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Untested Missile System?
February 24, 2003 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Bush wants to deploy a new missile system - without testing it. Seems like a relatively bad idea, considering the numerous things that can do terribly awry with such a complex situation.
posted by tatochip (40 comments total)

 
Here's a link that doesn't require registration:
http://www.msnbc.com/news/876549.asp

The hits just keep on coming, folks!
Had enough yet?
posted by 2sheets at 4:13 PM on February 24, 2003


they're never going to actually build anything. its just a way to siphon off a billion here and a billion there to the good ole boys in the defense industry.
posted by quonsar at 4:15 PM on February 24, 2003


they're never going to actually build anything.

Or, they'll build it anyway, even if it doesn't work. Or, they'll build it anyway, even if it doesn't work, and then fake some test results, and sell it to other countries (like with the Patriot miss ile system). Whatever way, plenty of money for the military labs.o
posted by carter at 4:21 PM on February 24, 2003


What's wrong with funnelling tax payer money to your campaign contributors? You say it like its dishonest.
posted by owillis at 4:24 PM on February 24, 2003


THE PURPOSE OF the waiver is to be able to deploy the missile in Alaska and California next year, the Los Angeles Times reported, adding that language to rewrite the testing law was buried in President Bush’s 2004 budget.

and then

“Administration officials believe the unusual measures are necessary because of a growing missile threat....

So why bury it? Why the subterfuge?
posted by Espoo2 at 4:29 PM on February 24, 2003


I'm scared that once we have a supposed missile shield in place, the nutjob with his finger on the button is going to consider it safe for us to use nukes on a first-strike basis.
posted by beth at 4:50 PM on February 24, 2003


I'm scared that once we have a supposed missile shield in place, the nutjob with his finger on the button is going to consider it safe for us to use nukes on a first-strike basis.

Haha!
posted by Witty at 4:52 PM on February 24, 2003


Why complain? Even when the "defensive missiles" are tested and fail repeatedly, even with kiddy-glove scenarios where we already know the missile trajectories, Bush still funds them. Might as well not waste the money on testing if it's going to be on the budget no matter what, IMHO.
posted by zekinskia at 4:54 PM on February 24, 2003


Well. it's not exactly rocket science, guys.
posted by y2karl at 5:02 PM on February 24, 2003


rimshot
posted by UKnowForKids at 5:18 PM on February 24, 2003


The whole "Missile hits missile" in midair problem sounds like some kind of Physics nightmare. We have trouble enough getting missiles to hit the proper STATIONARY GROUND TARGETS anyways...
posted by Veritron at 5:24 PM on February 24, 2003


The proposal follows administration moves to bypass congressional reporting and oversight requirements in order to accelerate development of a national missile defense system.

Ah, who needs testing. This is one of those great "faith based" initiatives Bush is always talking about, right? As in, "Boy, I sure hope that untested anti-air warhead doesn't fuck up and kill us all!" Life is swell.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:27 PM on February 24, 2003


Meanwhile, North Korea has fired a missile into the Sea of Japan.
posted by homunculus at 5:40 PM on February 24, 2003


The Frontline special about missile defense is available for viewing online.
posted by beth at 5:43 PM on February 24, 2003


You know, I really don't like Bush, and i am as liberal as the next person, but I just heard an interesting idea from a colleague who is ex-airforce:

"Iraq has the nasty stuff. And the second a drop of it touches Israel, Israel will send nukes to Iraq. Then the US will be in the position of trying to prevent Israel from ..."

I just get the sense that it's more complicated than Blood and Oil.

This is not a troll, I promise.
posted by mecran01 at 6:17 PM on February 24, 2003


its just a way to siphon off a billion here and a billion there to the good ole boys in the defense industry.
posted by homunculus at 7:16 PM on February 24, 2003


I just pray to God on a nightly basis that somebody. SOMEBODY in our congress has the spine and backbone to stand up and say, "that, Mr. Bush, is the biggest line of bullshit since Nixon's 'I am not a crook'."

Just once I want to hear something along those lines.
posted by tgrundke at 8:58 PM on February 24, 2003


Or, they'll build it anyway, even if it doesn't work. Or, they'll build it anyway, even if it doesn't work, and then fake some test results, and sell it to other countries (like with the Patriot miss ile system).

Or, it'll actually give us a chance to shoot down something nasty that a North Korean lunatic might decide to aim at us without (damn them) waiting until we've gone through several more years of testing.

Oops, forgot - it's that pretty blue MeFi screen. Clearly inconceivable here that the motive might actually be to produce something that defends the American people.

Sorry for the interruption, carry on. Here, I'll help jump start everything again:

"Bush = Evil".

Have at it.
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:59 PM on February 24, 2003


Another President had a different problem with missile waivers. How times change.

10 USC §2399, the operational testing requirement in question. (2400 also has some bearing.) There is a waiver authority in the legislation, but only for contractor selection. Essentially, the President is asking Congress to waive its own oversight. I can't find the text of the budget; it probably won't go online until it's submitted to Congress, anyway. Personally, I think national security is a perfectly defensible reason to waive peacetime requirements which -- after all -- are largely designed to keep our soldiers (and nearby civilians) safe; keeping a short leash on the military-industrial complex is, or should be, secondary. (Thank goodness that the WWII "funnies" never had to jump such hoops, though certainly the DD tank crews could wish for a few, posthumously.)

I expect Congress will pass this provision without much, or perhaps any, debate -- let alone counterproposals, but then again, the missile defense program has been one in which various legislators have kept a close interest for several years. Ideally Congress would make the WH give up something in horse-trading for this provision, and they may well do so but outside of the legislation affecting this program. In any event, the North Koreans are certainly doing their part in all of this to make sure that people realize they have missiles and they're not afraid to use them, so it puts Congress in the particularly uncomfortable position of either going along with the President, or telling California that they have to sit undefended, and we all know how likely that is.

On the other hand, a nuked California's electoral votes -- now fairly reliably Democratic -- would certainly shrink. There might be another, subtler motivation behind all of this!
posted by dhartung at 9:27 PM on February 24, 2003


Remind me never to Rose-coloured responses and attitudes that the alleged mr. mulligan are displaying are what Bush & co. are counting on to let them to whatever the hell they want.

North Korea is no more a threat to the US West Coast than antarctica. They both have the same number of ICBMs capable of flying that far and about an equal chance of getting them in the next couple of years.

This is either a sinister power grab or a way to sneak money into the pockets of campaign contributors. Whatever the intention, both will be acheived.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:44 PM on February 24, 2003


Or, it'll actually give us a chance to shoot down something nasty that a North Korean lunatic might decide to aim at us without (damn them) waiting until we've gone through several more years of testing.

Or, it would actually have been better in the first place to never jump-start some North Korean lunatic's fervor to acquire his own WMD in some psychotic fear of a president who within a matter of 10 months managed to withdraw from numerous test ban treaties and nuclear restriction pacts before announcing without even blinking once at the outright hypocrisy of it all in his announcement that we must now, without choice, be all united against said "evil" North Korean lunatic and the need to rapidly invoke counter- (and preemptive) military measures against him "in case" of the nuclear armament he now threatens us with.

Oops, I forgot- it's that pretty gray clouded mind of yours, Midas. Clearly inconceivable that the motive might be just to award massive contracts before Bush's administration is over instead of, you know, not just waving some 50-megaton dicks around at each other.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:50 PM on February 24, 2003


from 2sheets link:

...the Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation released its annual report, a 300-plus-page booklet that delves into every U.S. weapon in the Defense budget. And the section on Missile Defense makes many of the same observations, plus some.

Unlike past years’ reports, this one is not — and, a public-affairs spokesman told me, will not be — available online, so I haven’t yet seen the full document. However, stories in today’s edition of two trade papers, Space News, Report Casts Doubt on Missile Defense, and Inside Missile Defense, DoD Test Report Says NMD System Not Yet Operationally Ready, reprint (by their standards) juicy quotes.

For example, the report concludes that the system Bush wants to begin fielding next year “has yet to demonstrate significant operational capability.” The test program to date “has suffered from the lack of production-representative test articles and test infrastructure limitations.”

(Translation: The mock-warheads that the MD’s interceptors have been shooting down do not resemble the warheads that a real enemy would fire our way.) Even after the system is fielded and tests continue, the report notes, “it will be very difficult to estimate operational … performance in real engagement conditions.”


According to the trade papers’ summaries, the report also notes that the program currently lacks an effective rocket-booster for launching the interceptors toward their targets, as well as X-band radars needed to detect enemy missiles in flight. Tests to date have been limited in many ways: no realistic decoys, slower-than-normal velocities, trajectories that do not resemble the real flight-paths that a missile or an anti-missile would really follow.

Furthermore, the attempt to upgrade the Navy’s Aegis anti-aircraft system into an anti-missile system has apparently been a failure. Tests have been particularly simplistic, and the system as it exists can offer only a “limited expectation of success,” the report states. The element known as Theater High-Altitude Area Defense, which is intended to destroy enemy missiles as they re-enter the atmosphere and head toward their targets, is in deep trouble, having failed the last six consecutive tests. This rather crucial program “has no operational capability,” the report concludes, “because there is no deployable hardware.”


Or, it'll actually give us a chance to shoot down something nasty that a North Korean lunatic might decide to aim at us without (damn them) waiting until we've gone through several more years of testing.

posted by MidasClinton=EvilMulligan on February 24

A snowball's chance in hell but... it's a chance, isn't it?

Why, I feel safer already!

By the same logic, here's Midas's hot

Major Wall Street Player Investment Tip O' The Day: Buy Lotto Tickets!
posted by y2karl at 9:50 PM on February 24, 2003


The Pentagon trashes Bush's Missile Defense plans.
posted by homunculus at 10:17 PM on February 24, 2003


Regardless of one's political outlook, spending such an enormous amount of our tax dollars on a complex system without any proof that it will work, just to meet a deadline that's conveniently one month before a presidential election, is criminally stupid.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:24 PM on February 24, 2003


Oh, Kaplan's column which I linked is what y2karl was quoting from msnbc.

Or, it'll actually give us a chance to shoot down something nasty that a North Korean lunatic might decide to aim at us without (damn them) waiting until we've gone through several more years of testing.

Or, as per Kaplan's columns, it won't. Please excuse this Californian's lack of faith. Perhaps another approach is in order.

Scowcroft: Korea Can't Wait.
Zakaria: Time for China to Step Up.
posted by homunculus at 10:29 PM on February 24, 2003


The Real Missile Threat: Cruise not Ballistic

They are an obvious system for conducting precision strikes. They can fly at low altitudes to stay below radar and, in some cases, hide behind terrain features. Cruise missiles are smaller and therefore much less visible to radar than aircraft or ballistic missiles. For example, due to the Earth’s curvature, a ground-based radar can detect a low flying cruise missile that is about 20 miles away. In comparison, an aircraft flying at 10,000 feet can be detected when it is about 150 miles away.

Compared with ballistic missiles, cruise missiles are expected to be much more accurate (by a factor of at least 10), less costly (by at least half) and, because of their aerodynamic stability, substantially more effective in delivering chemical or biological payloads (conservatively, enlarging the lethal area for biological attacks by at least 10 times)...

It is unclear how rapidly cruise missiles will spread from state to sub-state actors, i.e., terrorist groups. To date, no terrorist group has used a cruise missile. But after Sept. 11 it is certainly conceivable that they may obtain one from a state sponsor, or even build one on their own. As the relevant technology is widely available, it is possible that short or even long-range missiles could spread to new actors. Much of what goes into a cruise missile or an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), i.e., GPS guidance, digital flight management systems and composite materials – are dual-use or completely civilian.

Newer missiles are incorporating stealth features to make them even less visible to radar and infrared detectors. Multiple missiles could attack instantaneously from different directions, and can fly circuitous routes to get to different targets.


Hedging Against the Cruise-Missile Threat

Developing a ballistic missile involves discrete sequential steps that become increasingly demanding in terms of the skill and time required for missiles over a 1,000km range. Because testing is so critical for ballistic missiles, especially for long-range systems, and so easy to detect, NIE 95-19 concluded that the intelligence community could give decision-makers at least five years’ warning before a new intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) was deployed.

Comparable warning time would probably not be available in monitoring cruise-missile developments. NIE 95-19 noted that a potential proliferator could use cruise missiles earmarked for regional warfighting and adapt them for launch from ships to threaten US territory.24 Such cruise-missile threats, the NIE pointed out, would be easier and less detectable than developing ICBMs because there is no need to test large rocket motors. Whether or not a proliferating state would choose to threaten North America in this way, land-attack cruise missiles remain comparatively easier to build and hide during their development than ballistic missiles because the MTCR intentionally avoids restricting manned aircraft sales and production. This non-restriction means that developing countries can readily intermingle cruise-missile developments with legitimate aircraft purchases or production, making detection problematic.

posted by y2karl at 11:16 PM on February 24, 2003


North Korea is no more a threat to the US West Coast than antarctica. They both have the same number of ICBMs capable of flying that far and about an equal chance of getting them in the next couple of years.

You know, I haven't studied enough about the anti-ballistic missile system to comment on it, so I won't. But I will comment on the above statement.

That is one of the most naive statements about North Korea and its abilities I've heard in a long time. When North Korea launched its three-stage missile over Japan it startled the world. It took us all by surprise. They have continued to advance and refine their missiles since then. To think that they don't have or won't soon have the ability to launch a missile just about anywhere in the world is pure foolishness. North Korea has put great stock in its ability to build missiles, they have not shown any sign of letting up. I personally would be surprised if they couldn't hit the west coast by now. It might not be the most accurate missile in the world, but it would probably have the distance.

Like I said, I have no idea about the anti-missile systems ability to actually shoot down a missile, but underestimating the abilities of North Korea is truly foolish.
posted by Plunge at 11:37 PM on February 24, 2003


No-dong

It is quite evident that this facility was not intended to support, and in many respects is incapable of supporting, the extensive test program that would be needed to fully develop a reliable missile system. In the United States, typically at least twenty test flights are required in the development of a large intercontinental ballistic missile, while smaller missiles are typically tested a larger number of times before being declared operational. The most noteworthy features of the Nodong facility are those that are entirely absent: the transportation links, paved roads, propellant storage, and staff housing that would be needed to support an extensive test program.
posted by y2karl at 12:04 AM on February 25, 2003


Bush Unveils Faith-Based Missile System
posted by owillis at 12:24 AM on February 25, 2003


The only thing this program demonstrates is the total willingness of so-called "conservatives" to bankrupt our country in order to supply pork to their constituents.

If they loved their country they wouldn't be so eager to bankrupt it. It's a GoldenGolfCheat unpatriotic action.

Why do they hate America so much?

Ooh, ooh, it's a blue Mefi screen! I must be the Defender of All Things Duhbya! Now back to the freeperland with you GoldenGolfCheat.
posted by nofundy at 6:31 AM on February 25, 2003


I always find humorous the vast amounts of speculation on what North Korea can't do until they actually do it. For example, another article, linked from the front page of www.fas.org says we are vasty overestimating their ability and that the CIA director was wrong saying they had a missile that would reach the west coast.

Then you get to the last paragraph where he says, "Until the North Koreans flight-test the missile, it is too early speak with any certainty about their ability to reach the Pacific Northwest and government officials should be more careful to qualify their estimates of dangers facing the nation."

I think its a bit late at that point.

Something that people tend to overlook in this whole equation, is that North Korea might not even being having to develop these systems from scratch. They have been very good at trading/stealing for the additional knowledge that they need. There has also be extensive speculation that the missiles produced in North Korea are of designs from Russia and China. Some reasoning for this is their short production from development time and incredible luck in their success despite their LACK of testing.

There are some good articles, mostly pdf, here if you wish to learn more about North Korea's missile and other weapons programs as well as the vast amount of bases and labs extending over the entire country.
posted by Plunge at 6:45 AM on February 25, 2003


deploy a new missile system - without testing it.

For schools that won't test, no money. For military weapons, it's (lots of) money, and no tests.
posted by LeLiLo at 7:25 AM on February 25, 2003


While I agree that North Korea’s not as harmless as some have said, isn’t that off topic? I’m sure the proponents of the missile defense would like Americans to consider their fear of what North Korea might do when weighing the cost-benefit of the system. But the real question is: does the defense system even work? As y2karl has recapped for us, the shield Bush wants to deploy without further testing did not work during the preliminary tests of prototypes, and it’s never been tested under realistic conditions. We’ve been hearing so on the news for years—the program has always been controversial.

So for those of you who are defending the deployment, my question is: why should we spend $70bn to field a missile system that, so far, provides no real protection? What reasonable American would feel less fearful and more safe under such a phony safety net? Personally, I think the question shouldn’t be whether we field it with or without operational testing—it should be whether we field the unsound system at all. That’s what the question used to be, before our fears became more immediate and perhaps pushed rationality off the stage.
posted by win_k at 7:30 AM on February 25, 2003


Well, if the North Korean missile threat is credible, then isn't it even more criminal on Bush's part to palm off an expensive piece of pork that doesn't work? Anyway,why do we need this stuff? What's happened to all the trillions of dollars of existing hardware that was supposed to prevent nuclear war? Don't they work either?

In my humble, this is another in a long series of scare tactics, designed to legitimate the further looting of the economy at taxpayers' (that is your and my) expense. In a pertinent example, if Bush believed his assertions that "Saddam is Hitler" and "We have to rid the world of this menace" and "Now is the time to act, or never," why did he stop (rather than finish the war), against the wishes of the generals? Partly at le ast to reorient a defense industry looking for work after the Cold War to 'smart' bombs and tactical nukes.

Now we have Bush junior reproducing the same rhetoric word for word - like father, like son, I say. It's a con.e
posted by carter at 7:49 AM on February 25, 2003


While I agree that North Korea’s not as harmless as some have said, isn’t that off topic?

Not when discussing an anti-ballistic missile system. They are the ones considered nutty enough to actually launch.

Well, if the North Korean missile threat is credible, then isn't it even more criminal on Bush's part to palm off an expensive piece of pork that doesn't work? Anyway,why do we need this stuff? What's happened to all the trillions of dollars of existing hardware that was supposed to prevent nuclear war? Don't they work either

The only things we had to prevent nuclear war were diplomatic initiatives and MAD. Neither of which seem to work with North Korea too well.

Just my opinion, but I feel North Korea is by far the greatest threat to the US right now and there isn't a good way to handle that threat. A missile defense system sounds good, if it works. Still, the US has put out many defense systems that were buggy when deployed and through continued work and testing, they were fixed.

Is this what we should do now? No idea on my part. I've been reading various links about the system last night and this morning and I still don't have a firm grasp on it, its potential, or lack thereof. Maybe further study is warranted before deployment. I'm just glad it isn't my decision.
posted by Plunge at 8:30 AM on February 25, 2003


Plunge, I continue to disagree about whether North Korea’s dangerousness should influence our deploying the missile defense more rapidly. Why should we race to deploy the defense system when the bugs haven’t been worked out? Correct me if I’m wrong, but so far no one has argued that the system works under realistic conditions. Therefore, the system is not a solution to our fears about North Korea’s weapons, not at this time. It’s a fiscally nonsensical to spend $70bn (with the current deficits, no less!) to emplace the system up and down the West Coast in order to foster a false sense of security. Why hasn't the administration proposed something more practical, like speeding up prototype testing?
posted by win_k at 9:11 AM on February 25, 2003


Missile Defense Reliability: A Tally of Test Failures

Correct me if I’m wrong, but so far no one has argued that the system works under realistic conditions.

I don't think anyone can seriously argue it could work under ideal circumstances.

Even if the North Koreans, or whoever, phoned in the coordinates before they launched a missile, it wouldn't work.

Still, the US has put out many defense systems that were buggy when deployed and through continued work and testing, they were fixed.

Like the Patriot? Oops! We just lost San Diego but we'll get these bugs worked out, I promise...

Then there are those pesky cruise missiles and the even peskier container ships to worry about.

If we are going to invest in wishful thinking, may I suggest buying 250 million voo doo dolls of Kim Jong Il--we all get one and we all start sticking pins in them. It will work just as good as our proposed ballistic missile defense and be a damn sight cheaper. Who knows, maybe someone will get lucky.
posted by y2karl at 10:47 AM on February 25, 2003


Well, between Ermanno Furlanis's I made pizza for Kim Jong-il, and the person Konstantin Pulikovsky met as described in A Telling North Korean Journey , I gather the North Korean elite lead sybaritic lives of luxury, most especially Ki, Jong-Il. I would think these people love life too much to be suicidal:

In contrast, the Russian wrote, "Kim Jong Il can be called a gourmet."

"It was possible to order any dish of Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and French cuisine," he wrote of the specially outfitted train that carried Mr. Kim.

The North Koreans made sure that live lobsters were shipped to the train to provide Mr. Kim with fresh delicacies during the tedium of crossing Siberia. Cases of Bordeaux and Burgundy red wines were flown from Paris. Even President Putin`s private train "did not have the comfort of Kim Jong Il`s train," Mr. Pulikovsky wrote.

Impressed with the brown bread at a Khabarovsk restaurant, North Korea`s leader had an aide fly 20 loaves to Pyongyang so that it would be fresh on his arrival.

On a stop at Omsk, the North Korean rejected a plate of barrel-salted pickles, dismissing the offer as shoddily marinated cucumbers from Bulgaria, not prepared in the authentic Russian style.

"Then they served tiny pelmenis, kopeck-size, in a small frying pan baked under cheese and mayonnaise," Mr. Pulikovsky wrote, recalling crestfallen faces on the Siberian hosts at the arrival of the Russian meat dumplings. "Kim Jong Il picked at them with a fork and said: `What kind of pelmeni are these? They should be big, boiled and in broth."`


I have no idea whether Kim Jong Il's Candid Talk Caught on Tape is real or not. It is not implausible upon first read. If it is for real, it's fascinating.

I just don't see these people, and certainly not Kim Jong-Il--Jesus, he lives like a Mesopotamian god-king. Why would he want to throw it all away?

Note, too, the person in the interview, Pulikovsky's gourmet and the Kim Il-Jong we all know from the news, acting crazy--crazy as a fox--all have one thing in common: they are very very on the ball. He's finessed Kim Dae Jung, the present administration and its predecessor. I know we're supposed to have a two minute hate about what an evil monster he, and no doubt he is, but for a fact, he is shrewd, he is smart and he has us hooked on his lure.

From my readings, what he wants is a treaty of nonaggression, an end to the state of war betwen the United States and diplomatic recogniton.

Yes, yes, he's a monster and megalomaniac blah blah woof woof but a), we are not without the type on our side, coughTurkmenistancough, and b), people should just get over the fact that we are going to have to deal with him, because considering the alternative, it's the prudent thing to do.

That is, unless Bush, Rumsfeld, Rove and Wolfowitz are crazy, as in insane--insane enough to think about going pre-emptive warfare on the little guy and start something.

God help us if life imitates a Tom Clancy novel, and we get Western with North Korea, because untested anti-missles only work in Tom Clancy novels. not in real life, and all the faith-based interceptors we buy with our billions won't save our asses on that dreadful day.

I rather doubt it will happen--he's too smart and we're too smart. I would like to think. I hope. To be honest, I'm scared.
posted by y2karl at 6:46 PM on February 25, 2003


Meanwhile, U.S. Considers Conventional Warheads on Nuclear Missiles.
posted by homunculus at 9:06 PM on February 25, 2003


Here's a National Missile Defense system that might work.
posted by homunculus at 8:55 PM on February 26, 2003


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