kdawson from the bullet-with-a-bullet dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The New York Times reports that President Obama's plans for reducing America's nuclear arsenal and defeating Iran's missiles rely heavily on a new generation of antimissile defenses which last year he called 'proven and effective.' Now a new analysis being published by two antimissile critics at MIT and Cornell casts doubt on the reliability of the SM-3 rocket-powered interceptor. The Pentagon asserts that the SM-3, or Standard Missile 3, had intercepted 84 percent of incoming targets in tests. But a re-examination of results from 10 of those apparently successful tests by Theodore A. Postol and George N. Lewis finds only one or two successful intercepts, for a success rate of 10 to 20 percent. Most of the approaching warheads, they say, would have been knocked off course but not destroyed, and while that might work against a conventionally armed missile, it suggests that a nuclear warhead might still detonate. 'The system is highly fragile and brittle and will intercept warheads only by accident, if ever,' says Dr. Postol, a former Pentagon science adviser who forcefully criticized the performance of the Patriot antimissile system in the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Dr. Postol says the SM-3 interceptor must shatter the warhead directly, and public statements of the Pentagon agency seem to suggest that it agrees. In combat, the scientists added, 'the warhead would have not been destroyed, but would have continued toward the target.'"
Thus spake the master programmer:
"When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes."
-- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"