. After flying into space, the interceptor released its exoatmospheric kill vehicle, which proceeded to track, intercept and destroy the target warhead.

The test, GMD's seventh intercept overall, was the second intercept with an operationally configured interceptor since September 2006.

WATCH THE MISSILE TEST VIDEO...

“With another intercept under our belts, we have even greater confidence that the GMD system, if called upon in a real-world scenario, will defend the nation against a limited ballistic missile attack," said Scott Fancher, Boeing vice president and program director for GMD. The Boeing-led test was highly complex, involving a wide range of assets, including the Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX). SBX, a powerful new sea-based sensor developed by Boeing, tracked the target missile to prepare for the next GMD flight test, which will see SBX provide target updates to an in-flight interceptor for the first time.

I guess it’s an example of how far the missile defense debate has come. It’s no longer about whether you can “hit a bullet with a bullet,” as opponents used to say, was impossible. Now the debate is more about whether a radar in the Czech Republic will alienate the increasingly paranoid Russian government.

GMD defends the nation against a limited number of long-range ballistic missiles, with interceptors deployed in underground silos at Vandenberg and Ft. Greely, Alaska. An integral element of the global ballistic missile defense system, GMD also consists of radars, other sensors, command-and-control facilities, communications terminals and a 20,000-mile fiber optic communications network. The U.S. government has announced plans to extend this capability to Europe.

Yes it has been expensive. Yes it’s been a long time coming. Yes there are many more hurdles to overcome. But the fact that this story gained little traction, is an even louder endorsement of the system than the actual space kill.

-- Christian

Comments

People think that Nuclear weapons will never be used. That doesn't mean there will be a threat. I think terrorist will use these thing when they get a chance to. Of coarse they would have a country after that but It create all the world to start firing there own.
There are nuclear weapons all over the world and many are not accounted for. I think we should spend more money on defense measures. People choose to ignore it and thats how ROME fell. They thought they were the greatest and invincible until the HUN and other tribes banned together and invaded.
Nuclear weapons will be used again and that is a fact. It's just when??? and WHERE??? Until every nuclear weapon is gone from the face of the earth there is always a threat.

Posted by: Nathan at October 13, 2007 03:52 PM


Come on people it's a very dangerous world out there. I'll bet every one of you have fire insurance on your house but hope your house never catches on fire. Go figure.
The meat heads out there always want to say we should spend this defense money on other worthwhile projects. Its because of this expense that we exist today so we can do the good we do through out the world both private & governmental.
There will ALWAYS be those that hate us & we can do nothing about that except to protect ourselves with the BEST defense system available.
What President said "Speak softly but carry a big stick." I think it was Teddy the rough rider.

Posted by: tgood at October 6, 2007 10:47 PM


Come on people it's a very dangerous world out there. I'll bet every one of you have fire insurance on your house but hope your house never catches on fire. Go figure.
The meat heads out there always want to say we should spend this defense money on other worthwhile projects. Its because of this expense that we exist today so we can do the good we do through out the world both private & governmental.
There will ALWAYS be those that hate us & we can do nothing about that except to protect ourselves with the BEST defense system available.
What President said "Speak softly but carry a big stick." I think it was Teddy the rough rider.

Posted by: tgood at October 6, 2007 10:46 PM


"No one is going to fire a nuclear weapon anywhere. Get over it"

Let's please not bet our grandchildren's future on it.
Nuclear weapons are only taboo in Western rational minds.
We and our adversaries have used them for over 50 years to deter attack, and I can assure you, if we detected a single SS-18 heading for Washington during that time, we would have responded within 30 minutes with massive nuclear counterforce.
Just because we didn't nuke Waziristan after the Pentagon and the lower half of Manhattan was smoldering doesn't mean nukes will never be used by the US, or any other power.
We may have had a different result if 9/11 happened in 1945.

Posted by: j house at October 6, 2007 01:05 AM


The naysayers simply don't understand that this is a solvable physics and engineering problem. There will come the day that even a large salvo of missiles and decoys will be defeated with a layered defense concept.
There are some shortsighted comments here regarding ballistic missile development in developing countries. It is certainly possible many more countries will possess nuclear weapons and longe range ballistic missiles in the next 1-3 decades.
It would be imprudent for the US not to work to improve this technology, and eventually field it if Iran declares itself a nuclear weapons state.

Posted by: j house at October 6, 2007 12:52 AM


How many components in this system were manufactured in the U.S.? The moment it REALLY works, it is in place there, too. How long were we the sole atomic power? A year? How long were we the sole nuclear power? Even less? Rome didn't fall because it became immoral(sp?). It fell because it stopped making it's own stuff and it stopped fighting it's own battles (Blackwater). Most of our soldiers could retire on Blackwater pay. They'll go bankrupt on soldier pay. Focus, people. I still support defending against ALL threats (including missles) but, damn it, Keep It Simple Stupid!

Posted by: Dakster at October 5, 2007 09:02 PM


If drivers who speed have radar detectors. And, your a cop. You want to deterr those speeders. You find the technology to render those devices obsolete.

Some of you would tell doctors, not to give antibiotics. The germs will only mutate, and come back.

We need to control the situation. Until a better solution occurs. A cure, for whats attacking you

It's easier to convince someone you don't want to fight. If they think, you can defend yourself. Than, If your only accolade is the debate club.

Sad to say...It's like in the movies. Someone pulls a knife, it's nice to have a gun.

Posted by: Don at October 5, 2007 01:17 AM


A few things I've seen mentioned here. Some old, some new.

1) What about spending money on diplomacy, making the need for such weapons obselete? Two answers here. First, we already spend a lot of money on diplomacy. Spending more won't miraculously change anyone's stance. Iran isn't going to like us any more than they already do just because we've got nicer carpets in our embassy. Second, it takes two to tango. We aren't worried about nuclear attacks from France. We're worried about attacks from hostile countries, i.e., those who have so far been unwilling to engage in meaningful dialogue.

2) Cost of countermeasures. Undoubtedly, it is cheaper for a nation of evil islamic-commie bastards to build an extra 100 missiles than it is for us to build an extra 100 interceptors. That does not mean, however, that they have the finances to engage in a massive building program. North Korea has trouble getting their missiles to remain airborne. Building 100, or 1000, is beyond their current (and future) capabilities. The US has a much larger economic base upon which we can draw. It's cheaper to buy a roadside bomb than it is to buy an Abrams tank. Fortunately, we have more money than they do. The same will continue with our missile defense.

3) Defeating multiple decoys, other technological countermeasures. It is true that our current level of missile defense is not up to stopping an all-out attack by an angry Russia. But our current level of technology in this area was thought impossible by most only 5 years ago. It's not like we're going to get the current system running and then stop. If we were, Russia would not be so worried about missile defense stations in Eastern Europe. The question is not "where is this technology now", but "where will this technology be in 15 years?"

4) We should spend this money in Iraq. The problem with this is that more money, and more expensive toys, will not save Iraq. The only outright solution for Iraq and Afghanistan is more troops and more willingness to use force (there are also things like getting the people to stop killing each other, but those are really things they must accomplish on their own--you can't force people to sing kumbayah at the barrel of a gun (well, I guess you can, but you can't make them mean it)). These are POLITICAL, not technological, hurdles. You could spend an extra 100 billion dollars on our current wars, and it won't end the hostilities.

5) Nukes in a shipping container. It's true that some crazy bastard could load a weapon into a shipping container and ambush the US. However, such a tactic is still of much less use than the ability to launch a missile at any desired location. In an ambush situation (like 9/11), it would be relatively easy to sneak an undetected nuke into a US harbor. However, there are major limitations on such an attack. If US forces lined up on the border of Iran and prepared to invade, a missile-launch system allows Iran to drop a bomb directly on the forces, killing hundreds of thousands of men and slamming the door shut on an invasion. A bomb in a cargo boat is not so flexible. Likewise, our conventional forces (including spy satellites, intelligence agencies, etc) can keep out an eye for terrorist attacks coming from known nuclear powers during times of political turmoil. If such an attack is discovered, it can be stopped in its week-long journey to the US. A missile, however, cannot.

Final thoughts. The best case scenario for missile defense is that it discourages the pursuit of nuclear weapons, to the point where its use is never required. As it is now, North Korea (and Iran as well, if you believe the reports) has embarked on a crash-course nuclear weapons program. It feels that if it can create even a single nuclear missile, then it has a blackmail tool against all other nations. No one will risk angering NK if the consequence is a radioactive wasteland where Seoul or Tokyo once stood. We know it, and Kim Jong Il knows it. However, if a viable missile defense system is put into place, it dramatically increases the "entry-level" cost of a viable nuclear program. If it is known that the US can shoot down the first 50 missiles, then your program isn't worth a hill of beans unless you have at least 51.

Posted by: Brian at October 3, 2007 03:57 PM


Verc;
The logic is clear. Nothing but MAD will do. Anything buy MAD is too dangerous to contemplate.

Posted by: Brian H at October 3, 2007 02:21 AM


"No one is going to fire a nuclear weapon anywhere. Get over it."

Oh? Used it twice, bud.

The future is a very long time, pardner. I can assure you, we will use them again.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at October 2, 2007 02:48 PM


Good Morning Folks,

I agree with Mark, "No one is going to fire a nuclear weapon anywhere."

The rational for the current ballistic missile defense system escapes all logic. If it worked as as advertised it would be effective against only the large sub-orbital ICBM's (Atlas, S-2, Titan etc.)of 50 years ago. Russia, China, United States, France, Britain the nuclear big boys left this technologly in the 1960's when they developed solid fueled orbital systems which even by the admission of supporters of the current missile defense system these interceptors are useless against.

The idea that some second or third tier country like Iraq, Iran or North Korea is going to invest the capital and resources in developing a liquid fueled sub-orbital ICBM is beyond even the twisted logic of the current administration.

The only rational for the developement of the current missile defense system appears to be corporate welfare to Boeing and the Military Industrial Complex in geberal.

ALLONS,
Byron Skinner

Posted by: Byron Skinner at October 2, 2007 01:30 PM


Here's my thought: Missiles launched from NK, Iran, etc..., at the US are just an excuse to keep the program going. They are very unlikely events and, as others have pointed out, a nuke in a shipping container (or whatever) is more likely.

That said, keeping a program like this going might not be a bad idea because:
a) It may eventually result in something that actually works against a realistic missile attack, and
b) It will undoubtedly result in spin-off technologies that benefit other areas of defense or even non-defense areas.

Not sure if it's worth the bucks spent, but I think a) and b) are legitimate points to consider.

Posted by: JIDude at October 2, 2007 01:20 PM


No one is going to fire a nuclear weapon anywhere. Get over it.

Posted by: Mark at October 2, 2007 10:53 AM


I ment more that we need the weapons, and we need to be more able to use them. Nukes are a deterance more than a weapon, and if we keep on our path we wont have any more left before long. Id say we need to keep making more of them.

Posted by: 22lr at October 2, 2007 09:32 AM


Russia told US the last time that they had taught their missiles to zig and zag and improved their dummies. Does anyone doubt that the interlocking directorships of the businesses of Arms, Oil, Media, Drugs has the most influence on this game?

Posted by: js at October 2, 2007 06:37 AM


whilst echoing some of the previous comments (i.e. how would this fair against multiple missiles with multiple warheads/decoys, and how would its response time / procedure fair when it wasn't expecting a test ...), i also wonder if this won't simply force potential enemies it has been designed against to come up with more asymmetric strategies, e.g. smuggle the nukes into defended country(ies) and detonate, or simply build more than the system could ever cope with (the soviet doctrine if you like). there is already suggestion that the chinese are considering this, thus making the world less safe for the usa and everyone else, not more so. also, what are the relative economic costs? how does the per-shot intercept cost compare to a ballistic missile fitted only with dummy warheads, for instance in a cheaper way to overwhelm the system. as for the airborne-laser system, well how many would have to be flying 24 hours in order to provide sufficient protection? i'm just a bit cynical about the whole thing i guess, and think the money and time could be better spent elsewhere, e.g. on diplomacy perhaps so that such a system isn't needed anyway ... (call me an idealist too). oh and for '22lr' with their nuke korea comment, well the usa already has the capability of wiping that country (if not the continent) from the map!

Posted by: elizzar at October 2, 2007 06:27 AM


There are times when the nuclear deterrent fails and you need a proper missile defense.

Consider the following very likely scenario:

US attacks some country that has long-range missiles capability. The regime fears it is doomed and fires its missiles in retaliation and/or desparation.

The regime is doomed anyway and may not care enough about its country or people to be deterred by a counter attack.
So to preserve the option of going to war with second-rate missile powers, the US needs a missile defense.

Posted by: d-fens at October 2, 2007 04:35 AM


Good Evening Guys,

Good thing that we are getting a KEI to work, now all we need is an enemy for it to protect us from.

ALLONS,
Byron Skinner

Posted by: Byron Skinner at October 1, 2007 10:33 PM


Chris Hedgecock - Who says we cant invest in both?

Yes our current war is against people who dont use the latest technology....but that doesn't mean you ignore other countries/threats out there like Russia/China/Iran/North Korea/Syria/etc.

you have a very short-sighted point of view...something the DoD thankfully does not have.

Posted by: murc at October 1, 2007 10:15 PM


The problem is not that it's bad to be shooting down missiles. That is a capability that we should invest in but this is overkill for an unlikely scenario: That China North Korea or Iran would launch an utterly detectable hostile rocket at the United States or it's allies. We need to shift away from silver bullets that cost way too much and build up our military from the soldier up. Language training, mountain warfare, intelligence and civil affairs. Some IED/Ambush survivable vehicles would be nice too. There's a war on people and last time I checked Al Qaeda didn't have a large rocket program. And remember more interceptors just means more ICBMs and more fingers on more triggers which makes the U.S. fundamentally less safe.

Posted by: Chris Hedgecock at October 1, 2007 09:09 PM


Can't forget the other argument made by opponents of the system: it'll be easily confused by simple decoys. A simple solution, of course, would be to simply build more interceptors and take out all of the targets, decoys or not. And also, how often does the military disclose its ability and techniques to overcome countermeasures in any type of combat?

Posted by: George Skinner at October 1, 2007 08:47 PM


Just wait when the Airborne Laser another upcoming system that has at every step been screamed and wined about as a waste, boondoggle, useless blah blah blah.....even thou it has so far met the milestone albeit not as quickly as the best case scenerio's drew out.

Especially considering that Airborne Laser will be even more revolutionary than the BMD has been. A deployable read stationed in US or other certain strategic areas capable of deploying to a theater then not just taking the enemy Ballistic Missiles off the table but send those that dare launch (warhead and all) back down on X hostile nation. Talk about game changer.

Posted by: C-Low at October 1, 2007 08:32 PM


It's just classic engineering. If you do your work right, you're ignored. If you screw up, then you get yelled out.

Posted by: Alex at October 1, 2007 08:23 PM


Makes hitting an old weather satellite look like child's play.

Posted by: Chris at October 1, 2007 03:32 PM


> it may not be the case that the interceptor was fired first

Time line in PST:

13:00-13:01 Target launched from Kodiak Island

13:16-13:18 Interceptor launched from Vandenberg
AFB

13:09-13:24 Beale AFB UEWR radar tracks target

13:24 Intercept "a few hundred miles" off
the California Coast, WNW of Los
Angeles (Current guesstimate is very
roughly 38N, 138W)

Posted by: Deus Vult at October 1, 2007 03:31 PM


This is a great step in the right direction. Something went right is the left media isnt saying much. If something went wrong we would have heard about it. Now all we need is to build up our own stockpile of missles to nuke Korea. One question though? If we are attacked and we shoot the missle down, what will happen? Will we be able to take action or will the democrats make us back down and just defend again?

Posted by: 22lr at October 1, 2007 03:24 PM


Perhaps nobody really notices anything about Star Wars because the program is a throwback to the Cold War bipolar competition at a time when terrorists setting off a dirty bomb are far more likely than any sort of nuclear exchange and the world's most impressive military is bogged down by insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

How should we react? Bravo! Twenty years of tests, billions of dollars and if we accept that the test wasn't rigged (as many have been before) then we finally can hit "a bullet with a bullet"? I'm a little confused, should it be more of a news event that we finally hit something or that they can do it consistently... I'm not sure I've heard them say they consistently intercept in these tests?

Also, forgive me but how close are we to hitting multiple "bullets" and attending dummy countermeasures because that's always been a reality check that this program hasn't never adequately addressed, nor will it anytime soon.


Posted by: RM at October 1, 2007 03:11 PM


Ok, it may not be the case that the interceptor was fired first, however in the video they showed the interceptor launch first. Please tell me that was just the way they filmed it and is NOT an indication that the missile already knew where to fire OR that it needed that time/speed "cheat" to get to the designated impact point to kill the missile?

Posted by: atacms at October 1, 2007 02:39 PM


One puzzling thing about this test and the previous one using a target fired from Kodiak is that both the target and the VAFB-fired interceptor seem to have been moving much slower than would be the case in an ICBM intercept scenario(about 2 - 2.5 km/s vs > 6). Anybody know why that is?

Posted by: Deus Vult at October 1, 2007 02:14 PM


Beautiful. Gee, I wonder if we should check out with the unbiased experts such as--I dunno--ArmsControlWonk to see how A) it is impossible and B) it is a bad thing.

Personally, I love that syllogism; can't do it, and if we do it, it's bad. Kinda like Catholic school without all of the icky moral education. But salvation is so close if we just content ourselves with thermonuclear destruction of our cities and the choice to either return the obliteration or suffer like a saint.

Good God, I know of no other doctrine as barbaric in practice as the arms control movement, especially as it has descended the slippery slope to opposing defensive weapons.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at October 1, 2007 12:24 PM


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