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Math The Military Technology

Missile Defense's Real Enemy: Math 589

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-will-confuse-you-by-running-straight-at-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Since the 1960s until the present day, missile defense has been a hot topic. Ronald Reagan popularized the concept with his 'Star Wars' multi-billion dollar plan to use lasers and various technologies to destroy incoming Soviet warheads. Today, America has a sizable sea-based system, dubbed AEGIS, that has been deployed to defend against rogue states missiles, both conventional and nuclear. However, there is one thing missile defense can't beat: simple math. 'Think about it — could we someday see a scenario where American forces at sea with a fixed amount of defensive countermeasures face an enemy with large numbers of cruise and ballistic weapons that have the potential to simply overwhelm them? Could a potential adversary fire off older weapons that are not as accurate (PDF), causing a defensive response that exhausts all available missile interceptors so more advanced weapons with better accuracy can deliver the crushing blow? Simply put: does math win?'"
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Missile Defense's Real Enemy: Math

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  • by beelsebob (529313) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:01PM (#42762889)

    Of course there's an element of "the country with the largest army wins" (for a given definition of win), but the idea that these systems are stupid enough to shoot down missiles that aren't going to hit targets is laughable.

  • by Red Herring (47817) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:09PM (#42763015)

    In the case of AEGIS and related defenses, the goal is not necessarily to be able to absorb/defend against anything and everything that the enemy throws against you. The goal is to survive long enough to turn the attacking launch site into a glass parking lot (or a steaming hole in the water) before they can destroy your offensive assets. In the mentioned case of Iran, I expect the goal would be to absorb one or two 'provocative' attacks. If there was full out attack, though, I'm pretty sure they would not have the opportunity to launch all the missiles...

    Why so many of these stupid questions on /. over the last few days? I feel like I'm reading Digg. And not the good Digg.

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:12PM (#42763055) Journal

    The problem with averages is this: Only a small percentage of the population are in jobs that require advanced algebra, trigonometry and calculus. Although I went through differential equations in my undergraduate, and still enjoy math, I do not need it for my IT Management job. Statistics I use infrequently. Algebra I use somewhat (but not advanced). When you are measuring the US population average against other country averages (and in many cases just a subset of those other countries) you are not getting to the crux of the issue -- how does our top 2%(or whatever the appropriate number is) compare against other countries' top 2%. If our universities are producing engineers with much worse scores than our counterparts, then I will worry.

    On a side note: When trying to make fun of another group's intelligence, you should write a post that doesn't make you sound like a 9 year old who forgot his ADHD medication.

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:12PM (#42763059)
    Enemy plan:
    Fire 100 "cheap missiles" to get intercepted
    Wait for the US to use up it's anti-missile capabilities shooting those down
    Fire more, more better missiles to hit target.

    What would really happen
    Fire 6 "cheap" missiles
    Die in a hail of US missiles you have no defense against
  • Re:That's not math (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:16PM (#42763109)

    Quantity has a quality all of its own.

  • by DarkOx (621550) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:17PM (#42763133) Journal

    Right but its not as if those older less accurate weapons are not accurate enough to resulted in an estimated impact zone that is not "expendable". At the end of the day you have to have more interceptors than I have missiles. I can barrage you with cheap munitions that are designed to just rain down over a general area, like you know a city, with just some basic magnetic guidance to keep it on a strait course. Sure maybe these things don't fly fast enough and have no hope of evading your interceptors; but they do consume them. Once your out of expensive weapons I can bring out my good ones to use on your high value targets.

  • by Stone Rhino (532581) <mparke@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:28PM (#42763271) Homepage Journal

    In a democracy, you can't get away with having a small minority with all the knowledge. The whole population needs to be informed enough to do basic math and critical thinking. A basic grasp of statistics, algebra, and how to do a budget would make a huge difference in the ability to evaluate what politicians say and have a well-functioning democracy. If you can't decide for yourself, the facts just become another political football with competing claims.

  • by Nutria (679911) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:30PM (#42763299)

    Set a missile to appear that it will land someplace harmless, and once it's over land, alter it's course.

    Then it's not a cheap, mass produced expendable missile anymore.

  • by war4peace (1628283) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:34PM (#42763351)

    I would honestly be more worried about conflict escalation ladder here. If an enemy launches 10K small missiles that have the potential to kill 100K citizens, the US might escalate the conflict and fight back by launching 50 nuclear warheads which would kill 50M enemy citizens, and so on and so forth, until nobody's left to tell the tale.

  • by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:38PM (#42763435)

    Since the 1960s until the present day, missile defense has been a hot topic

    TRANSLATION: We've been trying to get it to work for 50 fucking years but we can't seem to get two object moving faster than bullets to collide.

    That's the real problem. They can barely even shoot down those first cheap missiles. They can't compensate for evasive action at all. It's been nonsense for the last fifty years and will be for the next fifty years.

  • by Dins (2538550) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:46PM (#42763555)

    At the end of the day you have to have more interceptors than I have missiles.

    Not if my interceptors are laser or other energy weapon based. Think Missile Command (loved that game at the time...) Sure we may be a ways away from that now, or I should say as far as the *public* knows we may be a ways away from that, but we'll get there...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:48PM (#42763581)

    You nailed it.

    Not a great illustration, but here goes. In the second world war, Britain gained air superiority over Europe. The only way Germany could continue to attack the UK was with cruise missiles (V1), these could be intercepted or shot down, not every time but it was an additional burden on the defensive forces to mount this tactical defence.

    When Germany began launching the V2 there was no tactical defence, all Britain could do was go after the factories that were building these things with what amounted to a Strategic defence.

    Germany may have prevailed if they could have built enough, but the UK put more aircraft over the target. relatively cheap aircraft won the day over an expensive weapons system.

    The numbers matter. Weight of numbers really matters.

  • tangent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:54PM (#42763671) Journal
    The word "math" is a poor substitute for "overwhelming numbers".
  • by default luser (529332) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:58PM (#42763733) Journal

    I can barrage you with cheap munitions that are designed to just rain down over a general area, like you know a city, with just some basic magnetic guidance to keep it on a strait course.

    Once your out of expensive weapons I can bring out my good ones to use on your high value targets.

    Okay, this is how this scenario really works:

    Assuming you have enough "cheap" munitions in a coordinated attack designed to overwhelm interception defenses, the attacker would require several strongpoints with lots of weapons (no way you could ransomly distribute that level of coordinated attack with enough munitions to overwhelm defenses).

    The defender would have a firing solution on every strongpoint in seconds, and would lob off artillery and/or their own rockets and/or air strikes. Your coordinated attack designed to overwhelm defenses is cut-short by a conventional counterstrike before it has the time to do so.

    The reason they build desenses like these to handle a cerain number of projectiles is because coordinated attackers make for easy targets. You typically see rebels taking pot-shots in smaller numbers where they can quickly disappear, and enemies in the next country over have known-quantities of ballistic missiles.

  • by dywolf (2673597) on Friday February 01, 2013 @03:02PM (#42763779)

    For a ballistic missle, yes. That's why its a ballistic missle.
    They arent steered. They are aimed. They go where pointed and no where else.

    Once again, certain individuals prove they are speaking without knowledge of the subject at hand.
    The author also proves lack of knowledge by talking about ballistic missile threats to ships at sea. That is essentially a non-issue.

    Guided missiles are a whole nother beast to start with, for which we already have close in defense systems, and even then that's only a last resort. The best way to stop a guided munition is to never let it get launched in the first place. IE, take out hte plane or ship that tries to launch it. The number of attackers required to overwhelm the close in defense systems in such a scenario is so large that it is simply, again, a non-issue. They would never get the chance to even launch in such numbers.

    The entire article and half the poeople posting are completely clueless.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday February 01, 2013 @03:15PM (#42763935) Homepage

    Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @03:19PM (#42763997)

    That's what nukes were developed for. Make the destruction so bad no one would dare attack us and those who do will be glowing in the end.

  • by asylumx (881307) on Friday February 01, 2013 @03:41PM (#42764281)
    Just a note: Nobody knows which of these approaches was more effective, since neither of the two countries have ever launched any of the described weapons.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday February 01, 2013 @03:43PM (#42764313)

    How long until missiles are mirror-coated?

    It's just pathetic that a Slashdot reader doesn't realize that no mirror made yet would be able to last for more than .00000001 seconds against the kinds of lasers that can melt through a warhead in flight.

    No real-life mirror is a perfect reflector of energy at all wavelengths, the smallest degree of loss, or any dust whatsoever means absorbing a tremendous amount of energy from the laser which in turn destroys the mirror instantly.

    The warhead sure will look pretty on the ground though.

  • by dcollins (135727) on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:39PM (#42765043) Homepage

    "What they were developed for" != "what they got used for". Initially nukes were used to actually level Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and Nazi Germany was in the crosshairs but they didn't last through the development cycle). Later came the whole MAD thing, semi-accidentally.

    Both history and technology usage are funny like that, mostly not according to any original plan.

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