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The Military Technology

Critics Say US Antimissile Defense Flawed, Dangerous 312

Posted by 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.'"
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Critics Say US Antimissile Defense Flawed, Dangerous

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  • by jhylkema (545853) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:16AM (#32263344)

    Protection Against Threats Real, Imagined or Theoretical.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vlm (69642)

      Protection Against Threats Real, Imagined or Theoretical.

      How well does it intercept bombs in standard 40 foot shipping containers? Thats the "delivery vehicle of the future".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Thanshin (1188877)

        How well does it intercept bombs in standard 40 foot shipping containers? Thats the "delivery vehicle of the future".

        The delivery vehicle of the future is wind.

        Once we learn to target virii to specific genetic patterns.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          The delivery vehicle of the future is wind.

          The delivery vehicle of the very near future is digital data.

        • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:20AM (#32263970)
          Attention! This is an announcement from your friendly neighborhood latin-speaking biochemist. People using "virii" as plural of "virus" shall be dragged into my secret underground lab, where my own tailor-made viruses shall be unleashed on them for testing purposes. The latin "virus" has no attested plural, so please refrain from making up a latin-looking plural for it. Even if it had one, "virii" would be neither a correct second nor third nor fourth declension plural. Thank you for your attention.
        • Actually, the Japanese already prototyped that, in WW2.

          They made little balloons and sent them up into the jetstream current, which whisked them over to the US at high speed, where they'd fall out of the sky. It was going to be the basis of a germ warfare delivery system. Simple, cheap, no engines or navigation required. Paper plus weaponised pathogens. Trouble was, I think most of the test balloons ended up landing somewhere unuseful like Oregon.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            The Japanese tried the balloon trick alright, but they've loaded them with incendiary bombs [wikipedia.org], mainly to set off forest fires on US territory; not to deliver biological agents.

      • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@ho[ ]il.com ['tma' in gap]> on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @11:29AM (#32265664) Journal

        How well does it intercept bombs in standard 40 foot shipping containers?

        Pretty well. The Patriot carries a 200 lb (90 kg) warhead, which is easily enough to kill a soft target like an unarmored shipping container.

        Plus, a container travelling at 25 knots (by ship) or less than a 100 mph (road or rail) is a very easy target to intercept.

        Why, I'm surprised you'd even have to ask that sort of question.

  • by msauve (701917) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:17AM (#32263360)
    so much like a rehash of the Patriot missile / SCUD results [cdi.org] from the first gulf war? You'd think the military-industrial complex could afford to make up new lies.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I know very little about missiles, don't really read much news about army equipment, etc.... But this summary sounds so familiar. I could swear that I've read about the ineffectiveness of the US antimissile systems even on Slashdot several times, each time seeing the same things "It doesn't block nearly as large amount of them as was claimed", etc., then reference to the gulf war... Then again, I think that there might have been articles about different uses for it. I think that one time here was an article

      • each time seeing the same things "It doesn't block nearly as large amount of them as was claimed"

        All you need to know about the claims of the military-industrial complex can be learned by reading up on the Sgt. York Air Defense Artillery fiasco.

    • by sycodon (149926) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:17AM (#32263950)

      " 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."

      Pro-immigration groups publish report citing benefits of illegal immigration.
      Anti-gun group publishes report on the danger of guns.
      Pro-drug group publish a report down playing down the dangers of drugs
      Pro-Democrat group publish report on the short comings of Republicans
      Pro-Republican group publish report on the short comings of Democrats

      Advocate group publishes report that promotes/detracts from whatever the group promotes/detracts from.

      Are we seeing a pattern here?

      • Yeah but in this case they are correct. Anti-missile interceptors don't work. While eliminating nukes between the US and former USSR is a good plan, we still need to keep SOME on hand to discourage other countries from attacking us, for fear we'd wipe them off the map.

        • by sycodon (149926)

          I don't know about the effectiveness of the antimissile systems. It is a difficult task, to say the least. But we should keep trying. The defense department shouldn't "sex up" the record and the detractors shouldn't consider anything less than perfect to be a failure.

          I agree we need the nukes.

          America's message to the rest of the world should be that if you come at us, we will come after you and you have no idea with we will be bringing with us.

      • by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:48AM (#32264330) Homepage Journal

        Yep, I do see a pattern. People paid to hold an opinion (in this case the pro-shield ones) are quoted as "experts", yet, people that form an opinion on their own, based on aquired knowledge are quoted as "anti" or "pro-cause".

        It is like some of the money is flowing to the ones quoting people, but who am I to know, I'm probably some anti-lucrative-press or something like that.

      • The pattern is known as "debate". Do you expect one all-knowing, totally unbiased man to provide all the answers to these questions?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GreatBunzinni (642500)

        Advocate group publishes report that promotes/detracts from whatever the group promotes/detracts from.

        Are we seeing a pattern here?

        Yes, the pattern of labeling those who have the audacity to think for themselves and point out the dangers and flaws of something as a radical group along with something profoundly negative such as kooks, fundamentalists and religious freaks. From there, you use those negative labels you just added to them as some sort of basis to downplay and ignore each and every point they make, without ever doing anything to disprove the points they make, in effect preserving the status quo at the expense of personal a

      • by MrEd (60684)

        Your heuristic works as long as

        1) you don't care about their data, analysis or arguments
        2) you don't care who chose their labels - "antimissle critics"

        Sounds like you're adapting to cable news quite well.

      • by Nimey (114278)

        Your post leaves out why they're critics of the anti-missile system. Are they against the very idea of it because of not wanting to irritate the Russians? Or are they against it because the implementation is full of fail?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Aceticon (140883)

        Correlation != Causation

        (Now the head of some guy in another article is going to blow)

        Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that it isn't always:

        Advocate group publishes report that promotes/detracts from whatever the group promotes/detracts from.

        Sometimes its:

        Publisher of report that promotes/detracts from something get's tagged as belonging to a group that promotes/detracts from that something.

        It is in fact a very common tactic to "paint" your critics of belonging to a group with an agenda as a means of

  • Missing the point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by quiet_guy (681438) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:19AM (#32263368)
    Their real point is successful intercept of the entire missile body != intercept of the warhead, not that the intercept missed entirely. Of course, the SM-3 system has actually done an exo-atmospheric intercept (failing satellite over the Pacific).... (speaking as someone who actually used to run a ship capable of doing this.)
  • by Zouden (232738) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:21AM (#32263394)

    The antimissile defense might be flawed but that has nothing to do with reducing America's nuclear arsenal. There'll still be enough nuclear weapons available to act as a deterrent. The anti-missile defense system plays a completely different role, that of deflecting attacks, rather than preventing them. You can't deflect attacks with ICBMs, so Obama's plan for reducing the nuclear arsenal doesn't rely on antimissile defense.

    • by rossdee (243626)

      The use of a nuclear force as a deterrent is fine if your probable adversaries are sane. It worked during the cold war, and since then against other superpowers like Russia and China because the leaders of those countries would not risk the destruction of their people. However with nuclear proliferation and 'rogue states' like North Korea and Iran, not tp mention the possibilty of terrorsts getting hold of nukes, deterence isnt going to work so well. If a rogue state does send one or two nukes at the USA, t

      • by Frequency Domain (601421) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:35AM (#32264164)

        However with nuclear proliferation and 'rogue states' like North Korea and Iran, not tp mention the possibilty of terrorsts getting hold of nukes, deterence isnt going to work so well.

        An antimissile defense system won't work against them either. Terrorists won't have ICBMs, their most likely delivery mechanism will be by boat to some harbor city.

        Antimissile defense systems are an expensive approach that don't actually solve a real-world problem.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:30AM (#32264106)

      Now that presumes, of course, a credible threat from a rogue nations with a few missiles. However, given the developments in NK and Iran, that seems to be a somewhat realistic threat that should be looked at.

      No, there will likely never be an anti-missile system that could deal with, say, the Russian arsenal. You get tons and tons of missiles and it'll overwhelm the ability to intercept them all, or even a significant number. However that doesn't mean a system couldn't provide a reasonable probability of intercepting a few missiles. No certainty, but some chance is better than no chance.

      People also need to remember this isn't pure pie-in-the-sky stuff. The Aegis Combat System is quite capable of anti-missile capabilities. It can track and engage anti-ship missiles quite well. Now of course ICBMs are a whole different problem, not in the least of which because of their speed, but it is the same "track and engage" idea and there is working hardware.

      The real question is if it is worth the cost and overall, I think it is. Reason being that I do see the idea of a missile launch from a place like NK as a possibility. Now if that happens, and the missile hits an American city, it is going to be large scale nuclear war. The US will launch a counter attack. The most optimistic scenario would be that the only deaths would be those from the initial attack, and then more or less everyone in the country the US launched at, but it very well might not end there. The US launch might trigger other launches from other countries.

      However, if the missile is stopped, well then the possibility exists for a more measured response.

      I think that makes it worth it. I don't worry much about nuclear war between large powers. Reason is that the power to make a launch doesn't lie in the hands of one person, and the nations are ruled by sane people. Maybe not nice people, but sane people. They know the consequences, they don't want to see that, the weapons are a last resort kind of deterrent only. However there are places like NK, where a single person rules, and where the sanity of that person is a bit suspect. That is a case where a nuclear launch is a possibility if they obtain the weapons, and they seem to be working on it. That I worry a bit more about.

      So to me, it seems worth it over all. Also let's please not pretend like defense R&D is a 100% sunk cost or anything, that we pour money in to the projects and get nothing useful in return. Often, we get technologies that can be used in other devices or the like, both defense and non-defense. Sometimes, we get things with direct major civilian applications.

      Please remember that GPS was invented because the military wanted to be able to locate all their vehicles and ships accurately anywhere. That was the motivating factor behind it. However it has proved to be the sole most important invention in civilian navigation since, well, since the sextant probably.

      Over all, I think it is worth it and I disagree it is dangerous. Do remember that nuclear bombs are complex, precise devices. You don't have to obliterate one to stop it from exploding, only cause damage to any number of systems and they don't work anymore. Ya the missile might still hit its target but so long as it doesn't trigger the nuclear reaction, the damage will be fairly small scale.

      • by amplt1337 (707922) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @10:55AM (#32265240) Journal

        I think you are underestimating the rationality of North Korea and Iran. Kim Jong-Il is well aware of the consequences of his actions, and won't launch against anyone any time soon -- his main target would probably be South Korea anyway, and if he wanted to he could level Seoul with ballistic conventional weaponry before they could do anything about it.

        Iran is not actually governed by Ahmadinejad; he's a figurehead. In any event, the logic of the situation suggests that Iran absolutely should want nukes -- but primarily as a deterrent against the other nuclear powers in its neighborhood (Israel) and the West (US). MAD not only discourages nuclear war, but conventional war as well. Getting nukes would greatly increase Iran's security and regional importance, if it can get through the dangerous phase where it looks like it might have nukes.

        However, you're right that there's a credible threat of nuclear attack from a non-state actor. Thing is it won't come from an ICBM, it'll come in a suitcase, or in the back of a truck.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by VShael (62735)

        Reason being that I do see the idea of a missile launch from a place like NK as a possibility.

        You need to understand something.

        Future attacks will not come from missile launches where the country responsible for the launch can be annihilated.

        Future attacks will most likely come from an unprotected shipping container in an American port. And America won't really care who is behind it. They'll just target whoever happens to be in their current black books, and "retaliate".

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:48AM (#32264328) Homepage

      Correct. It's just PR to keep John Bombemall and Jane Fretsalot happy. If a President (any President) just reduced the nuclear arsenal, John might think he was a pussweed and Jane might think he wasn't protecting her children. I mean, they think that anyway but they might be annoyed enough to donate to the Other Guy.

      But if the President announce that we have a Missile Shield that keeps us safe, then he's a studly manly-man, and he's Thinking of the Children. Even if there's strategic no connection at all between a Missile Defence and a Missile Offence, John and Jane don't know that.

      So it really doesn't matter if the Missile Shield works or not, or even if it exists. The President might as well hold up a shiny rock and say that it keeps missiles away, or declare that Chuck Norris has been hired to roundhouse kick incoming missiles right back to Elbonia. Whatever pacifies John and Jane enough to let him cut the nuclear arsenal down from super-mega-overkill to just regular-mega-overkill is a good thing. The ends in this case do justify the means.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Unfortunately we remain committed to the war in Afghanistan for the same reason, which is killing lots of people, both "us" and "them." Musn't lose face.
  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:25AM (#32263418) Homepage Journal

    Don't forget to set a password, in case some UFO loon goes poking around.

  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:25AM (#32263426)
    As a race, humanity hasn't changed too drastically from an evolutionary standpoint in the past thousand or so years. Looking at history, and mankind's propensity to wage wars, kill, slaughter, and just be plain vile, well, the future doesn't look any different than the past. With every new technological development, its a game of "Now figure out how to blow each other up with this X new technology".

    Of course there exist scientist, humanitarians, artisans, and others of the less warring nature, but the fact remains that those in power want to stay in power, and violence tends to work better for them. As long as greed, power, and control are the driving motivations for the more tenacious world leaders, I don't believe we will seem full nuclear weapon non-proliferation, ever.
    • by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:35AM (#32263518)

      I don't believe we will seem full nuclear weapon non-proliferation, ever.

      Don't be so pessimistic.

      We'll see nuclear weapon disappear when we find cheaper, smaller, ways to destroy an attacking country.

      No point in keeping the large nuclear complexes if you can have some portable gravity discombobulators hidden in a couple dozen places, ready to pulverize any perceived threat.

      If I were you I'd be worried about someone discovering a weapon that can be built with common materials, portable and powerful enough to destroy a country.

      • by qbast (1265706)
        There are already - biological and chemical weapons. Remember nerve agent attack in Tokyo underground? Random bunch of religious loons managed to synthesise sarin. Only because they didn't have good enough equipment or enough patience it diluted enough to prevent any real catastrophe.
      • If I were you I'd be worried about someone discovering a weapon that can be built with common materials, portable and powerful enough to destroy a country.

        Yeah, if someone beats me to it what would I do with my weekends?

      • We'll also stop nuclear proliferation after everybody is out of resources, what could happen just after a nuclear war...

        Anyway, the only certainty is that it will stop someday. You're quite right.

    • Dr. Dealgood: Listen all! This is the truth of it. Fighting leads to killing, and killing gets to warring. And that was damn near the death of us all. Look at us now! Busted up, and everyone talking about hard rain! But we've learned, by the dust of them all... Bartertown learned. Now, when men get to fighting, it happens here! And it finishes here! Two men enter; one man leaves.

      Dr. Dealgood: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls... Dyin' time's here.
  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:32AM (#32263486)

    a warhead is pretty fragile and a lot of things have to work in unison and perfectly together to produce a nuclear explosion. if you hit it hard enough to damage it and prevent an explosion it's good enough

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:09AM (#32263874)

      "a warhead is pretty fragile and a lot of things have to work in unison and perfectly together to produce a nuclear explosion. if you hit it hard enough to damage it and prevent an explosion it's good enough"

      Not really, this missile is targeting re-entry vehicles that must survive the shock of launch, the heat of re-entry, and frequently contain ground penetrating warheads (for use against hard targets like other silos or bases).

      Glancing blows will only deflect the impact point.

      You have four main weapon delivery mechanisms:
      1. High altitude burst, for EMP, but you risk taking out your own equipment. (Taking out your recon satellites in the opening shot of a war)
      2. Low altitude burst, maximum destruction of soft targets
      3. Ground burst / laydown (deprecated somewhat in favour of ground penetrating), some hard targets, and maximum area denial (fallout)
      4. ground penetrating, maximum damage to well protected hard targets or wide area damage to structures in solid ground (shock waves through the ground destroying foundations for quite some distance)

      These warheads are complex, but hardly fragile.

      • Glancing blows will only deflect the impact point.

        IIRC, 1/3 of US casualties in the Gulf War were from enemy fire on the battlefield, 1/3 were from friendly fire, and 1/3 were from a SCUD missile that landed on a barracks after being deflected from its target by a Patriot missile.

        • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @10:18AM (#32264684) Journal

          and 1/3 were from a SCUD missile that landed on a barracks after being deflected from its target by a Patriot missile.

          Incorrect. The Dhahran barracks were not hit by a "deflected" missile. No intercept of that incoming Scud was ever attempted. There was a software bug in the Patriot Missile system that caused the system clock to drift. The longer the system was kept running without being restarted the worse the drift got. As a consequence of this the system never detected the incoming threat and no intercept was attempted.

  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:35AM (#32263522)

    The problems with anti-missile defense are more basic than that:

    (1) Basic geometry -- you have to station a slew of defensive missiles every 20 miles along your borders. That's because you are not going to hit anything going Mach 12 across your path-- you need a close to head-on intercept angle.

    (2) Cheap and easy countermeasures. Even if you bankrupt your country setting up (1), the bad guys just switch to using sub or boat launched cruise missiles. Or low-trajectory ICBM's. Or put the bomb on a freight or passenger plane. It's mighty foolish to spend a trillion $ and have all that effort counteracted by a visit to UPS and $187.54.

    JR Oppenheimer did this math in his head in 1952 as he was testifying to a govt comittee. Nothing has changed since then.

     

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc (563838)

      It's mighty foolish to spend a trillion $ and have all that effort counteracted by a visit to UPS and $187.54.

      It is, unless you're on the receiving end of that $1 trillion. While I'm sure some folks working at military contracting companies are decent and hardworking folks, it's extremely profitable to get nice big contracts to produce something that (a) doesn't work and/or (b) isn't actually useful.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        And c) isn't going to be used - even if it is, I bet you're screwed whether it works or not.
    • by alen (225700)

      i've been hearing about a nuclear bomb in a suitcase for over a decade now form missle defense opponents. if it was that easy al-queda would have done it already. it's not that easy. you have to hide the radiation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by denzacar (181829)

        Contrary to what you may have seen on TV or in comics - you can't just make an exoskeleton power armor in a cave with a box of scraps.
        Or a nuke for that matter.

        On the other hand, portable nukes have been around since the '50s. [wikipedia.org]
        And it is not really the radiation that is the problem - it's the low yield.
        As an attack device it is practically useless unless you are aiming it at very large numbers of humans in the field somewhere.
        Its only advantage over conventional explosives is that it is smaller (you would nee

    • 1) Basic geometry -- you have to station a slew of defensive missiles every 20 miles along your borders. That's because you are not going to hit anything going Mach 12 across your path-- you need a close to head-on intercept angle.

      Actually, you only have to set them up close enough to your enemy's launch sites to intercept the missiles shortly after launch (which was the theory behind the Bush Administration making agreements to place them in several Eastern European countries and other places closer to potential launch sites than U.S. soil).

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Trailer Trash (60756)

      Dude, UPS doesn't allow shipping of nuclear bombs. I think radioactive material is also on the forbidden list at the USPS. So, no problem.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      1. Getting a sub close enough to the US coast wouldn't be easy.
      2. Cruise missiles are actually not all that hard to shoot down unless they are packed with ECM and are stealthy. Well not that hard if you have AWACS and AIM-120s.
      3. Low trajectory ICBMs? Very difficult and really kill your range. Actually pretty easy to shoot down.

      Oh and technology hasn't advanced at all since 1952? please...

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @10:21AM (#32264732) Homepage

      (1) Basic geometry -- you have to station a slew of defensive missiles every 20 miles along your borders. That's because you are not going to hit anything going Mach 12 across your path-- you need a close to head-on intercept angle.

      Which is why these missiles are designed for long range intercept, so we don't need one every twenty miles along the borders. But this is just basic geometry and you forgot to mention it.
       
       

      (2) Cheap and easy countermeasures. Even if you bankrupt your country setting up (1), the bad guys just switch to using sub or boat launched cruise missiles. Or low-trajectory ICBM's. Or put the bomb on a freight or passenger plane. It's mighty foolish to spend a trillion $ and have all that effort counteracted by a visit to UPS and $187.54.

      Well, submarines are neither cheap, nor easy. Nor are cruise missiles launched from them. And if the bad guys do go that route - well, that's what the Navy is for. But historically the bad guys go for missiles.
       
      Low trajectory ICBM's aren't cheap and easy either - they are actually more expensive and difficult than the more normal high loft ones. Why? Because you need the same missile - but a somewhat more sophisticated guidance system and *much* tougher heat shielding on the reentry vehicle. It's a semi hard problem, and nobody has seriously tried it yet despite years of panic and hand waving from the usual suspects and those who copy and paste their nonsense without actually understanding it.
       
      Putting a bomb on a freight or a passenger plane is the act of a terrorist, not a nation state. This system is meant to defend against nation states, not terrorists. Nation states go for ICBM's because of two reasons; a) it keeps the weapons close to home and under the control of trusted individuals until needed, and b) there's not much deterrent value in a bomb on a civilian plane.
       

      JR Oppenheimer did this math in his head in 1952 as he was testifying to a govt comittee. Nothing has changed since then.

      Given that nobody had flown an ICBM in 1952, and that nobody knew much about them in 1952, I find that hard to believe. (I.E. citation needed.) Even if he did, I'll point out that the technology of 2010 is a (very) far cry from the technology of 1952. Robert Oppenheimer was a very smart fellow, but his opinions on ABM defense aren't much more relevant than Sir Isaac Newton's.

  • Is that it goes out the window when your opponents are crackpots like the Iranian regime or North Korea. These regimes wouldn't hesitate to play Russian Roulette with their populations if they had a good chance of hitting us very hard, and one day they will. What's ironic about this talk is that many of the same individuals who sneer at the hawks for investing in "outdated doctrines and weapons" are themselves guilty of propping up MAD which is an outdated doctrine that has no meaning in a world in which ow

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Squiggle (8721)
      I never understood this argument. Why would someone who has worked so hard to get into a position of power throw it all away? The only case I see is if they are on their deathbed and want to be known in history as the person who attacked the US with nukes, but you can be damn sure their potential successors will actively block any attempts to ruin the wealth and power they stand to inherit. These "crazy" leaders are supported by enough people that they get into these positions of power, and I'd guess that
  • I for one.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by White Shade (57215) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:59AM (#32263760)

    I for one am not really at all afraid of someone launching ballistic missiles at us. The fact that it hasn't happened yet gives me some comfort that chances are, humans aren't quite that suicidal as a whole.

    What does scare me is some lone crazy group getting ahold of a nuke and sneaking it into a city. Missile defense systems aren't going to do anything to protect us from that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      Why?
      No one has ever smuggled a nuke in to a city yet ever so why worry more about that.

      Franky I think to dismiss any of those vectors isn't very bright.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by winwar (114053)

        "No one has ever smuggled a nuke in to a city yet ever so why worry more about that."

        Reason(s) to smuggle a weapon into a city:
        prevent advance knowledge of an attack
        prevent identification (cause misidentification) of the source of the attack
        create a massive clusterfuck related to the previous point.

        Any country that launches a nuke via a missile or plane is toast. And they know it. So it would only be done under similar circumstances, if at all. Aka MAD.

        But what happens if a city justs goes poof? Who do

  • I work on SM3... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mathimus1863 (1120437) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:08AM (#32263854)
    ...and I can tell you that our flight tests have demonstrated our ability to not only hit the target, but decide where to hit it. We have advanced FEA simulations that determine exactly what damage we're going to do when we hit it at a given location at a given angle, and our organization supports our current aiming techniques as "lethal." Given that we tend to aim very reliably, it sounds like the argument here simply about aiming location, which is the result of a few parameters in the software. That's a completely different story than saying the entire system is flawed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Compholio (770966)

      Given that we tend to aim very reliably, it sounds like the argument here simply about aiming location, which is the result of a few parameters in the software. That's a completely different story than saying the entire system is flawed.

      You're fighting a losing battle here, most people don't realize that in the testing phase of a product that you do intentionally stupid crap to see what kind of tolerances are necessary.

  • Dr. Postel says be liberal in what you accept and conservative in what you send.

    Dr. Postol says this does not apply to nuclear engagements.

  • They thought Dr Postol might get mad and go postal?
  • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:36AM (#32264174) Journal

    In my armchair analyst opinion, intercepting a missile launch is not the most important part: detecting it is. Thanks to global trade, nobody with the economy to build enough nukes to wipe another industrialized trading nation off the map has any real incentive to do it. Anyone else can destroy a major city, but that is going to bring retribution of a biblical scale from the entire rest of the world if the true source of the attack can be determined. So firing off a couple of missiles is essentially an act of suicide anyway. An attacker's only hope is to somehow disguise the origin of the nuke to create plausible deniability. So this means a detection network alone is sufficient to ensure a missile is rendered a poor choice of delivery system.

    • by dcollins (135727) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @11:10AM (#32265434) Homepage

      "Anyone else can destroy a major city, but that is going to bring retribution of a biblical scale from the entire rest of the world if the true source of the attack can be determined."

      Common thinking, and I disagree with it completely. It's a bit similar to "pound you in the ass prison" arguments, it's mostly just macho posturing.

      Example: Group of 50 terrorists launch a nuke from the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan (population 7 million, and directly on the border with India). We annihilate the whole region in response. Really?

  • Congratulations! You just composed a malamanteau [xkcd.com]

  • It's also worth noting that we're currently writing another arms-reduction treaty with Russia, and some Republicans are signaling that they may not vote to sign the treaty in part because they believe that it would limit our ability to develop a missile defense system. (There's a left-biased view on the matter here [slate.com], I apologize for not having something more neutral immediately off-hand.)
  • Postal (Score:2, Interesting)

    Postal is a known lier. and thus anything he says can be ignored automatically. He's known for listening to briefings, turning around and saying the exact opposite, and then demanding that someone prove him wrong. Missile Defense works. It worked in the 1960s, and it works today. Anyone who says otherwise is either a lying bastard (like Postal) or uninformed.

  • To make loads of money for the “defense industry”.

  • They're right (Score:3, Informative)

    by ClosedSource (238333) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @10:51AM (#32265186)

    US anti-missile missiles are not effective at destroying Iran's imaginary intercontinental nuclear missiles.

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson

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