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Critics Say US Antimissile Defense Flawed, Dangerous

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the bullet-with-a-bullet dept.

The Military 312

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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You know what else is flawed? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263304)

Dese nuts!

Re:You know what else is flawed? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263372)

The Antimissle Defense system prolly runs on Mac, since Jobs has told the US Govt that the Guidance System uses far too many resources and battery usage they opted out of implementing therefore impeding the system's accuracy...

Re:You know what else is flawed? (3, Funny)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263448)

Atari, actually; the targeting system is called "Missile Command" and most of the problems stem from the fact that it can only intercept missiles moving inside a single two-dimensional plane.

Apple's approach was to make the United States so shiny and expensive that nobody in their right mind would fire a missile at them. Also, they would've replaced the American airspace with a robust aluminum shell. This plan was rejected because citizens would have had to go through a boot camp before they could use Windows software. Okay, and some naysayers complained about the unibody shell making air travel impossible and causing massive damage to nature and agriculture by completely shutting out the sun.

Re:You know what else is flawed? (-1, Flamebait)

nitefallz (221624) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263550)

People still use the faux-word "prolly"?

Re:You know what else is flawed? (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263598)

I do, because I usually don't spell "probably" right :-) (and I only did it this time thanks to spell checker!)

Re:You know what else is flawed? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263876)

Whateve? Wats ya prob?

Re:You know what else is flawed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32264000)

u mad?

FP! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263306)

FP FP FP!

Re:FAP! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32264090)

FAP FAP FAP!

Google? Give me a frickin' break !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263310)

When it comes to aggregating important news and information, Google sucks. Unfortunately, Google News is dominating the scene. It's one of the worst news sites you'll ever see. First of all, it tends to group stories by some sort of ranking algorithm that appears to highlight a combination of popularity and growing popularity. Thus any story that involves a celebrity usually hits the front page.

Google robots can indeed organize content into a Webpage that looks credible and interesting, but the site is usually littered with tired stories that have been running for at least a week. That old news is combined with weird stories and celebrity junk news. Google News recently had this story: "Ronnie James Dio Remembered by Metallica's Lars Ulrich." Over 1,000 articles lamented the death of the 67-year-old former Black Sabbath singer. Seems like an excessive amount of redundant coverage, if you ask me. A simple obit would have done the trick. After all, the devil has Dio now.

And it gets worse. There's also the idiotic deluge of stories about Tiger Woods's 'hos. Poor things. Google News couldn't kill the story if it wanted to. Robots have no brains. Then comes this beauty listed as a "spotlight" news item: "She Won't give the $17,500 ring back, and the 'ho tells why." It's an item from an AOL blog. The post admits that the "news" is a week old, and to wit, "last week we told you about the 28-year-old woman who called off her wedding but refused to give back her ring. Soon after your comments were pouring in from all over about whether or not she should give back the bling..." Who the fuck cares?

Google News, that's who.

The best way to compare Google's robot news with human-edited news is to compare the tech news section on Google with the front page of any random human-edited news magazine. So this article doesn't looked rigged for Slashdot, which features reviews and opinions, easily out performing Google, let's take the news-oriented EETimes.

Top Headlines from Google Tech News:
"Today Anchors Share Their Favorite YouTube Clips"
"Facebook Fight Calls for Flight"
"Nintendo Partnering with American Heart Association"
"Palm App Store Suffers Weekend Outage"
"Infineon Isn't in Talks with Intel"

EETimes Headlines:
"Sidense Denies Kilopass Patent Infringement Allegations"
"NOR to Remain Undersupplied Until Q4, says Gartner"
"Europe Set to Fine Memory Chip Makers"
"Taiwan to Install LED Street Lighting, Says Report"
"Chaos Hits NOR Flash Supply Chain"

EETimes offers genuine tech news. With Google, on the other hand, we have the following: A banal who-gives-a-crap story plugging the Today Show, another carping Facebook story, a Nintendo story obviously seeded by a sharp PR agency, a Palm story that affects nobody, and a non-story. This stinks.

Yes, there is nothing immediately compelling about the EETimes stories, but at least they're actual news stories. Many are indeed important. But how does that compare with YouTube clips of a cat playing a piano?

What fascinates me about this exercise is the fact that Google bots reflect the mediocrity of the overall news offering on the Web. Since when did a Today Show anchor have the cred to recommend YouTube clips? This item was at the very top of Google's tech news when I did my last search.

That said, there are editors behind all of these stories. Someone chooses to publish them somewhere. So, does that make the robot the bad guy? The robot is a collective reflection of the crap we are fed from "news" sources everywhere. Live editors are the root of this mess. A robot didn't choose to publish the original story about the girl and the ring.

Okay, I'm wrong. Forget I even wrote this. Leave the robot alone. It's the best we'll ever do anyway. Sigh.

Re:Google? Give me a frickin' break !! (2, Funny)

oztiks (921504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263398)

Thanks for the Offtopic post Rupert.

What does PATRIOT stand for? (5, Funny)

jhylkema (545853) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263344)

Protection Against Threats Real, Imagined or Theoretical.

Re:What does PATRIOT stand for? (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263466)

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:What does PATRIOT stand for? (2, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263644)

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.

Re:What does PATRIOT stand for? (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263656)

Yeah, because virii don't mutate between generations or anything. What could possibly go wrong.....

Re:What does PATRIOT stand for? (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263782)

Yeah, because virii don't mutate between generations or anything. What could possibly go wrong.....

Yeah, because existing bioligical and nuclear weapons are so much safer.

btw, would you mind passing me the source of "non mutating virii are impossible"? I'd feel safer having it.

Although, if virii prove to be too dangerous, I'm sure we'll find an apropiate illness and its cure, only to release the cure on our population and donate the illness to the general public.

Re:What does PATRIOT stand for? (3, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263912)

Nuclear weapons are unquestionably safer and more reliable than biological weapons. They are also an effective deterrent against biological attack, or rather they were until the moron at 1600 Penn Ave announced that we wouldn't use them in response to one.

Re:What does PATRIOT stand for? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263934)

The delivery vehicle of the future is wind.

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

Re:What does PATRIOT stand for? (4, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:What does PATRIOT stand for? (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264068)

In English, the names of days of the week, months and languages are capitalized.

Why does this sound... (3, Interesting)

msauve (701917) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

This sounds awfully familiar (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263566)

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 about how the system designed for international warheads was used for smaller (and faster) ones in the battlefield and was naturally inefficient there...

Re: This sounds awfully familiar (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263904)

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.

Re: This sounds awfully familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32264234)

And where can we learn more about the anti-military/peace-at-any-cost complex?

Because there are two sides to every story.

The U.S. government is extremely corrupt. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263578)

It's not necessary to make new lies when the old ones still work. The lies are just a pretense that the citizens and taxpayers matter.

Quote [nps.gov] from Dwight D. Eisenhower, former U.S. President, former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe:

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." -- Farewell Address, Jan. 17, 1961

Full speech [about.com]

Taxpayers ignored that warning, and now the U.S. government is more corrupt than ever before.

Just as Matter Of Principal (4, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:Just as Matter Of Principal (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264298)

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.

Missing the point (4, Interesting)

quiet_guy (681438) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.)

Re:Missing the point (3, Funny)

kandela (835710) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263420)

Wait, so are you saying they missed the point, or missed the warhead, and isn't the warhead in the pointy bit anyway? I'm confused.

Re:Missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263608)

If they put nukes in the anti nukes they'll be much more effective. Just don't look up during Global Thermonuclear War.

Or is that Thermonuculer now? I'm so confused.

The antimissile defense might be flawed (4, Insightful)

Zouden (232738) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:The antimissile defense might be flawed (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263604)

This is like DejaVu all over again... There is a long history of overselling technology for political gain.
In 1972 the Salt II treaty resulted in the end of the ABM project for which Raytheon was a major contractor. In reality the project was doomed from the start. The incoming nuclear missiles would detonate prematurely. When people realized that the missile batteries near Andover MA, and Washington DC would result in detonations over those cities the goal became protecting the missile silos to allow retaliation. Cities and their residents would not be saved.
Raytheon then focused on Surface to Air Missile Version D (aka SAM-D). When it was completed it was re-named Patriot. It was intended to hit incoming Soviet bombers (think Soviet version of SAC). When bombers were no longer a threat the missiles were re-programmed for ballistic missiles (i.e. obsolete Soviet SCUD missiles). That didn't work so well.

Re:The antimissile defense might be flawed (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263868)

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, the pssibility of maybe stopping the with an antimissile defense system is worth spending mony on (compared to the lost of a major city.

OTOH Reagans "Strategic Defense Initiative would never have worked against a major attack from either Russia or China.
(BTW Star Wars is a trademark of LucasFilms and has nothing to do with Reagans SDI program in spite of media attempts to imply that.

Re:The antimissile defense might be flawed (3, Interesting)

Frequency Domain (601421) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

It's also better than nothing (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:The antimissile defense might be flawed (4, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264328)

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.

Did they remember to set the password? (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263418)

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

The plight of power (2, Insightful)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:The plight of power (4, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:The plight of power (1)

qbast (1265706) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263726)

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.

Re:The plight of power (1)

protodevilin (1304731) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264282)

Hence the stipulation "common materials". I imagine that a wide-dispersion chemical weapon system sophisticated enough to destroy a country (or even a considerable chunk of its populous) is not easy to procure/manufacture.

Re:The plight of power (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263732)

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?

Re:The plight of power (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263548)

Those who beat swords into plowshares will plow for those that don't.

Re:The plight of power (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263720)

Those who beat swords into plowshares will plow for those that don't.

Those who beat swords into plowshares are forced to do so after being beaten by better swords.

Re:The plight of power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32264118)

Those who don't make plowshares STARVE. But they have nice swords, so they have that going for them.

Re:The plight of power (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264154)

Those who don't make plowshares STARVE.

Unless they find those who don't have any swords left, because they beat them into plowshares.

Or you think medieval nobles did much plowing.

Re:The plight of power (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264010)

Ever been clonked on the head by a plowshare?

Re: obligatory Thunderdome quote (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264024)

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.

So instead of funding defence... (1)

inigopete (780297) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263472)

...what we need to fund is BIGGER ATTACK!

all it has to do is damage a warhead (4, Interesting)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#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

Re:all it has to do is damage a warhead (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re: all it has to do is damage a warhead (2, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264240)

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.

Re:all it has to do is damage a warhead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263920)

I think that over the course of 60 years or so they designed warheads to be pretty rugged. You should be able to mistreat it badly and it should work. After all, an ICBM warhead is designed to withstand some very, very serious accelerations.

M.A.D. All Over Again (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263504)

The threat of what would happen in retaliation should anyone actually launch against the US is enough of a drawback that I'm sure we'll never even see it used.

Re:M.A.D. All Over Again (2, Insightful)

BhaKi (1316335) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263562)

What if some guy or some country becomes so insecure or so desperate that they'll stop bothering about retaliation? Emotions are irrational, you know.

Re:M.A.D. All Over Again (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263692)

What if some guy or some country becomes so insecure or so desperate that they'll stop bothering about retaliation? Emotions are irrational, you know.

That's the problem you solve with a secret service and a tactical team.

Re:M.A.D. All Over Again (1)

daid303 (843777) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264018)

What if some guy or some country becomes so insecure or so desperate that they'll stop bothering about retaliation? Emotions are irrational, you know.

That's the problem you solve with a secret service and a tactical team.

I'm not sure how those could intercept a missile? Maybe if you load up the team in some kind of man-cannon and then shoot them at the missile? Hoping to hit them in a shutgun fasion. Not sure if human rights groups would approve.

Re:M.A.D. All Over Again (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264128)

What if some guy or some country becomes so insecure or so desperate that they'll stop bothering about retaliation? Emotions are irrational, you know.

That's the problem you solve with a secret service and a tactical team.

I'm not sure how those could intercept a missile?

Imagine you've got $2M and want to buy a missile.

How far do you think it would fly.

Re:M.A.D. All Over Again (0)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263572)

Only if they believe we have the stones to retaliate. Our current President recently came out and said "It's ok if you gas us or hit us with biological weapons, we won't nuke you.", thus reversing 50 years of US policy. I'm honestly not sure that he would have the stones to nuke someone. And if I don't believe he would, then why should Beijing or Tehran?

Re:M.A.D. All Over Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32264108)

"It's ok if you gas us or hit us with biological weapons, we won't nuke you."

Just by phrasing it that way, you've shown your are not serious and just want to criticise somebody for the sake of it. Beijing and Tehran may be evil, but I doubt they are petty.

Re: M.A.D. All Over Again (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263842)

The threat of what would happen in retaliation should anyone actually launch against the US is enough of a drawback that I'm sure we'll never even see it used.

Do you think Hitler would have hesitated to launch a nuclear exchange in the last days of WWII, if everyone had had the missiles? He ordered his own army to destroy their own national infrastructure and send the country back to the Stone Age, because he felt like they had Failed their Destiny.

MAD only works if both sides are sane. Also, it requires that neither side thinks it's so clever it can get away with a surprise attack.

(FWIW, I'm a missile-defense skeptic. IMO it's just a scam for throwing big wads of money at the defense industry. In addition to not working, and probably never working in the face of vastly cheaper countermeasures, we're more likely to get nuked or gassed from a suitcase than from a missile. As Tom Clancy said about 30 years ago, if you want to nuke the USA you just disguise the bomb as drugs and bring it in through the Miami airport.)

Re:M.A.D. All Over Again (1)

oztiks (921504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263928)

Dr Claw: GADGET!!!!!!!!!

It's a whole lot more basic than that (5, Informative)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:It's a whole lot more basic than that (0)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263740)

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.

Two comments here. First, the spacing is not that narrow for ICBMs since they'll be coming from half a planet away. Second, just because the current systems (and most current US military systems in general) are expensive doesn't mean one couldn't come up with an economic system.

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.

So what are the "cheap and easy" countermeasures? Build a sub? Not cheap nor easy. Build a cruise missile? Not cheap nor easy. Low trajectory ICBMs? Not cheap nor easy. The only cheap (though not easy) option is to smuggle the nuke in. There you have to worry about getting caught. Then the enemy gets a free retaliation strike without you having hit him in the first place.

Re:It's a whole lot more basic than that (3, Interesting)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263890)

I think that that's all quite correct; however, the real issue is that no government is at all likely to attempt an attack on the U.S.. Deterrents don't work because there is nobody to retaliate against if you're not attacked by a country but by a group operating out of different countries. The safety of the U.S. doesn't lie in protecting against missiles because the group that would try to attack don't have the resources to launch them. The real strategy for safety is to reduce the arsenals of former Soviet nations that have a habit of misplacing warheads and to keep a close eye on container ships. The trouble with anti-missile systems is that the only threats that they protect against are the former Soviet Union and perhaps China; which simply aren't going to go to war with the U.S..

Re:It's a whole lot more basic than that (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264012)

While nukes have been lost and misplaced, the worst cases (eg, the ,a href="http://www.rense.com/general16/suitcasenikethreat.htm">almost hundred missing "suitcase" nukes) may be fantasy. There were a lot of games and espionage trickery during the Cold War. Some of this stuff may simply be bluffs and counterespionage trolls that didn't get cleaned up after the end of the USSR.

Cheap IN COMPARISON (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264110)

I do believe that Ancient_Hacker (751168) was referring to all those "countermeasures" that you and he have mentioned, in comparison to a missile defense shield all around the border.
Now that would cost a pretty penny.

Re:It's a whole lot more basic than that (2, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263766)

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.

Re:It's a whole lot more basic than that (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263774)

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:It's a whole lot more basic than that (2, Informative)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264318)

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 need a truckload of TNT for the same effect) and it irradiates the area.

And you can get the same effect with some fertilizer and a much smaller quantity of literally ANY radioactive material by making a "dirty bomb".

Re:It's a whole lot more basic than that (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263924)

Don't forget the already existing and most effective countermeasure of all - Multiple Independent Delivery Vehicle (aka MIRV). Pretty much all modern ballistic missiles have a MIRV warhead as multiple smaller charges are far more effective then one big charge. This means that warhead will essentially break up on re-entry into smaller warheads and outer carrier warhead components. Now, the major issue that Patriot hit with SCUDs in desert storm was that missiles used by Iraqi tended to elongate and twist upon entry of the atmosphere due to changes Iraqi made to the missile to make it go faster, confusing patriot's targeting system, causing it to lose lock on the missile for a fraction of a second and reacquire tail section of the missile rather then a warhead.

And that was for a slow medium range missile with a single warhead. Now consider the scenario of ballistic intercept where missile moves at far greater speeds and amount of large debris as well as warheads is greater then that of a SCUD by a very large number. Not to even mention the ease of inserting one warhead that would carry radar jamming hardware instead of a warhead if interceptors ever reached a meaningful accuracy.

Countermeasures for current intercept missile are already built into the ballistic missiles. That's the worst part of the misinformation being spread about the interceptor system, as well as testing - they are shooting interceptors at solid targets that consist of one large metallic piece, rather then what a real warhead would be. And even then, success rate is abysmal.

Re:It's a whole lot more basic than that (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264026)

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:It's a whole lot more basic than that (2, Funny)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264094)

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.

It doesn't *have* to be perfect (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263546)

All it has to do is make an attack more difficult.

That makes a missile attack less likely.

Re: It doesn't *have* to be perfect (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263938)

All it has to do is make an attack more difficult. That makes a missile attack less likely.

Not if every million dollar means of making it more difficult is subject to a ten dollar countermeasure. That puts you in an arms race you can't win.

Though you can very well bankrupt yourself trying...

Where's the i? (1)

kiwieater (1799016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263586)

Anitmissle? Damnit, it'll be useless until missles are commonplace. Maybe if Apple started chasing missile producers for using the "i"...

no need to perfect any defense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32263594)

so long as the 'enemy' resides within US. no matter, after the creators' big flash kode is executed, weapons will become unneeded. it's all part of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's happening now. you can feel it? see you there?

The alternative is MAD (1)

s122604 (1018036) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263642)

Considering the alternative, I say we keep working on this

That or bring back to 10+ megaton class warheads so that everyone knows we can and will incinerate the fuck out of anyone who attacks us, spreading enough fallout that even nearby countries would be inclined to rat out their neighbors should they find out they are planning something.

It is the same difference (1)

axl917 (1542205) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263788)

We build a missile shield.
They build better missiles.
We improve the shield.
They improve the missiles.
...

It's the Reagan-Fucking-80's all over again; deficit spending to bloat up the military-industrial complex and slash social programs.

Joy.

Ironic Typo (1)

smileyphase (1665505) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263682)

Amusingly enough the "Antimissle" typo in the title is also flawed.
Although technically, an anti missile system which can't hit targets is probably pro-miss(le).

The problem with MAD (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263698)

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 ownership of WMDs is increasingly democratic.

If we can work toward eliminating a means for WMDs to be delivered to US soil, then the cost is worth it. Period. Even if it takes 20 more years to make ICBMs and cruise missiles obsolete.

Doing it wrong (0)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263724)

Obama continues on the path of Bush and his other predecessors, pandering to the big military complex and spending huge amounts of money on products which may or may not work. The military industry wins either way - they get to sell anti-missile products, whether they work or not, OR technology for nukes, whether they are dismantled or not.

China also eventually wins as all the R&D money we spent on this stuff ends up in their hands.

Those who did believe Obama is "different" should watch Ron Paul's What If speech [youtube.com] and wake up.

Re:Doing it wrong (1)

axl917 (1542205) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263818)

Those who did believe Obama is "different" should watch Ron Paul's What If speech [youtube.com] and wake up.

Obama may be quite in the wrong here, but listening to the caterwauling of Paulistas is not the answer.

Re:Doing it wrong (0)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263952)

Obama has to work with the people that were appointed by the Bush administration. Obama may be the president, but he cannot replace every general, bureaucrat and lobbyist because he doesn't agree with his predecessor.

Re:Doing it wrong (0, Troll)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263988)

It's Bush's fault that Obama is reducing the nuke arsenal? That's a new one!

Re:Doing it wrong (1, Interesting)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264116)

Just curious - for how long are you people going to blame Bush for everything? I ask this in seriousness. When Obama is no longer President, will you blame him for everything that happens with the new President, or will you continue to blame Bush until another Republican gets into office?

I ask this in seriousness, I really want to know.

Re:Doing it wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32264064)

You seriously expect to make a point with that drivel? Like how he ignores that a lot of people have very ideological reasons to hate liberty and the US in particular? Like how he ignores that historically, war has helped economies as often as it dragged them down? How Christianity has never been much of a force for peace, but rather one for overreaching government, institutional abuse, social division, and educational retardation? And how he's saying "What if what if what if" without providing a speck of rationale, argument or alternatives? Maybe it's because I don't know who Ron Paul is (I'm European) but it sounds like someone who has a vested interest in letting existing problems persist and who wants to keep his audience's eyes and ears as far away as possible from the hard decisions we have to face one way or another.

Re: Doing it wrong (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264324)

Maybe it's because I don't know who Ron Paul is

He's a nutbag who has run for office under three different party affiliations, whose latest efforts have been to appeal to the "don't tax me" crowd.

A sort of Republican-for-the-middle-class, without the obsession with sex.

I shouldn't call him a nutbag; he actually mixes one or two sensible ideas in with all the nonsense.

It's interesting to see your not-previously-exposed European's take on his position.

I for one.. (3, Insightful)

White Shade (57215) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:I for one.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32264290)

Yea, I doubt the bad guys du jour would mount large scale ICBM attacks. They'd sneak maybe 1 or 2 nukes somewhere along the ground because it's so much cheaper. Developing high tech ICBMs for 1 or 2 nukes most likely isn't viable.

Then again, the world will change and China might become a global threat. Nobody knows if they won't just one day say "fuck you, we're taking it all". That's something you might want to be prepared for. Spending a lot on missiles that don't work - because you got fooled by bad test data - probably isn't the way though ;)

I work on SM3... (5, Interesting)

mathimus1863 (1120437) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:I work on SM3... (2, Insightful)

Compholio (770966) | more than 4 years ago | (#32263966)

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.

Re:I work on SM3... (1)

kaiser423 (828989) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264300)

Yes. Can't this professor just go to mda.mil and view the videos? I see no real difference between the post-impact scenes for ones that he determined were successful and the ones that he determined were not. Both seemed to totally obliterate the target object.

Waste off mony (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32264098)

Surely the best solution here would be not to get into a war with somebody who actually has missiles to fire at you?

If Obama/Bush/every president since the 1930s put us much effort in to preventing wars as they did preparing for wars then WWII would have been America's last war. Forget building a missile defense system. Use the money to pay diplomats and to mend fence. Nobody actual "wants" to fire missiles at America. Even Iran and North Korea don't really want to do it. It's their absolute last resort when all else fails. They wouldn't actually attack unless the MC was literally storming the beeches of their countries.

And you can forget about terrorists with missiles. If they had a nuke it would be much easier for them to put it in a shipping container and have it sent to the US by sea.

No, I take that back, they'd use it against Israel. Israel's so small that you could kill 20,000 Israeli just by setting a nuke off on the border and letting the fallout drift over a big city.

Missile defenses are a waste of money. Peace is the way forward.

Wait a minute... (1)

RJHelms (1554807) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264100)

Iran's firing missiles at the US now?

Somehow I missed that... or could it be, this talk of a defense against Iranian missiles, effective or not, is simply fear-mongering?

Naaaawwww, Obama wouldn't do that. Neither would the New York Times.

Re: Wait a minute... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264200)

Iran's firing missiles at the US now? Somehow I missed that... or could it be, this talk of a defense against Iranian missiles, effective or not, is simply fear-mongering?

A large fraction of the US electorate thinks God created the USA to protect Israel from Iran.

Postel's Law (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264144)

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.

You think they accepted those results because (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264172)

They thought Dr Postol might get mad and go postal?

Missiles are the least of your worries (3, Interesting)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264174)

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.

Antimissle ? (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32264276)

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

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