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The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the star-wars-reux-deux dept.

Technology 289

Hapster writes " Raytheon has developed the most expensive weapon ever. This ICBM killer hones in on an oncoming missile and, like a bullet hitting another bullet, hopes to smash into it before it smashes into us. " On a sheer technology level, devices like this are some of the most intrinsicly interesting around, although I'm still not quite sure who's the enemy.

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Mmmmmm Hmmmm (3)

David Ham (88421) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658864)

Know what they're really using this for?

"His location is 55 degrees 10 minutes 3 seconds lat, 75 degrees 21 minutes 9 seconds long"


"Where'd Saddam go?"

Yet another waste of our tax money (1)

jij (94680) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658867)

Sigh. Perhaps it will be useful for deflecting those pesky Earth orbit-crossing comets :)

Looks small enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1658870)

Looks small enough to mount on the roof of my car and blast a few shots up the tail pipe of those idiots who drive half the speed limit in the passing lane.

nice if it works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1658873)

Wow, how nifty and sci-fiish, but I bet it has a huge failure rate. ICBM killers have a long history of being developed then being droped 'cause they aren't reliable and it'd be WAY too expensive to make them reliable with backup systems etc...

fate of the world! (1)

discore (80674) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658876)

well its a interesting article.
great technological advance, i suppose.
one thing i dont like about the article is how the writer makes it sound like the fate of the world is in that thing that smashes into things. i mean seriously whos gonna launch a bomb containing the smallpox virus to anyone? thats just insane.
maybe i dont think like that government does.

eventually there will probably be advances where it is possible to lauch a big missle and we won't even know its there until lets say... all of new jersey pings out.

one thing i wonder is the consequences of using this thing, in a real situation.
flying missle derbis? anthrax spores floating from the sky? we will just have to wait and see

under the bomb drops,

Not sure why we need this new missle? (5)

shambler snack (17630) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658879)

You mad a comment that you're not sure who the enemy is. Let me come up with a short list for you:

Mainland China, which fields one of the largest, if not the largest, standing armies in the world. They may not be the best, but their sheer numbers will make you stop and pause. They're still a threat to their own people, imprisoning desenters, and they have stated they will use force against Taiwan (and think how expensive your cheap computers would get, and how less successful the Internet revolution they drive would become).

North Korea, which despite being closed and near total starvation, has managed to launch two new ICBM missles, the second of which has the range to reach the West Coast. Everyone seems to think that Cuba is the only Stalinist regime left, but Korea makes Cuba look like a workers paradise.

Pakistan and India have been at it for a long time. Both have tested regional ICBMs capable of carrying nukes. They may not be a direct threat to us, but they can upset their region, which is bad enough.

Iraq still ain't our buds. And with holes in the embargo and no UN inspectors, it won't be long before we get a rude awakening from that part of the world.

What's left of the USSR is very unhealthy right now. A war with southern Muslums in Chechnia has heated up, with Muslums blowing up Russian apartment buildings full of people. We went through hell when we lost the Edward R. Murrow building in Kansas City, but they've lost the equivalent of four over the past few months. This type of terror and the economic and political instability are just the ingrediants needed for demagogues and dictators. Think of Berlin and Gernany before the Nazis and WWII.

We've had the Bomb since 1945, and ICBMS with Russia since the '50s. That technology has had a half century to percolate around the world, both as hardware and knowhow. Internationally, the world is as politically dangerous now as it ever was. And we need whatever it takes to protect our borders, and our way or life, including slashdot.

Re:Yet another waste of our tax money (1)

VaporLock (85130) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658881)

One of the few constants in the human experience is war. We're reminded constantly that huge groups and even governments believe human life is cheap. I'd rather the Anti-ICBM be designed, prototyped, and brought on line before we need it, instead of not having one during crunch time. No, it won't be 100% effective, but it would give a few million people a chance, if ever it had to be used.

This country already cowers in fear and pays off North Korea whenever NK threatens to (name whatever they threatened last). A good defense isn't a replacement for a foreign policy, but under current management, it is just going to have to do.

Finally an alternative to DB (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658883)

Well now instead of coding DB clients at least some people can build something exciting. We're probably in a lot more danger of nuclear attack than the TV says. If a top secret spy satellite shows nuclear missiles in India they're not going to broadcast it but they will spend a lot of money on defense. There's a big difference between military intelligence and microbiology.

perhaps i'm wrong here, but... (1)

swonkdog (70409) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658946)

isn't this what the patriot missle is supposed (albiet not very well) to do? i understand that they were not perfectly suited for missle to missle combat when they first rolled off the assembly line but that was (mostly unsuccessfully) remedied in the next few revisions of the weapon. why do we need these new missles? the patriot system just needs a more accurate tracking system. that is a whole lot less expensive than developing an entire new missle system that will do the same thing (and probably just as well as) the old system that works reasonably well anyway.

not that this little bit of ranting will change anything, but i just had to say it.

Just wait until the missles have anti-anti-missles (2)

TrevorB (57780) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658948)

I can see it now, the next US weapons project will be arming existing missles with anti-anti-missle missles, so that the missles can shoot down the anti-missles with their anti-anti-missle missles and arrive at their target, causing as much confusion as tactical damage.

For sake of scalability, the anti-anti-missle missles will have to be the size of a common pencil. They'll then be picked up by the NRA as the next great super-weapon for hunting deer.

-- TrevorB, who thinks there should be a "Silly" moderation attribute.

Strategic irrelevance? (3)

LL (20038) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658950)

I'd hate to rain on anyone's parade but wouldn't this military wet dream be superfluous? Let's suppose I'm one of these countries with tac-nukes. Why would I bother announcing the launch site and invite retaliation by using balistic missiles? Better still, just to ship it into a anonymous cargo hauler and detonate it within some strategic harbor or even Panama canal. That way the source (assuming you can disguise the origin of the manufactured weapon) can be anonymous. Given the gung-ho way the US been acting around the world in the last few decades, I'm sure there's no shortage of splinter or fanatic groups to spread the net of suspicion. If people are interested in the military mindset, take a look at their parameters magazine [army.mil] , in particular the article by Peters [army.mil] on "Our New Old Enemies". Very interesting.

People don't go to war for no good reason. If you create a threat, then people will respond in kind. Defining enemies through an arms race might be good for the military-industrial complex (correct me if I'm wrong ... I believe US and Britain are still the largest exporters of arms) but does little to create long-term goodwill. Exporting organised violence seems to be a self-fufilling prophency as it propagates a climate of fear. Afterall, if you think someone is an enemy. then what are the chances that every action you perceive is hostile? Psychopaths are not the only people with a warped mind-view [salon.com] , a entire culture can be infected in rather subtle but destructive ways (Andy Grove "Only the Paranoid Surive", Bill Gates "Technogy is great, but 90% market share is better"). Very successful but at what cost?

This century has seen 2 world wars, numerous regional conflicts and ongoing bushfires. I would hope the next century has a better record.


Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1658954)

Okay I agree with the list of nations for the most part, but some corrections are needed. Pakistan and India are not currently a threat outside of regional stability. They do not have "regional ICBMs". An ICBM is an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missle. Shoot a short-range missle from India to Pakistan is in no way Inter-Continental. The missles involved would not fly anywhere near high enough to be shot by the EKV. As for the building in Kansas City.. Umm.. that was in Oklahoma City.

Welcome to Cold War II (2)

substrate (2628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658956)

Almost as soon as they cry "The Russian menace is dead, the cold war is over!" the government and military find a new threat in small countries that they couldn't bother worrying about before. Some of it might be real and I for one wouldn't argue that the defense budget should be cut to zero (or even to the level of NASA's budget) but I can't help think that much of the indicated threat is made up. I expected to see much of the piece wrapped in subliminal fnords to help generate a low grade panic in the populace.

India has the bomb, their most likely target would be Pakistan. The same goes for most of the other countries they listed. When you're at war with near neighbours other potential conflicts take the back seat. Well, except that we're pointing things at them and saying "they're benign if you don't bother us", which ensures that they're going to point something at us.

The biggest threat is probably terrorist attack. Why bother with biological tipped warheads when you can deploy the biological agents on US soil? That would strike much more fear and paranoia into the general public than a missile attack. Missiles are tangible. Warnings about seeing 'suspicious persons' at public events isn't. You could generate a lot of terror among certain segments of the population just by waiting for the next especially dangerous flu and claiming responsibility for it.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1658959)

It really saddens me to find talk of nuclear war and "Stalinism" on /. .

"we need whatever it takes to protect our borders, and our way or life, including slashdot."

I agree with your sentiments, and I'm not criticizing you but I wish we could just protect humanity in general.

If only the US can afford these things it will be unjust that others should die.

I imagine the Indians and Pakistanis will be the ones most in need of these kind of defense systems, but somehow I doubt they'll be able to afford them, even if their government's were willing to buy them.

It's all rather sick.

Boeing already has this. (1)

generic-man (33649) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658962)

I bought stock in Boeing a couple of weeks ago, and on a lark decided to visit their web site to see what, besides passenger aircraft, they made. You'll find an Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle on their site as well -- unfortunately, they haven't set up an e-commerce server yet, so you can't buy one on-line. :(

Re:perhaps i'm wrong here, but... (2)

Python (1141) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658964)

Two major problems with using the Patriot for stopping long range strategic nuclear weapons:

1) Contrary to popular belief, The Patriot is a Theater Based Anti-Aircraft missle defense system and not an Anti-Missle Defense System (it was designed to shoot down planes, not missles). It was retrofitted to engage missles in the gulf war - which explains its interesting performance in the gulf war. It was not designed, or originally intented as a anti-missle defense system. The retrofitting of the Patriot was a lucky break, given that military planners had totally missed the boat on that type of expected threat. Although, in fairness, the SCUD missle was never a tactical threat at any point during the war, and never posed any military threat of any significance to forces in theater. It was a political tool used by Iraq to scare the world, and little more. So it's understandable that the original military response to the SCUD attacks was "So what?" Nevertheless, we had no real anti-missle defense system to speak of at the time. (And we still don't.)

2) The Patriot is a Theater defense system (effective only within a single geographic region). ICBMs are strategic weapons systems (effective globally). What this means, in a few words or less, is that in the best case: You have patriots installed in every single theather of operation you expect a nuclear attack to come from, the Patriot will not engage the ICBM (shoot it down) until its too late. The Patriots maximum effective range makes it only useful for engaging targets within a single theater of operation, or basically only as high as you would expect a typical military aircraft to fly and only as far away as the planners expected an inbound to pose a threat (say a hundred miles or so). In short, the patriots range is too short to be effective against weapons that, when detonated, would encompass the Patriots entire range. So you have the problem of needing thousands of patriot batteries to cover a country like the US, and even then it would be too late for them to be of any use in most cases.

What does this all mean? We do not possess a real ballastic missle defense system. We can not, today, stop any inbound ICBM from reaching any target, unless we destroy it on the ground.

Re:Just wait until the missles have anti-anti-miss (1)

Python (1141) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658975)

Actually, what you refer to already exists. They are called decoy missles.

Re:Yet another waste of our tax money (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1658977)

Well, I happen to work for Raytheon (not Defense Systems, though), so maybe I'm biased... but...

There are a lot of things that we have done in the past that you could've said were "a waste of our tax money"... hey, why explore space and send probes to get land/survey (or get lost) on mars? Boy, what a waste of money, right?

Why did we bother to send a man to the moon, or even enter the space race... just a big waste of money right?

Why does the government provide "IR&D" funding through agencies such as DARPA? Research??? Just a waste of money right? I mean, you've got your Car, TV, Microwave, Stereo... who needs research?

Oh... except that your microwave oven and CD player probably are by-products of DARPA research and a lot of technology used by NASA has since tumbled back into commercial/personal use.

The technology we develop today will seem to be childsplay 50 years from now. Perhaps the guidance software algorithms used by the anti-missles will wind up in your car... as your car drives itself to Boston with you as a passenger. Perhaps it *will* at some point be used to deflect/destroy one of those "pesky Earth orbit-crossing comets".

At any rate, it keeps a lot of people employed, from the engineering people to a lot of small job-shops that stuff gets parted out to... And it develops a technology that we *should* have in this day and age, with nuclear weapons getting to more and more countries hands every year.

Trust me, if a nuclear missle was headed toward me and you had a defense that was 25% effective, I'd feel a lot better about my chances than I would with *no* possible defense.

Oh, and if you see it in the paper... its certainly *not* anything really secret/sensitive, or you'd never even see it. There's a lot of "black" jobs out there that ended 20 years ago and *still* have not appeared in the news because of the sensitivity of the technology. Imagine what you don't know about today...

Re:perhaps i'm wrong here, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1658980)

I'm not sure the Patriot was geared towards anything approaching ICBM's... it had a hard enough time with Saddam's short range missiles.

As to the "old system works reasonably well anyway"... well, you know, the model-T worked reasonably well... what do we need camaro's and T-birds and crown-vic's for?? Lets just all go back to model-T's. Ahh... so they pollute a lot, and theres that Global Warming thing... who cares, it works "reasonably well"...

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (1)

blue (2742) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658983)

... and, it was the Alfred P. Murrah building. :-)

Boeing does not already have this. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1658984)

Boeing is developing a similar device in case the system Raytheon puts together does not work as planned.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (2)

shambler snack (17630) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658986)

I won't argue with you that the whole thing is sick. None of the nations in my list can afford them, but they will anyway because that's the attitude of those in charge. We really can't afford them either because the money would be better spent on healthcare and education. One of the requirements of a successful democracy is a well-educated people, and strong minds need strong bodies.

As for Stalinism, keep in mind that the world's most successful Stalinist-like coporate entity resides in Redmond, Washington.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (2)

shambler snack (17630) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658989)

You know, I'm beginning to think that the web-based Dan Quale Political Writing Course I took isn't turning out too well...

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (2)

shambler snack (17630) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658990)

This is just me replying to me, but I find it interesting that all replies to this thread (at least by me to others replying) is starting out with a score of 2. Is this a Bug or a Feature?

Re:Strategic irrelevance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1658992)

Just wanted to note that the Peters article [army.mil] is excellent- well worth the time to read it.

Re:Boeing already has this. (2)

toolie (22684) | more than 14 years ago | (#1658995)

Boeing's is called the Airborne Laser. They won the contract a few months ago, and already progress looks amazing.

Now if only you could get one hooked up to your 737 business jet...

Anti Anti Missles? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1658998)

Sounds like M2 to me. Rob == NSA mole?

Does any other country have cruise missiles? (1)

RickyRay (73033) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659000)

If any other country has anything similar to a long-range cruise missile (very possible; our university science departments are packed with people from the "enemy", learning directly from us how to blow us up, often on American scholarships), then any kind of defense system is rendered completely ineffective. It would only take one reaching DC, one for LA, one for NY, one for Dallas, and one for maybe Chicago to effectively wipe us out. And there would be nothing we could do about it. A fairly low-budget Armaggeddon. Kinda' scary, when you think about it. Makes me glad I don't live in a really big city, since I would only get nuked on accident ;-)

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (1)

toolie (22684) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659002)

One of the biggest thing the DoD is coping with now is not knowing exactly who the enemy is. The Army is currently undergoing a shift in doctrine that is moving away from the Cold War Fulda Gap heavy armor scenarios. They are focusing on urban warfare and counter-terrorism. Another thing they are looking at is peace keeping missions such as Kosovo and Bosnia.

The threat is no longer defined. They are struggling with that, but even if you don't know who is your friend (Australia has been denied a lot of technology that we would've shared instantly in the Cold War days), the fact is that every country now has the means to produce WMD (weapons of mass destruction), be that Biological, Nuclear, Chemical (BNC). Its not a friendly world out there, I'm glad that we have the Airborne Laser, Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, and the Harp project.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (2)

loik (95237) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659004)

Arms like these are not designed to kill people. Nevertheless, they kill every day - indirectly. The vast amount of resources put into destructive technology can't be used for technology that could help reducing the output of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, that could provide drinking water for everyone, or help the desertification of cultivated land, problems which hurt everyone on the planet and lead today - or will lead - to the death of millions of people. How can there ever be peace as long as there are so many people working on destruction? Another point: Countries like India would sign the non-proliferation treaty and stop their nuclear programs if the big nuclear powers would commit themselves to disarmament. Indeed, this would be a good plan. Not everyone in the world thinks that nuclear weapons are good if the NATO countries have them but bad if in the possession of other countries.

Re:Does any other country have cruise missiles? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659006)

The Soviet Union did. They had some in the same class as our ALCM and SLCMs. And they were working on some 3000km ranged ALCMs.

Not sure if China is working on any cruise missiles. Check out the Federation of American Scientists (www.fas.org). They have a newly revised China section.

Really Off-Topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659007)

Uh, I don't think Stalin would approve of any corporate entity. This especially includes the most successful one from Redmond, WA. Perhaps the comparison with Stalin would be appropriate if people were forced to install their software under threat of death, but the fact is people choose to use this company's software - however misguided that choice may be.

Re:fate of the world! (1)

Hobbex (41473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659008)

i mean seriously whos gonna launch a bomb containing the smallpox virus to anyone? thats just insane.

Since when has that stopped humans from doing anything?

/. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.

Re:Welcome to Cold War II (1)

Darshu (87549) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659011)

The only thing you neglect to mention is that wars with neighbours seldom remain just wars with neighbours. Without a doubt the friends of those two warring countries will get annoyed that their ally is being butchered and will begin to offer aid. This is after all how World War I started, some Austrian duke being shot by a Yugoslavian eventually pulling the whole world into war. You can't just let someone have a fight beside you without intervening because all you'll end up with is a stronger more powerhungry enemy to contend with in the future.

Re:fate of the world! (2)

Delicon (27228) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659014)

At an impact speed of 10+ km/sec. Vaporization is the usual result. Should kill biologicals. Flying missile debris or flying missile... difficult choice..

Robert Wright

Re:Welcome to Cold War II (1)

Delicon (27228) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659016)

You actually answered you own question. Missiles are tangible. The ability to threaten and oppose the US needs tangible threats.

Which can cause the US to change foriegn policy, Missiles or Terrorists?

Who do we bargain with every day, missile armed states or state backing terrorists?

Who do we have defenses against right now, terrorists or missiles?

Robert Wright

Oh yeah? (1)

The Hooloovoo (78790) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659017)

I'd like to see you say that when you've got a MIRV up your arse.

With the Cold War over and Russia in economic turmoil, there is a lot of Russian (and to a lesser extent, American) military surplus. Quite a bit of it is percolating down to pissy third-world countries with a two-bit despot just looking for trouble (i.e. North Korea, Iraq). Better safe than sorry, I say.

Although this may be a bit naive and idealist: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659020)

Another trinket that we pay for .... I really wish the government would spend money on something that would clean up the plutonium that would be released when this weapon does succeed. With regard to the whole issue of Nuclear weapons I get the mental picture of a 3 year old with a shotgun when I think of how this govermnent or any for that matter has handled them. Plutonium has a halflife of 30,000 years and is causes cancer in doses as small as a speck of dust. We have yet to see the consequences of all the 'goodies' the arms race has brought us. The thinking behind this weapon and those related to it is as brief as the attention span of a child with ADHD. The though is to the immedeate threat (although now I see none in comperison to the last 50 years.) and the money to be made, not to our children, land or our genetic well being.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (2)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659021)

And you think those things are what the govt. would spend their money on if they didn't spend it on "national defense". That's quite humorous, as there's no chance of it.

If it isn't spent on missle defense or NASA (The only two govt programs I believe are worth keeping), it'll be spent on subsidizing the "Gay Rights Activists Federation of Lower South North Park" or something.

Spending money on developing weapons helps everyone. The tech that they develop to boost these anti-missle thingies into space could be used for any number of other purpoises, many of them non-military.

It'd be better if the govt just didn't spend any money at all, but if they've got to spend money National Defense is a good one to spend it on. Do you want *your* city to be hit with an Anthrax bomb?

What Happened to that Peace Dividend? (4)

GOD_ALMIGHTY (17678) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659022)

You remember that peace dividend we were supposed to get after the cold war? Remember when Reagan was pumping most of our annual budget into the military to outspend the Commies? We were supposed to be able to cut back that spending dramaticly after the Cold War was over. After WWII the US military budget dropped by 90%. Most of that $ went to the Marshall plan to rebuild Japan and Western Europe. It also went to the GI Bill which produced the most romanticized and idyllic time in most American's memories.

But didn't we cut back on military spending after the Cold War and close all those bases? Yeah, about 15% of our top Cold War spending levels. During 1998 we spent over $321 Billion on National Defense. We currently have over 8,600 combat aricraft, 10,000 tanks, 18 aircraft carriers, 120+ subs, 3600+ Ballistic Missiles and over 725000 other missiles. Source [gao.gov]

Now compare that to the 50 Billion we spent on education and training, the 23 Billion NASA got and the fact that China, only spent 40-60 Billion on their National Defense. As a percentage of our GDP we spend 6 times what countries in Western Europe (England, France) who have also been participating in our policing operations around the world.

We need to take a chunk of that money and invest in the public infrastructure (education, health care, public utilities, small business resources) in our country and many 'pontential rogue nations' in the former Soviet Union, Africa, Asia and South America. Once our people and other people are able to trade with one another, make a living for their families and provide a future for their children, I garuntee that the liklihood of war is 0.000000000000000000001.

History has shown that we have created many of the dictators we have had to overthow (Noriega, Suharto, Sadam) and we have managed to help countries get on their feet (W. Europe, Japan). We are at that crossroads again and must decide how to spend our money. Investing in Peace is always a better idea than investing in War.

Countermeasures - defense against ABM systems (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659023)

The following is from the web page of the Union of Concerned Scientists regarding anti-ballistic missile defenses and why they are a waste of money. (www.ucsusa.org [ucsusa.org] )

The only true security from nuclear weapons is their absence from the world.

Countermeasures: The Achilles Heel of Missile Defenses

All ballistic missile defenses are vulnerable to countermeasures. Despite decades of research, dealing with countermeasures remains the key unsolved--and likely unsolvable--problem facing missile defenses. It is far easier for the attacker to deploy effective countermeasures against defenses than it is for the defense to respond to such countermeasures.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to build countermeasures. Effective countermeasures can be cheap and use simple technology--much simpler than the technology required to build long-range missiles. Among other possibilities, the attacker can overwhelm the defense; make the warhead hard to detect, leaving the defense without enough time to intercept it; or prevent the defense from identifying the true warhead. If the United States deploys a national missile defense, it must expect that any developing country that would build or buy long-range missiles to deliver an attack would also make sure these missiles had countermeasures to penetrate the defense.

Accidental or unauthorized attacks from Russia or China would include countermeasures. Russia and China almost certainly have already deployed countermeasures or could readily deploy them if the United States builds a national missile defense. These countermeasures would be equally as effective for an accidental or unauthorized launch as for an intentional attack.

The job of the defense is inherently difficult even without countermeasures. Building an effective defense against long-range missiles is intrinsically difficult even in the absence of countermeasures. First, the ground-based radar or satellite-based sensor must detect and track the attacking warhead early enough for the interceptor to reach the warhead. Second, the defense must accurately calculate the projected intercept point and launch an interceptor toward it. Third, the infrared sensor on the interceptor must detect the warhead far enough away to give the interceptor time to maneuver. Finally, the interceptor must maneuver accurately enough to hit the warhead--a small object--at a closing speed of greater than 10 kilometers per second (22,000 miles per hour). The difficulty of this task is revealed by US tests of high-altitude hit-to-kill interceptors (the type that would be used for national missile defenses) against cooperative targets: as of mid-1997, only 2 of 14 intercept attempts have been successful.

Effective use of countermeasures would make a difficult job essentially impossible. The attacker does not need to do much to make intercepts all but impossible. To defeat a defense, the attacker needs for only one countermeasure to work. But for a defense to be reliably effective it must work against all countermeasures the attacker might use, and must work the first time it encounters them. Many countermeasure techniques, each working to defeat the defense in a different way, are available and the attacker can use a combination of these. Some examples are

The attacker can overwhelm the defense. Chemical and biological warheads can be divided into many small parts--called submunitions--that can be released early in flight, just after the booster stops thrusting. This creates so many reentering targets that it overwhelms the defense and would therefore defeat any midcourse or terminal defense. Moreover, dividing the warhead into submunitions is also beneficial to the attacker because it distributes the chemical or biological agent more efficiently over the target area. US intelligence officials have stated that they believe North Korea will be able to deploy submunitions, and that this technology could be available on the world market by 2000.

The attacker can make the warhead hard to detect, leaving the defense without enough time to intercept. The infrared sensor on the interceptor, which guides it to the final intercept, detects the heat emitted by the warhead. Cooling the surface of the warhead thus makes it more difficult to detect. A small amount of liquid nitrogen in a thin shroud surrounding the warhead could cool the surface enough to reduce the distance at which the infrared sensor could detect the warhead by 10,000 times--from the hundreds of kilometers needed down to only tens of meters. The interceptor would have only a few thousandths of a second to react, in which time it could not maneuver enough to have any chance of intercepting a warhead traveling at 7,000 meters per second.

Such cooling would also make the warhead much less visible to the infrared detectors on satellite-based sensors such as the planned Space and Missile Tracking System, giving the defense less time to work. Similarly, the warhead can be made more difficult to detect by radar by reducing its radar cross-section using simple techniques such as adding a sharp nose, curving its back end, and covering it with radar-absorbing material.

The attacker can prevent the defense from identifying the true warhead. Above the atmosphere, where long-range missiles would be intercepted, objects of different weights and shapes travel at the same speed and follow the same path. This allows a missile to carry a large number of lightweight decoys to confuse the defense. Moreover, these decoys do not need to be aerodynamic and need not even look like the warhead since the warhead could also be disguised. Such decoys would force the defense either to launch interceptors at all the false targets or to wait until the atmosphere strips away the lightweight objects, by which time it could be too late to launch interceptors against the warhead.

A simple and effective countermeasure is to place the warhead in a metalized mylar balloon (similar to those sold in florist shops) and release it within a large cloud of empty balloons. Each of these targets would move at the same speed and could not be distinguished by the missile defense radar. Moreover, adding a small heater to each balloon to heat each one by a different amount would prevent infrared sensors from detecting the real warhead. And, if desired, the attacker could also add a small vibrator to the balloons to mask any small motions the warhead might cause. The lightweight balloons would be stripped away by the atmosphere late in flight, but by that time they would already have done their job.

To extend the analogy a bit ... (1)

Scurrilous Knave (66691) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659024)

No, the Patriot is neither intended to, nor capable of, shooting down ICBMs. If using the Raytheon weapon is shooting down a bullet with a bullet, then using a Patriot against an ICBM is shooting down a bullet by throwing a rock at it. Just not the same scale.

There were missiles designed to defend against ICBMs, thirty years ago--the anti-ballistic missiles, or ABMs. But a series of Cold-War treaty maneuverings culminating in the ABM treaty of 1972 reduced their deployment to one selected site on each side. The Soviet Union chose the city of Moscow, and we chose some ICBM launch site (oh, thanks, Uncle Sammy!). But the limits prevent ABMs from being an effective countermeasure against a nuclear exchange.

Reagan's Star Wars program would have jeopardized the whole ABM equilibrium if it had actually produced any results beyond the political. And now, many right-wingers are arguing that, since the USSR is no more, neither is the 1972 treaty. So, all you young folks, let me introduce you to my friend Burt the Turtle. He's going to teach you all to Duck and Cover!

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659025)

If money were to be spent on "education" how exactly would it be spent? Give it to public schools? They buy a better soccer field. Give it to public schools earmarked "academic use only", they'll buy another iMac for each classroom, which is a waste cause they don't use the one they have already.

If money is to be spent on education it would be best spent researching different methods of teaching/learning and then as bribes to get schools to implement the most efficent method(s).

That kind of thing would never actually happen because it'd "change the natural order of schooling" or some crap. The next best thing would be to just leave school budgets as they are and reduce taxes so at least people don't have to pay as much for the bloated money-wasting emotionally-damaging government funded entities we call public schools.

Re:What Happened to that Peace Dividend? (1)

toolie (22684) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659026)

The only problem with that statement is that you do not take into account the human factor. People in the Middle East foster a strong hatred. Its been there for centuries. Some groups of people will never be able to get along with others of different religions or birthplaces. Thats a fact of life. The hatred is so inbred that it would take more than food/money/water to get that hatred alleviated. As long as human behavior is a factor, peace will NEVER be certain.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (1)

Stradivarius (7490) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659027)

One thing to consider is that even if the "big nuclear powers" committed themselves to disarmament, that doesn't mean that rogue states like North Korea and Iraq would. So then, the big powers are leaving themselves vulnerable to such nations. At least if you have nukes too, there's always the threat of mutually assured destruction. Granted, MAD may not be enough if you have some lunatic in power in a rogue state, but it's a deterrent in many cases. And I personally feel a bit better knowing that if some country decides to try to nuke us, that A) we're not ignoring the threat, and may have a defense ready in a few years, and B) that since we have nukes, if they tried anything like that we have retained the capabilities to respond in kind.

You're also making the assumption that if the gov't didn't spend the money on defense, they'd spend it on something more worthy. However, it's more likely it'd be spent on some congressman's pet pork barrel project than anything beneficial to the nation.

How can there ever be peace as long as there are so many people working on destruction?

Well, I doubt you're ever going to get rid of the destructive side of human nature, so I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for peace to materialize. However, if we get to the point where the defenses are sufficient to prevent/remove the ability of nations to successfully attack each other militarily, at that point we'll probably be the closest to peace we're going to get.

Re:nice if it works (refs) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659028)

Scientific American periodically has commentary/articles about hit-to-kill missile defense systems. Here are two refs:

http://www.sciam.com/1998/0698issue/0698techbus1 .html
Missile defense remains a shaky proposition, $50 billion later


SciAm: Aug '99 (summary follows, full article available in print only)
Why National Missile Defense Won't Work
George N. Lewis, Theodore A. Postol and John Pike
Worries about rogue states with nuclear weapons have renewed enthusiasm for an antiballistic-missile defense system that could protect the U.S. Unfortunately, such a system is infeasible and unwise today for the same reasons that it was three decades ago: countermeasures are too easy to build.

Re:Strategic irrelevance? (1)

Stradivarius (7490) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659029)

I think the idea is that eventually, the system is supposed to be able to determine the position/heading of a missile based on radar stations and/or satellites around the world, and then that data is used to launch an interceptor missile. The military obviously doesn't think that the launch site will be announced. And certainly, the ICBM in question could be launched from a submarine somewhere, so the attacker is not necessarily known. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have a method for destroying the incoming ICBM before it hits a city.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659030)

Russia is now deploying a brand new ICBM, and for once, it has real accuracy - can hit within a couple hundred feet. They expect to deploy 3 or 4 hundred in the next year. This represents a complete update of their offensive capability. Let's hope it's Y2K compliant. They did it in spite of, or maybe because of, a starving population. They haven't given up.

Expensive, useless, shortsighted (2)

jflynn (61543) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659031)

So the government has spent $50 billion on an ICBM defense that isn't hitting its targets yet in tests. I'm going to go way out on a limb here and grant that they may actually get it working someday.

There is a funny thing about ICBM attacks, you can trace them back to the country of origin, and several satellites should notice any launch anyway. Please name a country that could fire an ICBM at an American city without developing a serious glow in the dark problem. MAD is still our ultimate insurance no one is that stupid, except if they only fire a few ICBM's it won't be mutual. The sad truth is that a world where everyone believes in anti-missle defenses is one where nuclear war will actually happen. This is destabilizing.

Any self-respecting terrorist or pissed off country is *not* going to be so stupid as to telegraph their intent and location by lobbing an ICBM at us! Please! It will arrive here quietly in the cargo of a ship, in a car crossing the border, or carried in a briefcase. Anti-missle defenses are not too useful for these very credible threats.

And of course, within a year of completion of this program, everyone will have counter-technology to make it useless again, and will have stolen the design for their own use. Don't worry just spend a bunch more billions to fix it. Then again, and again, until some fool actually thinks a launch is possible and tries it. You really want to go down this road any further?

I'm not opposed to military spending, just spending money stupidly. This money could have gone to space. Even if it were for orbiting nuclear monitoring and interdiction platforms (rather more difficult to shoot down) it would be a huge improvement over this boondoggle, and would at least be beneficial, even if hopelessly paranoid.

Where have y'all been? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659032)

The exoatmospheric kill concept was proven in 1982 with the HOE-4 (Homing Overlay Experiment) shot performed by Lockheed, Charles Stark Draper Labs and the Army. It was refined in 1987 with the ERIS shots. The recent difficulties with THAAD only show that it's not so easy to do this reliably.

Patriot is NOT an exoatmospheric kill vehicle. It is a "high-endo" vehicle that does not rely on a kinetic kill, rather it gets close and goes bang. Not the same stunt at all.

Folks should keep in mind that the starting point for a threat warhead need NOT be known. Targeting depends on getting a trajectory (not very hard), pointing a terminal acquisition sensor, usually a very good IR scanner with limited field of view, at a known spot, and then driving into the projected trajectory. The problems you have with such a device involve being able to accelerate quickly enough to make up for errors in targeting, doing this over and over again in real time, without shaking the interceptor to pieces or blurring its vision.

The scenario used to sell the concept was initially Reagan's Star Wars engineering play pen, but the concept was kept sold after the Cold War ended by means of the "mad commander" scenario: that is, someone with authority over a small number of weapons decides to launch independently of a national plan.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (1)

RodStewart (13476) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659033)

You know I live in OKC. I believe that comment was a bit insensitive. I believe in the memory of those lost and those that lost someone, you should have the decency to remember, or not to make jokes about it.

Beyond that India and Pakistan will become ICBM capable in a couple years, i have no doubt. There are alot of real shitty places on earth and the vast majority of those places hate us, the "Great Satan". Thats scary.


No plutonium release (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659034)

A weapon of this kind would not "Blow up the incoming missile" it would instead smash it up into little pieces. The plutonium pit, ie the core of the nuclear weapon, would most likely fall to earth in one big hunk.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659035)

Actually I think you learned too well.

Incidentally, do you mean Dan Quayle ? [quaylemuseum.org]

Which Way? (2)

chazR (41002) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659036)

Please specify East or West with you longitude, and North or South with latitude. Failure do do so in these circumstances could spoil your whole day.

Feed he hungry. Save the whales. Free the mallocs.

Very useful (1)

MattXVI (82494) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659037)

This would be very useful to negating several very real threats.

First of all, the Chinese have about a dozen ICBM's targeted to American cities. Why? Umm.. I dunno, maybe because they are waiting for a moment of weakness when they can invade Taiwan? Or maybe they don't want to be hindered when they're making other mischief. Now remember, Taiwan is the good Democratic country, and China is the autocratic politically repressive Communist regime. In China you are sent to labor camps or executed for going to Church (among other things). This might not bother the half-educated neo-pagans who read Slashdot, so look at it this way: If you are caught with pornography in China, you are sent to jail for quite a while. Freedom of speech, worship, or association is unheard of. Last month 10,000 members of a harmless meditation group Falung Gong gathered around the Communist Party building for a few hours in Beijing to quietly meditate. For that, their organization has been outlawed, and it's members and leaders arrested and either executed or sent to "re-education" camps. This very nasty regime has ICBMs pointed at LA and Chicago. I'd like to think we could make those missiles useless.

Second, there is North Korea, one of the few Stalinist holdouts (besides Berkeley) and they have every intention of destabilizing peace in the Pacific Rim. A few of you might have noticed that, in spite of their many-years-running famine and extreme poverty, they lobbed a finely-crafted missle right over Japan this summer. The UN fought them in a war 45 years ago. The US has 50,000 troops still sitting in South Korea to prevent an invasion. The North Korean government is very rude and unfriendly, to say the least, and they scare the bejeezus out of nominally disarmed countries like Japan. No doubt many of the peaceful countries in that part of the world would love to have a few ICBM-killers deployed strategically around the area. It would make that part of the world much safer. (BTW N Korea will soon be able to reach the West Coast of the US with those missles. How nice)

Finally, there are all the pissant dictators like Saddam Hussein, who may not be able to develop sophisticated missles, but could easily buy them from greedy corrupt Russian mobsters. Don't even think this is unlikely. The US government is constantly on the lookout for something like that to happen. This could potentially threaten any country in Europe, or Israel, or many of the allies of the US, which is bad enough in itself, but it could also draw the US into another bloody war. A few missle-killers deployed in Turkey, Germany, and Israel would go a long way towards making that part of the world safer.

The point is, guys, that defensive military equipment is a very, very good thing, and would be a boon to peace in many areas of the world.

Re:What Happened to that Peace Dividend? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659038)

>We were supposed to be able to cut back that spending dramaticly after the Cold War was over. After WWII the US military budget dropped by 90%.

You know what they say about old habits...

>But didn't we cut back on military spending after the Cold War and close all those bases?

You can thank all those lobbyists and national-security obsessed politicians for that.

>As a percentage of our GDP we spend 6 times what countries in Western Europe (England, France) who have also been participating in our policing operations around the world.

Heh, I'm inclined to think that they're leeching off of us. But then you have to consider how much of NATO is run by the US.

>We need to take a chunk of that money and invest in the public infrastructure (education, health care, public utilities, small business resources) in our country and many 'pontential rogue nations' in the former Soviet Union, Africa, Asia and South America. Once our people and other people are able to trade with one another, make a living for their families and provide a future for their children, I garuntee that the liklihood of war is 0.000000000000000000001.

What we also need is for our politicians to stop ticking off the global community by forcing our exports, policies, etc. down their throats. Yes, helping to raise the standard of living in foreign countries *do* help in improving foreign relations, but, then again, some of us would rather improve on our own.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659040)

Has anyone here ever thought about why the US is considered the "Great Satan?" What exactly is our government doing when we aren't paying attention? So maybe it is the US who is the real enemy?

Re:fate of the world! (1)

Negadecimal (78403) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659041)

The fate of my house is probably not to catch fire, but I still keep a fire extinguisher handy.

The Patriot did work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659042)

The Patriot did work, just not how people were told. The Patriot was not designed to actually hit the target physically like a bullet from a gun. The Patriot detonates its warhead when its close enough to its target to do damage. This workes very well when you are shooting at aircraft. The Patriot would detonate a small distance away from an airplane and throw shrapnel into the plane. This destroys most planes. The problem with trying to shoot down the scuds was their speed. The Partiot would lock on to the biggest piece of an incoming scud, then detonate a short distance away. This would damage this piece of the scud but not stop it from impacting on its current trajectory. Most of the time the biggest piece of a scud was not the warhead but instead the rocket body that boosted the warhead. So most Pariot engagements were hits they just did'nt have any effect of the missile's trajectory and so the missiles warhead hit its tatget anyway. Both sides of this argument have missrepresented the kill rate of the Patriot to further their own cause. Anti-missile people say it did'nt work, pro-missile people say it did. As usual the truth is in th middle.

Re:fate of the world! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659043)

Well the Soviets certainly didn't think like you, since they produced massive quantities of weaponized smallpox, anthrax, and other bioweapons.

you're on the right track, but axiomatically wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659044)

The point that defensive systems must always be a lot cheaper than offensive ones is a good one. As you correctly point out, otherwise the offense simply overwhelms the defense with offensive "decoys and evasive manoevers" per the NYT article. At $25M per bullet (haha), and a 2 out of 14 hit rate on each target (under ideal conditions), the defensive cost is roughly $100M per offensive target, and with each missile launching 50 decoys and dummies, the defensive cost is $5 Billion per missile. So that solution is a joke or even worse, a political hoax.

The only workable solution, whereby mankind can be forever freed of this persistent philosophical terrorism of nuclear-biological ICBMs, is the original Space Defense Initiative plan, based on laser technology using new physical principles. Although the development cost might seem higher, once developed the defensive cost is pennies per shot. At that point, each missile could contain thousands of warheads and decoys, to no avail. The lower economic cost of defense simply destroys the economic feasibility of any missile based offense, by anyone, forever. Of course, this kind of defensive power must be open sourced, for all nations to use for their defense. And, IMHO, that is the real power, i.e. the danger to certain parties, of a new paradigm, the open source idea which is being proven by the slashdot community.

More importantly, if open sourced the new technology whereby we learn to control new concentrations of energy for defensive purposes, will also provide other economic benefits, such as a means to convert nuclear waste from existing nuclear power plants into an economic bonanza of sub-uranium metals and hydrogen and helium isotopes. This could improve the economic future for everybody.

Look at the fruits of the space program from the 1960's. Who ever thought we would discover oxygen and 20,000 terrawatts of thermal energy in the form of He3 on the moon. Look at the economic potential which that little discovery has created re fusion energy. For starters, see Artemis Project [asi.org] .

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (5)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659045)

Bah. Why would India and Pakistan sign onto disarmament if the big powers would? Their enemies aren't generally the big powers (and, if we WERE being, for some reason, evil bastards bent on ruthlessly destroying them, we wouldn't need nuclear weapons to do it...). No, it's that Pakistan and India happen to be neighbors with territorial disputes and a long history of conflict.

Suppose, say, Canada were a deadly enemy of the United States. Further suppose that it had comparable conventional forces, of at least sufficient power to stall any invasion but not really enough to successfully mount a hell-bent drive towards Washington. Would, oh, Israel admitting that it had nuclear weapons, but then disarming, have any impact on the US/Canada theatre? No.

Face it: there's really no justification for trying to "lead by example" here. Remember how badly Wilson botched trying to "be nice" w/ the Treaty of Versailles? or, how numerous Lefty traitors/spies apparently wanted the US and UK to demilitarize completely -- but to build up the Stalinist forces, both conventional and nuclear? Does North Korea follow the South's example of sanely leading a similar state, or does it persist in being confrontational by sending commandos for infiltration missions via submarines, and starving its people so it can build nuclear missiles?

And so forth.

The last 10 years have been awesome on this stuff! (1)

BitMan (15055) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659046)

There is a REALISTIC AND WORKING 4-tier system under development. Much more cost effective than all the development during the Cold War. Defense contractors actually have to pay out of their own pocket sometimes, and then the government re-imburses them after it works! Totally 180 from the Cold War "money pits."

Jeez, if anything, this stuff is half-@$$ because the Clinton administration has done two things:

  1. Cut off funding, and then put funding back in over the last year because Iran, N. Korea and China woke him up to the fact that MAD (mutally assured destruction) does *NOT* work against these countries. Clinton finally woke up, after cancelling some programs (a nice 3-7 years down the drain).
  2. Reinstated the ABM treated of 1972. A treaty that died with the Soviet Union. So now, we are CRIPPLING OUR ABM EFFORTS because Clinton made that blunder!

Other issues that are SCREWING WITH ABM DEVELOPMENT COSTS are "environmentalists" (who lie out their @$$ to keep all missiles grounded), missapropriation of current ABM funds, etc...

Again, the ABM defense is a 4-tier one. IT REALLY *DOES* WORK! In fact, the American people *ARE* getting their money's worth compared to what happened in the 60s through the mid-80s.

  1. EKV can intercept long range MRB and ICBM missiles outside the atmosphere. It is launched vi a standard ballastic missile, then searches the exo-atmosphere for targets. Even if does not intercept, it can identify targets for later interception by other systems.
  2. THAAD (Theater High Altitude and Air Defense) can intercept upto 100 miles up. This is ALSO outside the atmosphere. Lockheed-Martin *WAS* farting around on this, but has recently replaced the management and had two COMPLETE SUCESSES!
  3. NTW (Navy Theater Wide) not only protects us, but would be able to protect other countries. One Aegis cruiser placed in the Med would be able to defend southern Europe, Northern Africa and Israel from attack!
  4. PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability) is the "last resort" defense. PAC-3 does *NOT* intercept outside the atmosphere, but only inside (>50% hit probability per missile, so don't knock it! We have gotten ourselves an excellent system!

Understand that A, B and D are "hit-to-kill". It is like hitting a bullet with a bullet, only the bullets are traveling 20x faster than normal! But it allows the missile to be lighter (and therefore, batteries can carry 4x as many), faster and bam ... when it hits, the target is shreded to pieces. In the case of A & B, they burn up in the atmosphere re-entry.

Guys, also understand this has been MONEY WELL SPENT. Especially compared to what happened in the 60s, 70s and Star Wars in the 80s. We *DID* learn a lot from Star Wars in the 80s, but it cost us >>10x as much. These new systems *ARE* worth the cost, and by 2003, everyone will see.

Again, I cannot think of a better system to develop than one that prevents a rogue state's leadership from remoting launching a ballistic missile for the "heck of it" because they don't care about the destruction of themselves. And it *HAS* happened people!

Again, the Clinton administration was DEAD WRONG on MAD, as Iran, the N. Koreans and Chinese have all shown. And they admit now that we NEED MISSILE DEFENSE! Of course they will champion it as their own, even though they cut the funding *AND* crippled the efforts by keeping the ABM treaty alive.

I meant, 20,000 terrawatt-YEARS of thermal energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659047)

on the surface of the moon.

So sorry. Decimal was in wrong place.

Re:Mmmmmm Hmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659048)

Why bother? Saddam is not travelling at super-sonic speeds. If you can hit him with a $20M gadget of this type, you can hit him with a lot of cheaper, explosives-carrying gear.

Re:nice if it works (1)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659049)

I'll bet this one has a huge failure rate. The point man for this project at the Clinton Administration was John Hamsre, who spent the time immediately before being appointed to the DoD running an anti-SDI student group at the University of Utah. The Democratic Senate confirmed him, barely, after he claimed he now believes in it, and the whole setup's been slowly producing non-results ever since (something like eight failed tests for Lockheed's THAAD system... note that no matter how much Lockheed screws up, they'll never lose their contract to Ratheon, who had a competing system).

What was that comment from "Yes, Minister"? "In order to stab something in the back, one must be 100% behind it." Well, the current Administration has been 100% behind missile defense...

Re:Strategic irrelevance? (2)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659050)

It's possible to launch a ballistic missile in such a way that the target -- even if nuclear-capable -- would not know where to counter-strike.

First, there are mobile ICBM missile launchers. These include those mounted on railroad cars, and those in submarines. The former are fairly cheap, but have the disadvantage that the host country is most likely the source, and that movement is constrained by needing rail. The latter has the advantage that it can be superbly stealthy (it's hard to track a submarine in the middle of the ocean...), and that it might be unclear whose it is (although there probably aren't that many nations with this capability); the disadvantages are that its expensive and rare.

Second, it is possible that control of a silo or other launch system could be seized by a third party, such as a state-sponsored terrorist group. In such a situation, it may be quite unclear who's responsible... if, say, a silo near a major Russian city such as Vladiostok were seized (I don't know, off-hand, whether they place in bases near cities, or whether they're in more secluded areas. Pardon my lack of specific intel re: Russian military deployments...) by a third party, we would arguably not want to launch. Heck, by the responsible folks would probably be gone by the time that a counterstrike could be launched.

Oh come off it! (1)

Negadecimal (78403) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659051)

That wasn't at all insensitive. William used the Murrow building as an example of worldwide instability, but made a slight error -- someone else kindly noted the error. It's the thought that counts, so please don't play devil's advocate.

Also, your being from OJK is totally irrelevant. If the comments truly were insensitive, it would be insult to all of us. The bombing affected the entire nation in one way or another.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (2)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659052)

That's, ermm, quite interesting. I could be quite wrong about this, but the only reason that comes to mind that requires this degree of precision is to hit certain types of targets like hardened silos, seriously reinforced underground bunkers and other heavily protected installations.

Hmmm. That sort of thing's useful for a first strike, no?

Re:Very useful (1)

finkployd (12902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659053)

A very well thought out and insightful article. First of all, the Chinese have about a dozen ICBM's targeted to American cities. Why? Umm.. I dunno I would submit to you that one possible reason could be to remind the President that he was given those millions in illegal campaign dollers for a reason, and he better not screw up. I guess he was acting in someone else's interest when he overrode the wishes of the DoD and his Security Advisior when he signed waivers to allow Lorell to sell China long range weapon technology. But hey, I'm sounding like a right wing wacko now, so I'll stop. I mean, the logical thing to do is ignore this stuff and assume everything is OK. Finkployd

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (1)

mattc (12417) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659054)

But seriously, the Military, and NASA, develop soo much cool tech and we just take it for granted.

Like Windows NT on battleships? Yeah, you can tell there is a whole lot of intellect there. I'd trust the 3 year-old neighbor with a nuclear weapon before I'd trust the military.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659055)

P.J. O'Rourke compared national defense with insurance companies. We all spend about the same amount of money on each. But the insurance company won't deploy tanks and jet fighters if you have a problem.

Re:Yet another waste of our tax money [NOT] (1)

seeker (9636) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659056)

Lets see, the Chinease have been pretty clear about their threats to us. In fact, one of their military leaders 'suggested' that instead of worrying about their launching missiles toward Taiwan in an attempt to intimidate that small democracy, we in the US ought to worry about Los Angeles.

We have a legitimate need to defense systems like these. They are hard and costly to produce. But what is the proposed alternative? Caving to the Chinease? Bill "I love chicks" Clinton might be willing to, but I'm not.

anti-anti icbm? (1)

abelsson (21706) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659057)

Now that they got the anti icbm missile, i cant wait for the anti-anti icbm missile - you know, the little missiles on the icbm destroying the anti icbm missile as they home in to destroy the icbm.
Of course, you could always develop the anti-anti-anti missile.

Re:Boeing already has this. (1)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659059)

Although I'm for strategic defense, I believe the airborne laser is virtually useless. It needs to be within laser range (which is fairly short) of the launch site to do any good. Naturally, the current administration spends money on it, because it helps them look like they're doing something about strategic defense when they're not.

Re:What Happened to that Peace Dividend? (3)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659066)

So, er, you would have supported Chamberlain? You do remember Munich, and the Sudetenland, and how a certain Austrian failed artist made Chamberlain look like a complete, utter idiot? (Which, to be fair, he was in this case.) By not acting, you also create rather powerful dictators, who then sometimes seem to make the mistake of thinking that they can invade Russia.

Another example: Imperial China did not particularly value its military, instead esteeming culture and scholarship. You had, for instance, an Empress deciding that she needed a lovely garden more than the nation needed a navy with something stronger than cheap wooden ships. So what happened when the other nations noticed?

Re:Expensive, useless, shortsighted (1)

toolie (22684) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659067)

How unlikely is it that Terrorist Group A wants to get rid of Country B? A scenario that the DoD uses is that TGA infiltrates and secures a missile site within CB. That group then needs to figure out a way to get the country out of the way while only owning a single site. Target the US and let the retaliation attack do the work for them.

That scenario goes a lot less smoothly with the EKV type defenses in place. The world is in a transition phase, and until its done this defensive weapon is a good thing.

Re:Expensive, useless, shortsighted (2)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659068)

Please think a tad deeper. Ever heard of submarines? Or thought about what would happen if a third party subverted a silo?

Re:What Happened to that Peace Dividend? (1)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659069)

Actually, that 300 billion or so we spend on defense is somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the federal budget, which is up there between 1.7 and 2 trillion dollars.

The military budget, corrected for inflation, has gone down a lot, but deployments have gone up. We've engaged in two more-or-less war-scale conflicts and a dozen or so band-aid operations.

The Clinton liberals don't like giving money to the military, or developing useful technology, but when it comes to showing how allegedly macho he is, he's always ready to send in the troops. It's as if he thinks the more he does this, the more he thinks people will forget he was a draft dodger.

Maybe a combat veteran would feel less need to prove his manhood by bombing Yugoslavia than the current bunch.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659070)

A lot of these technologies depend on information technology, so that part of it at least should get cheaper. Maybe with development and production we can eventually protect everybody.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659071)

And don't forget Redmond, Washington.

Re:Strategic irrelevance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659072)

Never mind, but there is no such thing as a good reason to go to war, although I am afraid none of use here is going to live long enough to see this having become a universal concept.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (2)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659076)

That specific appellation came from the mouth of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, one-time ruler of Iran. He did have reasons to loathe us, such as our support of the Shah whom his Islamic revolution overthrew; if he wasn't going to demonize those who supported his enemies, then he wasn't not being very revolutionary, was he?

In addition, it helps to focus a people if you give 'em a convenient enemy on which to blame all your problems upon. In this case, if memory serves, it might have also been because the US helped sustain Israel as a viable state when it needed it.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (1)

Uart (29577) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659078)

Exactly, look at all the good stuff that's come out of NASA and the Military, The Internet, Global Positioning System, Cellular Phones, ooh ooh and don't forget thespace program, and that cool freeze dried food stuff and the Space Pen that writes upside down!! whoo hoo!

But seriously, the Military, and NASA, develop soo much cool tech and we just take it for granted. And Frankly, I feel safer knowing that when they point their Nukes at Naval Weapons Station Earl (two minutes from my house, practically its where they keep all the weapons to arm Navy ships on the east coast) that something will stop the nike before it blows up the east coast and me with it.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (2)

shambler snack (17630) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659086)

Yeah, that other Dan Quayle.

I think I'll just go away now...

Slashdot - A new source of cheap entertainment.

Re:What Happened to that Peace Dividend? (4)

MattXVI (82494) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659087)

You are wrong about almost everything.

You remember that peace dividend we were supposed to get after the cold war? Remember when Reagan was pumping most of our annual budget into the military to outspend the Commies?

The US has never spent most of the annual Federal budget of Defense. Even at the height of the Cold War, when Reagan was catching up from the dangerously wussified Carter 70's, Defense never consumed more than 35 or 40 percent of the Federal budget. Of course, it really doesn't matter. You should spend what is necessary. A newly-freed Eastern Europe and a much-diminsihed threat of nuclear war are both worth a lot of billions.

We were supposed be able to cut back that spending dramaticly after the Cold War was over. After WWII the US military budget dropped by 90%.

We were fighting a ground war overseas, for most of the time in two hemispeherically separated theatres. Of course, it was very very expensive. The Cold War, however, was never that expensive in terms of a percentage of the Federal budget, or of the GNP.

Most of that $ went to the Marshall plan to rebuild Japan and Western Europe. It also went to the GI Bill which produced the most romanticized and idyllic time in most American's memories.

Great! And the Federal government spends much, much more than that now on Federal aid for university students.

But didn't we cut back on military spending after the Cold War and close all those bases? Yeah, about 15% of our top Cold War spending levels. During 1998 we spent over $321 Billion on National Defense...

You are not using Real dollars. There has been inflation since the mid-80's. The big complaint right now from bothe parties in Congress is that the military is underfunded. Defense expeditures right now, as a percentage of our GNP, have not been lower since before World War I, when we were just another pissant republic

Now compare that to the 50 Billion we spent on education and training, the 23 Billion NASA got...

No, totally wrong. First, NASA is obsolete and mostly useless. Private companies will soon so far surpass NASA that it'll just be another very expensive joke. It's funding should be cut and folded into traditional research funding channels. Second, the Federal money for education and training may be small, but those things cost a lot less than aircraft carriers. Historically, the State and local governments run education and training. And they currently spend hundreds of billions on education and training. On top of that, what makes you think spend for Federal dollars on those things will improve them? There is zero evidence of that, and much to the contrary.

and the fact that China, only spent 40-60 Billion on their National Defense.

Well, they don't have to fund their own R&D, since they steal it all from the US. In addition, you really can have no idea how much they spend on defense. They are a closed totalitarian regime. They don't just hand out accurate statistics at the Defense haedquarters to curious foreign citizens.

As a percentage of our GDP we spend 6 times what countries in Western Europe (England, France) who have also been participating in our policing operations around the world.

Incoherent, and totally untrue.

We need to take a chunk of that money and invest in the public infrastructure (education, health care, public utilities, small business resources) in our country and many 'pontential rogue nations' in the former Soviet Union, Africa, Asia and South America.

First of all, our infrastructure in the US is just fine. We fund all that stuff you mention to the gills. Second, those countries you mentioned would be a lot better off if they quit their bellyaching and freed their economies up and did their own development. It's nice to give advice, and to help sometimes, for sure.

Once our people and other people are able to trade with one another, make a living for their families and provide a future for their children, I garuntee that the liklihood of war is 0.000000000000000000001.

Your gurantee is worthless. We have traded previously with every country with which we've gone to battle. We bought oil from Hussein and Ghadaffi, traded with the Soviets all through the Cold War, traded heavily with Germany before both World Wars, and with Japan before WW II etcetera etcetera. History is not on your side.

History has shown that we have created many of the dictators we have had to overthow (Noriega, Suharto, Sadam) and we have managed to help countries get on their feet (W. Europe, Japan). We are at that crossroads again and must decide how to spend our money.

We did not 'create' any of the dictators you mentioned, or any other, for that matter. Sometimes we dealt with them when our interests coincided. Sometimes we hoped we could convince them to open up their countries. We also allied with Stalin during WWII to defeat Hitler. Do you think that was a bad idea, too?

Investing in Peace is always a better idea than investing in War.

But investing in Defense is the best way to prevent war.

Soon EU too? (1)

gas (2801) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659088)

The EU is slowly joining their armies, aiming to take Soviets place as a military superpower. In a few years they could be willing and ready for WW.

(Note that I am *not* recommending anyone to arm up.)

Re:Strategic irrelevance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659089)

> People don't go to war for no good reason.

This -is- a joke, right? What 'people' are these who deliberate so admirably solemnly? America has been highly addicted to warfare since WWII, which has been called 'The Last Crusade' for good reasons.

The difference between a -reason- and a -pretext- for entering a conflict can get mighty vague in populist democracies. In the USA, the job of a New Mexico senator is to ensure the prosperity of his region. He would be a bad senator if he did not court military funding. Senators have a lot of power.

By the time Clinton takes his midnight walk, ponderously debating with himself the follies of war, CNN has usually done enough hysteric reporting that the populace is whipped into an anti-ethnicity-of-choice frenzy and Clinton can safely let himself believe that he's merely representing the will of the people when he gives the go-ahead for the cruise missiles.

Note that this does not necessarily mean the cruise missiles should not be launched! Perhaps the sluggish opinion of the sedate American middle class is a -good- moral base? It's possible. But, don't go talking about 'reasons'. There are no reasons left.

It should also be kept in mind that many of those military billions of tax dollars go straight into basic research; many go into high-tech companies who in turn provide business for whole strata of high-tech sub-contractors. These billions are not somehow magically lost in space; they could be considered a gigantic government subsidy of the US high-tech industry -- a wise investment indeed.

Re:nice if it works (refs) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659090)

I read Scientific American too, but they aren't exactly neutral politically.

Re:Not sure why we need this new missle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659091)

"Spending money on developing weapons helps everyone."

Thanks, I'll explain that to everybody over at the local homeless shelter. It will make them feel much better.

I'm sure you can whip up a quote out of the Bible that says something like, "ignore the poor and the meek, don't help them at all, forget compassion, just build lots of weapons, and pay for it by cutting funding for school lunches." Funny that it's us "Godless heathens" who want money to give the poor.

Personally, I see no reason why we should build an anti-ICBM weapon, because whatever the payload of an ICBM might be could easily be smuggled into New York City or Washington, DC. The method of preventing this kind of warfare is, unfortunately, much more expensive than Raytheon's weapon, and the Bible-thumping right-wingers of America lack the compassion to try to implement it.

Re:Mmmmmm Hmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659092)

Thats what they want you to think!

Re:No plutonium release (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659095)

The kinetic energy released when two missiles collide at a relative velocity of 4 miles per second ought to be enough that the plutonium core should infact worry about its homogenity.

Re:Strategic irrelevance? (2)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1659096)

Oh, I beg to differ. Are you saying, say, that Israel should have waited patiently for Soviet-backed Syria and Egypt to have struck at it, instead of launching the Six-Day War via pre-emptive strike? Or that the US should have, upon Pearl Harbor, shrugged its shoulders and said, "Eh. You win, we don't care?", and basically kissed Europe, Asia and Africa goodbye by never fighting either Axis power?

Or, perhaps, the US should have played nice to ol' Jeff Davis, and split the country up? Countries should all yield to separatists, right? And you'll leave tea and Toll House cookies for the next burglar who visits your house, true?

It ain't a nice thing to say, but I'll say it. Sometimes, it's perfectly moral to kill. {shrug}

Re:Yet another waste of our tax money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1659098)

Interesting that technological development is so often called a waste of money when it's for defense. And yet when we spend trillions on welfare programs that don't work, money that somehow gets swallowed by massive bureaucracies instead of actually helping people, nobody blinks an eye. People are still poor, and we're still vulnerable to missiles--but I'll bet we fix the latter before the former.
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