[F] New York Times on the Web Forums  / Science  /

    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?

Earliest MessagesPrevious MessagesRecent MessagesOutline (7255 previous messages)

rshowalter - 08:00pm Jul 19, 2001 EST (#7256 of 7257) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

"The malfunction was first described by The Los Angeles Times today.

"Colonel Lehner asserted that the problem was not major, and probably could be rectified by rewriting software.

Comment: This is provably untrue for real computers, using results in standard texts such as Knuth.

"Over all, he contended, the test proves that the X-band radar works. He said other sensors were able to confirm the intercept.

"Critics of the Bush administration's missile defense plans said the failure was more significant than the Pentagon was willing to admit. They contended that if the radar locked up when tracking debris from a collision, adversaries could confound it by surrounding their warheads with tiny scraps of metal, or chaff.

"That has to be right -- or if not chaff, in the simple sense of the foil strips used in World War II -- then chaff with themes and variations that can fool any specific system that doesn't exactly anticipate the specific geometries (and mix of geometries) that happens to be used.

""Chaff is simple and it's cheap," Joseph Cirincione, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said. "This underscores the unreality of these tests, how carefully choreographed they are for success. They work only as long as everything goes exactly according to plan."

"Philip E. Coyle III, the former director of testing for the Pentagon, said that had the system malfunctioned in a real attack, a battle manager might have continued firing interceptors at a target that had been destroyed, wasting precious weapons.

Comment: the problems in battle management simulation in the Coyle Report were massive and daunting -- results, by tactical standards, were terribly unsatisfactory in fundamental ways not due to contractor error -- but due instead to inherent difficulty of the task being undertaken.

"As the Pentagon makes its missile defense tests more complicated, he said, software problems are likely to arise, raising questions about whether the Pentagon will be able to have a system ready for operation as quickly as the administration wants.

Comment: There have been major slippages, consistently, on the program, and they have been going on for a long time. Not even the simulations can be made to work, unless the word "work" is given an almost comic and tactically trivial meaning.

"Aides to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he had not been briefed about the problems with the X-band radar.

"In a news conference today, Mr. Rumsfeld said of Saturday's test, "As with any test, you're testing any number of things, and inevitably there are going to be one or two things, or more, that you learn from that you need to do differently."

"He said he was pleased with the test, the second success out of four tries in the last two years. "It's better to have two out of four than one out of four," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Yes, 2 > 1 .

* * * * * * * * * * *

Taking the data in the Coyle Report NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE DEPLOYMENT READINESS REVIEW 10 August 2000 . . . . . . . and connecting it to standard results in computer programming, such as those set out in Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming , it can be shown that the program cannot work tactically in any sense that makes military sense . Even if computer programming difficulties were the only difficulties -- and there are other show-stoppers, too.

That conclusion is reinforced by this failure on what was a very simplified and dumbed down test.

rshowalter - 08:03pm Jul 19, 2001 EST (#7257 of 7257) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

These results shouldn't be a surprise. The "unsurprising surprise" is no miracles.

In crucial ways, these radars act as they'd be expected to on the basis of the open literature.

This isn't a sensible military program -- it is a bunch of marginal stunts, strung together, as it has been for years.

Good engineers are wasting their lives, and whole organizations are becoming corrupted, trying to do a job that simply can't be done.

("Brilliant pebbles" would be WORSE. )

 Read Subscriptions  Cancel Subscriptions  Search  Post Message
 Email to Sysop  Your Preferences

 [F] New York Times on the Web Forums  / Science  / Missile Defense

Enter your response, then click the POST MY MESSAGE button below.
See the
quick-edit help for more information.

Home | Site Index | Site Search | Forums | Archives | Shopping

News | Business | International | National | New York Region | NYT Front Page | Obituaries | Politics | Quick News | Sports | Science | Technology/Internet | Weather
Editorial | Op-Ed

Features | Arts | Automobiles | Books | Cartoons | Crossword | Games | Job Market | Living | Magazine | Real Estate | Travel | Week in Review

Help/Feedback | Classifieds | Services | New York Today

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company