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Missile Defense's Real Enemy: Math589

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

• Simply put... No. (Score:5, Insightful)

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.

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:5, Informative)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:09PM (#42763011)

Israel's defense system has a simple solution. It's programmed with a map showing which areas are populated, and which expendable. On detecting an incoming rocket*, it estimates the impact site and only fires an interceptor if it is heading for somewhere populated.

*The ones Israel is being showered with at the moment are numerous, but very cheap and simple - barely even guided, just enough to hit the right city, sometimes.

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:5, Insightful)

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.

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:5, Insightful)

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.

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:4, Insightful)

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.

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:5, Insightful)

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.

• Re: (Score:3)

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.

That's what Death Stars are developed for. Make the destruction so bad no one would dare oppose us and those who do will be motes of dust in the end.

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:5, Insightful)

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...

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:4, Insightful)

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.

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:5, Interesting)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @03:35PM (#42764181) Homepage

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).

Yeah that's what the Navy thought when in their asymmetrical war games and the entire carrier group was (virtual) sunk.

Assuming the enemy cannot possibly be coordinated enough to launch an attack without being concentrated in one convenient spot for counter-attack is the kind of arrogance that is going to get a lot of people killed in the early days of the next war.

Remember, too, there's a difference between overwhelming a defense systems ability to track and down targets, and overwhelming its ability to stay supplied with ammo.

The rebels take pot-shots in small numbers because they only have a small amount of material and never want to risk over-exposure or the chance of a decisive conflict (that's not what guerrilla warfare is about). However guerrilla tactics can display extremely high levels of coordination, and if adopted by a military force that can afford ballistic missiles then they could also afford to use overwhelming numbers of smaller portable weapons.

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:4, Informative)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @06:13PM (#42766031)

You act as if the Navy learned nothing from that. They learned plenty, operational plans changed, engagement tactics have changed and how to react to small vessels has changed.

As has been pointed many times on Slashdot, the Navy's plan for Iran is to sit outside the gulf in the Arabian sea where those small vessels can't reach. They then use air-power to wipe out all those vessels, docks and marinas that could be used before they move any ship back into the gulf.

Everyone likes to run around and say the Navy is a bunch of idiots and they ignored the problem by refloating the group and restarting the war game. The point is that what they could learn from those tactics had been learned and that there wouldn't have been value in continuing the war game on the same rules or declaring the games over while they were spending the money on the games. In other words they learned what they could then continued to learn more about different things. Now there are morons on the DOD that want to build Littoral combat ships but from what I understand they are in the extreme minority. Most of the Navy's leadership understands that the value in a navy is in the carrier grouping and it's air power, not the combat vessels. The future of the navy is to dramatically scale down the number of personal on board with automation and potentially even bring about carriers that carry massive numbers of drones along with carrier groupings armed with rail guns and other offensive weapons that allow even further stand off power.

• There are no "cheap" munitions. (Score:3)

A ballistic missile is not cheap. It may sound reasonable to say they can "barrage you with cheap munitions" but there really is no such thing. Sure, you can save some money by not putting a nuclear warhead on it, but the missile is still going to be the most expensive part of it.

• Re: (Score:3)

Your asterisked issue is the whole point.

Set a missile to appear that it will land someplace harmless, and once it's over land, alter it's course. Costal cities are probably safe, but anything too far inland is will make a nice target, save the costal shots for the end of the barrage.

The author has a point. Although it's only damage mitigation, rather than prevention at that point, a mainland missile defense system would probably be a good backup.

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:5, Insightful)

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.

• Re: (Score:3)

It's less cheap, but it can still be fairly cheap.

Alt, you could have a bunch of cheap mass produced missiles that appear like the nicer missiles until the nicer missiles change directions and the cheap missiles don't. Increase the design cost a few bucks with placing weights at the right spots to give it a sufficiently similar flight profile until guidance systems turn on, maybe some cheap electronics to appear like it's running telemetry systems (not bother with the processing/nav bits, just radar pulses

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:4, Interesting)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:50PM (#42763623)

I remember reading a possibly apocryphal tale about different attitudes to deploying decoys on nuclear missiles in the Cold War; supposedly the US military went to a great deal of trouble building decoys that looked like nuclear warheads, whereas the British saved a lot of money by making the warheads look like decoys.

Make your smart missiles look like dumb missiles until they're too close to engage, and the job is done.

• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:4, Insightful)

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.
• Re: (Score:3)

Well then... we need to fix that right away!

How 'bout they launch at each other to test it. Save the rest of the world a whole lot of bother.
• Re: (Score:3)

Um, actually we do. Which one spent the least amount of money? That was the most effective, since the one who spent the most money just threw it away. Maybe it will be helpful in the future, but for now, it was a total waste.
• Re: (Score:3)

Set a missile to appear that it will land someplace harmless, and once it's over land, alter it's course. Costal cities are probably safe, but anything too far inland is will make a nice target, save the costal shots for the end of the barrage.

I'd argue the reverse there. Any missile with enough range to hit inland cities is not going to be that cheap.

• Re: (Score:3)

Missiles with that capability are expensive and heavy.

• Re: (Score:2)

It's also been shown that Israel's defense system would not scale well to large countries, such as the United States. It's a start, but still a long way from a solution.

• Re: (Score:2)

Occasionally, not guided at all. I think the Quassim rockets are entirely aimed by hand, unguided, and don't need to be. As long as the rocket lands within 20 miles of a target region...
• Re: (Score:2)

So then make sure they will hit targets.
You can save money by only making every Nth have a warhead instead of a brick. So long as the mass is the same the interceptor system cannot tell them apart.

• Re: (Score:2)

You think the Iron Dome measures mass or volume? Is it even possible to accurately measure mass of a body in flight froma distance?
• Re:Simply put... No. (Score:5, Interesting)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:28PM (#42763267)

Indeed. This is an incredibly stupid article and the implication that this is some inherit law of math is outrageous... Somehow the missile defense installations have a fixed amount of resources but the enemy doesn't? Come on!

One of the most basic rules of warfare is this: a strategy if a winner if it costs them more than it costs you. A missile defense is still a valuable tool if interceptors cost less than what they're intercepting regardless of whether or not what they're intercepting would do any damage because the enemy still had to build the thing. And from the same perspective if an enemy is going to build a missile why not just put a ton of TNT on it and point it in the general direction of a city? Even without guidance (which would add meaningful cost, unlike the TNT) a city is a big enough target that it presents a credible threat anyways and so needs to be intercepted.

Arg, this is just ridiculous!

• Re: (Score:2)

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.

Not at all. The "will it hit it's target" question is not one that can be easily answered in enough cases that the math does not matter. All I have to do is get close and I look like enough of a threat to draw a response. It's possible that defensive systems could collect enough information (flight profile, radar signature, exhaust temp) from a possible threat to make guess on whether or not it's worth shooting at, but that's a losing game in the end. All the adversary has to do is make his crowd pleasers

• Re: (Score:3)

Wrong. There are two types of missile to defend against: guided and ballistic.

Of those, the only one you need to ask "will it hit its target", ie, where its even a question, is ballistic. And in the case of ballistic, it's an easy to solve question. The ballistic arc is nearly 100% predictable; it's basic physics, trivial physics. Your comments about Flight profile, radar signature, etc, all are meaningless. If you can get close enough to be a threat, you are a threat, and thus will be intercepted. There is

• Re: (Score:3)

Exactly: this applies to any military engagement, no matter what the technology. See, for example, Napoleon and Hitler's invasions of Russia.

• That's not math (Score:5, Informative)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:02PM (#42762907)
That's not math, that's known as attrition.
Sometimes you don't need the better soldiers, you just need more soldiers.
• Re:That's not math (Score:5, Insightful)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:16PM (#42763109)

Quantity has a quality all of its own.

• Re: (Score:3)

That's not math, that's known as attrition.

Stop. You are making sense.

• Re: (Score:2)

"That's not math, that's known as attrition."

Um, yeah. Attrition is math. Simple addition and subtraction, but it's still math.

• Navy Fire Control Computers Know Math (Score:5, Interesting)

<<moc.loa> <ta> <hciretg>> on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:04PM (#42762921) Journal

Here's a video:

(seriously, watch the series. It's pretty amazing)

• Re: (Score:3)

Way to kill Friday afternoon productivity. Thank you.
• Exhausting happens at both parties (Score:2)

If party A would send (all - 1) their conventional weapons, imagine what happens if the rocket launch would indeed destroy everything foreign because the foreign missile defense is exhausted. Now think of what happens with the forces that are actually on route, how should the country be defended against them? This is an optimization problem is both cases: taking causalities because of potential worse problems, or exhausting everything and no defense.
• Numerical superiority, not "math"... (Score:2)

And I expect that a highly numerate society would understand the probabilities well enough not to wage open war against a numerically superior adversary.

Hence the "global economy" that we have today.

• Math? (Score:5, Informative)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:06PM (#42762963) Journal
Is this what we have degenerated to? When I read the title, I thought, "wow, someone has done the calculations to find the weak spots in the trajectories of the defense missiles or can calculate live the precise way to avoid them."

No. When they say math, they mean, "a lot." Nothing more mathematical than that. Shoot a lot of projectiles at the target, and one of them will get through. We've degenerated mathematically past the level of a two-year-old and down to that of a rat or something. Chickens can even distinguish between 'a lot' and 'a little.'
• Re: (Score:2)

The point holds, though. Interceptors are highly sophisticated devices - they need to exactly hit a small target in three dimensions, while both interceptor and target are moving at great velocity. Your basic attack missile, on the other hand, can be as simple as a garage-made rocket with a chunk of fertilizer on the end. For every interceptor one side makes, even a comparatively low-tech and poorly-funded attacker could build many missiles.

• Re: (Score:3)

No the point is that attrition works, but the writer stupidly called it "math" when it is no such thing.
The interceptor math is a solved problem, easy enough to do on the back of a napkin.
The only problems have been designing/engineering a system to sufficient tolerance to carry it out, but that isnt math either.
Target ID is already an inherent part of the design.

And if such a tactic were used, it would be readily/quickly seen, and rather than waste anti-missle interceptors, we would just find the enemy "ch

• Re: (Score:3)

addendum: this reminds me of people inherently misunderstanding the system in question. a question i come across commonly of "why doesnt the radar pick up all the birds, and trees, and dust, and ...". the answer is: it does pick all those things up, its just been designed to ignore them.

• Re: (Score:3)

The AEGIS interceptors are not as sophisticated as you'd think. All of the directing comes from the ship's powerful radar. The ship tracks the inbound missile, and when the timing is right launches an interceptor (the Navy calls them "Standard Missiles" or SMs). The missile has no idea where it's going or what it's supposed to hit, in fact it doesn't even know where IT is. It's only real link to the world is it's ability to listen to the ship's powerful radar. The same radar that detected the threat ca
• It's not about the long term survivability. (Score:5, Insightful)

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.

• Not exactly new (Score:3)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:14PM (#42763083)

Aegis was state of the art, the best SAM system yet devised, but it had one major weakness: Tico carried only ninety-six SM-2 surface-to-air missiles; there were one hundred forty incoming Kingfish. The computer had not been programmed to think about that.

• Re: (Score:3)

Possibly the best chapter in that whole damn book.

But lets get realistic here, the intention of the AEGIS ABM system was NOT to counter the Russians or China, who we know full well could overwhelm our ABM systems. It is to counter "rogue" states that will have smaller, less capable ballistic missile programs and might be "unstable" and attack with a few of them. It is to prevent the people/states that might be crazy enough to sacrifice their entire populations just to get in a spiteful blow to the US. If
• It doesn't matter (Score:2)

If you can stop a significant fraction of the missiles, that still gives you a massive reduction in total damage, provided of course your enemy doesn't have so many weapons even a few percentage points can wipe out everything. And besides, it still gives an advantage even in that case: if you need to fire all your missiles, and you need to fire some of them later on, that means the defending country has time to retaliate (so you can't rely on first strike-advantage), plus all their missiles will still hit,

• Um, really? (Score:3, Informative)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:15PM (#42763105)

Ever since the advent of anti-ship missiles, a big part of naval surface warfare tactics has been managing to get enough anti-ship missiles on target at the same time to overwhelm the target ships' defenses, so this is pretty much "Duh!"

Also, AEGIS is a 1970s naval air defense technology for protecting against anti-ship missiles and aircraft. It's only recently had an ABM capability added. It is true, as I understand it from public sources, that the VLS systems most often used with AEGIS are difficult at best to resupply at sea and pretty much is never done.

• Yes Math wins! (Score:2)

After the defense systems of a naval vessel get overwhelmed and it goes down in flames, the country that owns that vessel stomps big-time on the attacker.

War isn't a "No loss evan" scenario .. its a question of balancing resources against potential threats. And given that the military spending of the US is around double that of all its "enemies" combined - who the hell is going to try to pull off a stunt as proposed??!?!?!?!

• can target discrimination win? (Score:2)

imagine Nut Korea shoots off 43 Rong Dong missles, 16 Ding Dong noisemakers, and is fuelling six nukes. the Rong Dongs will get halfway to nowhere and hit the water. the Ding Dongs spark and arc and in the end do nothing. the nukes would be the real threat after the radars clear on the Aegis cruisers.

if you get a look at any weapon, it will have definite characteristics that are generally repeated with every shot. it is moderately well known that repeatable data can be programmed for recall, and since t

• Cold War scenario (Score:2)

'Think about it â" could we someday see a scenario where American forces at sea with a fixed amount of defensive countermeasures facing an enemy with large numbers of cruise and ballistic weapons that have the potential to simply overwhelm them?

This is the Cold War scenario with a couple of string substitutions: s/land/sea/g and s/artillery/missiles/g. The US spent over 40 years developing strategies to counter that scenario. Rest assured, they have a smart answer, or rather several of them. I believe

• The only way to win is not to play (Score:2)

War Games got it right.

• Dumb article name (Score:2)

Enemy isn't math. Its brute force / overwhelming numbers. Dumb article name is dumb.
• Red Storm Rising (Score:2)

This was the premise of the first naval battle in Clancy's Red Storm Rising. TFA is neither original nor insightful. Even armchair strategists understand the concept of attrition.

• Saturation (Score:2)

I've always thought several thousand simple, relatively stupid, cheap "cruise missiles" could pretty easily defeat a carrier battle group. When I say "cruise missiles" I'm talking about pilot-less drones that are really small air craft (could even be built of wood) with a warhead aboard. You wouldn't even need them to be completely autonomous, though a auto-pilot would probably be a good idea. You'd need a satellite up-link to control them (and to diminish the possibility of someone jamming your control

• Really complex problem (Score:2)

In missile defense it is a matter of calculating capability of enemy and acceptable losses.

In the recent example of Israel and it's alleged shield, the success depending on the ability to acquire a threat quickly, access the target, and make a judgement to destroy or ignore. Based on information in the media, a enemy who could launch a hundred missile quickly from diverse location could overwhelm the system, take it out if locations were known, and then be free to attack targets. A country like Iran cou

Given that the US has enough nukes to melt the world twice, any large threat even before arriving will be getting quite the return visit.

I still occasionally wonder if Mecca is on the US doomsday nuke 'em all list...
• Defense Triggers (Score:2)

I am certain that the military on both sides have looked into what triggers the defense system and built several types of decoys. Decoys that fire in parallel and others that fire in sequence. Does anybody know how easy is it to determine if an incoming attack actually has a payload, and how much delay that adds?
• This is why I don't read slashdot (Score:2)

This kind of crap is why I hardly read slashdot anymore, after 15 years of daily reading and tens of thousands of comments...

Could a potential adversary fire off older weapons that are not as accurate, causing a defensive response that exhausts all available missile interceptors so more advanced weapons with better accuracy can deliver the crushing blow?

Sure! That could happen... if our missile defense systems are designed by morons.

Otherwise, no, that wouldn't happen, because a defensive system will be p

• Re: (Score:3)

What are the alternatives? I cannot find any comparable tech blogs that aren't dumbed down. Slashdot was never that great, but the SNR was better than average in the early days.

• Enemy has to do math as well (Score:3)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:31PM (#42763311)

The enemy would need to have a massive ICBM missile force. That is not very feasible. How many of our enemies have a budget for that? I don't think even China has that kind of money .. and if they could allocate such a budget .. corrupt politicians would allow only a small percent of it to go into actual weapon acquisition .. they same way they take money off highway contracts. I don't see how any of our credible adversaries could organize a massive missile force coordination while we remain clueless.

• Always have a shaved knuckle in the hole (Score:2)

And they're called nukes. Everyone has always known that a single carrier group is vulnerable. The question is not if you can, but what happens if you do. In the end nobody wants the gloves to come off.
• Sure, Its happened before (kinda) (Score:2)

During World War 2 the Germans had WAY more superior tanks. They had better armor, better accuracy, better range, delivered a more explosive package, plus the soldiers driving them were very well trained in tactics. They even had better camoflauge.

American tanks sucked by comparison. They were easy to spot, they had very poor armor, their accuracy was crap, range was crap, and the soldiers driving them were dunces by comparrison.

But we still overwhelmed them and won with sheer numbers. Our tanks suck
• Real enemy: It just doesn't work (Score:2, Insightful)

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.

• It's a matter of cost-effectiveness (Score:5, Interesting)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:48PM (#42763579) Homepage
The real problem is that a missile interceptor is more expensive than the missile (or decoy) it is supposed to intercept. Take for instance Israel's Iron Dome vs. Hamas' rockets. A single Iron Dome interceptor costs \$10k+, if not one order of magnitude more, while a single Hamas rocket is less than, say, \$100. The same holds true for strategic defense missile systems: it's always a lot more expensive to intercept a ballistic missile than to send one. That's the real issue here. As long as missile defense technology doesn't become a lot less expensive (think e.g. some kind of futuristic force field shield of some kind that doesn't consume a lot of energy when idle), it will always be overwhelmed.
• Re: (Score:3)

A cost of 100-1 is perfectly acceptable if you just need to win a arms race with the Irans/North Koreas of the world.

• AEGIS was designed to defeat this (Score:3)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @03:38PM (#42764243)

Attacks as described in TFS are called saturation attacks. Since the advent of the guided missile, this has always been a big headache for naval designers. Early missile-equipped ships had 2-4 radar directors, each capable of guiding one missile to its target. Navies wanted more, but there are constraints (financial, weight, systems complexity) to the number of directors you can add.

The US Navy was the first to develop a partial solution in the shape of NTU ('New Threat Upgrade'), a system where one director could guide several missiles. This meant that the weakest link was now the missile launchers: even the biggest ships has only two twin-arm mechanical launchers so they were limited to a couple of missile launches per minute.

The whole point of AEGIS was to provide a ship with enough defensive capability to defeat saturation attacks by the biggest threat on the planet: the Russian naval airforce.

This meant using a phased-array radar that could track hundreds of targets, directors derived from NTU that could guide up to 18 missiles at once, and a vertical launch system that can fire more than 30 missiles/minute.

In the end, it becomes a financial problem. A Ticonderoga-class cruiser has 128 missiles on board, that's easily \$120M in missile inventory. AEGIS isn't cheap either.

As missiles become cheaper, the calculation changes. The recent Israeli successes with missile defence using missiles that cost \$100k instead of \$1M shows that Defence departments are well aware of this.

Still, anyone contemplating an attack on US Navy vessels usually has to contend not with one ship, but with a battle group of several of the best-defended ships on the planet, plus potentially an aircraft carrier that carries more firepower than most of the world's air forces.

• Is this a poorly considered question? (Score:3)

on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:21PM (#42764807)

Yes, of course it is possible. Here is why it is not likely and a poor argument against missile defense.

(1) Witness Iron Dome in Israel. Combining human intervention with advanced software, Iron Dome does not attempt to take every missile. Instead the system is designed to identify and destroy only those that are a threat to people. It was very effective. Older inaccurate missiles that are not on target will be ignored.
(2) Old missiles fielded by poor countries (see NK) are poorly maintained and are more likely then not to simply not fire.
(3) Poor countries with large number of missiles are going to have awful command and control. They aren't going to be able to launch a coordinated attack.
(4) Older missiles have bad range. Who cares if NK fires a bunch of scuds, what will they hit? They can barely build a handful of long ranged stuff, and that doesn't appear to be changing.
(5) Richer countries like China aren't looking for a strategy that wipes the enemy out via surprise. They want a credible deterrent, which is best achieved by a limited number of advanced, hidden, city busters.

• 21st century warfare doesn't rely on missiles (Score:3)

<ajmkenyon2002@NOspam.yahoo.com> on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:39PM (#42765053) Homepage Journal

Plenty of people have already pointed out the idiocy in the details of TFA's argument, so I won't go into that. The core assumption underlying the whole thing is wrong too: wars are not fought with missiles any more. The nations that can afford enough missiles to pose any kind of threat at all to each other are the wealthy, highly populated ones. All the wealthy, populous nations are economically interdependent now, and always will be. Economically interdependent nations don't wage war on each other. All wars for the foreseeable future will be started by second- or third-world rogue states using terrorism and guerrilla tactics, and ended by first-world superpowers using espionage, tactical bombing, and drone strikes.

Nobody capable of launching ICBM's at us could conceivably ever want to. There is nobody we'll ever need to launch ICBM's at ourselves.

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