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    Missile Defense

Russian military leaders have expressed concern about US plans for a national missile defense system. Will defense technology be limited by possibilities for a strategic imbalance? Is this just SDI all over again?

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rshowalter - 08:34am Jul 17, 2001 EST (#7119 of 7122) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

I thought the editorial was very good, but I'd modify or supplement some words in it.

"Many more tests will be needed before a reliable ground-based system is ready for use. These must include tests under more realistic conditions, with the dummy warhead surrounded by multiple decoys designed to draw the interceptor away from the target. Saturday's test used a single decoy.

I'd add: The decoys should be realistic - - they should be reasonably close to the decoys an adversary could make for .1% of its missile development expenditure.

"This extended testing period should be used to try to negotiate a new understanding with Russia

I'd add: Both sides should, ideally, consider what the real risks and destabilizations are, and not stand too much on operationally insignificant technicalities. The ABM treaty should be robust in the ways that matter -- not brittle, to be destroyed by actions that do not realistically involve real changes in force balances.

"Boost-phase systems have some clear technological and diplomatic advantages. They home in on an enemy missile when it is still moving relatively slowly, is unlikely to be surrounded by decoys and is trailed by a hot and bright plume of rocket exhaust. The interceptor rockets, whether based on land or sea, would need to be situated very close to the specific countries being defended against and would pose no threat to the missile forces of other countries, like Russia or China.

The editorial is discussing Richard Garwin's close-in smart rock boost phase proposal, which is well within the realm of the technically possible -- as gisterme and I agree. (I made a limited apology to gisterme on this subject.) .... MD6676 gisterme 7/6/01 12:16pm .... MD6680 rshowalter 7/6/01 12:53pm ... MD6681 gisterme 7/6/01 12:56pm ... MD6683 rshowalter 7/6/01 1:03pm ... MD6700-01 rshowalter 7/6/01 4:37pm ...

"But these systems also have important drawbacks. The order to fire interceptors would have to be issued almost immediately by field commanders after an enemy missile launch, leaving little time for consultation with Washington. Design and testing of a boost-phase system would take many years.

Comment: These objections apply to any proposal for missile defense. Missile defense is a quick-draw business by nature. In my view, the Garwin proposal could be a working system, offering some defense, sooner than anything else the US has at any stage of development.

"Even if Moscow agrees to permit boost-phase testing, Washington should continue its efforts to perfect a ground-based system.

It should IF it has something that can work on paper. Projects that can't work on paper don't merit huge expenditures -- because they are hopeless.

lunarchick - 08:38am Jul 17, 2001 EST (#7120 of 7122)


rshowalter - 08:38am Jul 17, 2001 EST (#7121 of 7122) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

I'd add something else. Theater missile defense, against short range tactical missiles, is a different business from defense against longer range missiles. We don't have the Patriot missile, which should have worked in the Gulf war, working yet - because of control problems. We should fix those control problems, and do other possible things.

lunarchick - 08:42am Jul 17, 2001 EST (#7122 of 7122)

Watching and waiting

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