Monday, August 28, 2006

The Usual Spin

On a tour of the Pacific Rim, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered a cautious assessment when asked if U.S. missile interceptor (recently installed in Alaska) could actually knock down a North Korean ICBM. Rumsfeld said more extensive testing is needed before he will be fully persuaded that the system works as advertised:

According to the SecDef, "A full end-to-end" demonstration is needed "where we actually put all the pieces" of the highly complex and far-flung missile defense system together and see whether it would succeed in destroying a warhead in flight.

"That just hasn't happened," he said, adding that some elements of the missile defense system are yet to come on line, including some of the radars and other sensors used to track the target missile.

The MSM is spinning Rumsfeld's comments as a less-than-ringing endorsement of ballistic missile defense, which the press often depicts as a boondoggle that is doomed to failure, despite the investment of billions of tax dollars. However, Rumsfeld's remarks were less a critique of the system that a mere statement of fact. Ballistic missile defense is an extremely complex system that relies on equally complex sub-systems. Some of those elements are now deployed--such as the interceptor missiles that Rumsfeld saw in Alaska. Others are still in development and a few are still on the drawing board. An overall assessment of the system's performance really can't be made until it is fully deployed, integrated and tested--events that are still somewhere down the road.

Readers will note that the AP story carefully omits the major strides made by missile defense over the past two decades. Deployment of those interceptor missiles, tracking radars, and space-based sensors represent a major technological feat. Ditto for recent tests of shipborne missile interceptors which validated the ability of the Aegis system to provide long-range, sea-based missile defense. Collectively, these systems have given the U.S. (and its allies) an initial capability against limited enemy missile attacks. The system is hardly fool-proof or perfect, but it has advanced far beyond the early experiments of the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan's dream was widely derided and scoffed. Reading the AP story, you'd almost believe that it was 1985, and those missiles at Fort Greely were part of a system that will never work. Thankfully, that it not the case.

If you're genuinely interested in BMD, make a visit to the Missile Defense Agency homepage. True, MDA is a bit biased on the subject, but no more than the AP's Robert Burns, who wrote the wire service report.


Andrew said...

If North Korea actually had an ICBM, then maybe. And the Alaska site could do nothing if the North Koreans took a shot at Hawaii.

blert said...

The purpose behind BMD is to change the calculus of those targeting us.

Even at less than perfect, any system must be credited by others as having capability. They must reconize that their targetting strategy is somewhat compromised, perhaps fatally so.

For minor players, the loss of even a handful of missles might ruin their whole gambit.

America has a global reputation for pulling technological advances 'out of a hat'. Publicly released information is always toned down inregards capabilities.

A classic example: the SR-71 Blackbird. A true product of the Skunk Works it was usually touted as a double sonic aircraft. Only after its final retirement Aviation Week publishes its true performance: Absolute top peak... Mach 4.5... Routine high speed Mach 3.+....

Another example: the Iowa battleships. Carried in Janes for years as 32 knot ships... Actual wartime peak speed 35 knots combat loaded -- combat conditions. By comparison the Bismark's absolute top speed for trials 28.5 knots... top combat speed 26 knots. This spread is huge for the period.

And so it goes with virtually all platforms: ground, naval, air.

So when the Sec Def soft pedals some new whiz bang gear costing Manhattan Project amounts no one really believes it doesn't work... except American leftists.

After all, when American traitors informed Stalin what was being spent on Manhattan he changed his mind from scepticism to wonderment. Naturally he coded the project 'Enormous'.

The Gross War Product dedicated to Manhattan was approximately half of all Soviet War Product. ( The B-29 project was only funded as an adjunct to Manhattan. We spent more building the plane to get the bomb to target as on the bomb itself. The linkage between the two programs was not admitted to for decades. Instead the bomb 'just seemed to fit' the big bomber.)( And barely at that: both were put on a diet.)

Andrew said...

I understand the purpose of BMD well - I was simply responding to the North Korea Scenario. The fact is, the North Korean missiles don't have the range to even be shot down by our BMD system. So saying this is somehow affects North Korea is kind of ludicrious. At their current rate, they are a very long ways away from an ICBM capability. Now, if we had a launch and radar site in Japan, it would be completely different story.

boinky said... a doc, I don't know a thing about all this, but don't you think that some of the bases have a bit too much information on line?
LINK I mean, not only a map and technical information, but a layout of the control room and a list of local bars?
I haven't seen such laxity since I entered Mountain Home Airbase during an anti nuke demonstration simply because our truck had a sticker on it...

Andrew said...

The link you show is way off in the South Pacific where we used to test nukes. Even if it was easy to get to, I don't see anything there that concerns me from a security stanpoint.

augurwell said...


You know, I came across some interesting information that I thought about, Nord Koreans have only been announcing the things that they have been announcing concerning missile launches and/or nuclear arms only in response to the fact that our intel. on these matters has been fed back to them (to the Nord Koreans) and that a kind of induced reverse transparency is on them.

They are found out, they are on notice, being informed of what we know, they know they know that they are doing. This means they have to say something about these missile explosions that they knew were going to happen but that they had to test anyway to see because they just couldn't believe we were serious. (i.e. The stuff they say before a missile is launched.)

The continuation of this information indicates that there is high chance that some of their nuclear test will proceed in the same fashion.

On another note NASA recently captured some cosmic dust off a comet and returned it to earth with tech. finesse. The paint was still on the landing device recovered in the desert and it, I think, was the fastest thing ever brought through re-entry after a couple of billions of miles od space travel. (No, these two things are not even distantly related.)

This kind of stuff never happens, it is all fantasy, filmed in Hollywood.