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

    Missile Defense

Technology has always found its greatest consumer in a nation's war and defense efforts. Since the last attempts at a "Star Wars" defense system, has technology changed considerably enough to make the latest Missile Defense initiatives more successful? Can such an application of science be successful? Is a militarized space inevitable, necessary or impossible?

Read Debates, a new Web-only feature culled from Readers' Opinions, published every Thursday.

Earliest Messages Previous Messages Recent Messages Outline (16824 previous messages)

lchic - 12:52am Nov 8, 2003 EST (# 16825 of 16832)
ultimately TRUTH outs : TRUTH has to be morally forcing : build on TRUTH it's a strong foundation

Questions raised over missile shield effectiveness

PM - Thursday, 27 February , 2003 00:00:00

MARK COLVIN: From a United States point of view, Australia makes a prime partner in the so-called “Son of Star Wars” program, not least because of our geographical position in the southern hemisphere.

But there are big scientific question marks over whether the system will ever repay the billions it's going to cost, let alone provide a fail-safe defence against incoming warheads.

Scientists compare it with the idea of trying to stop a bullet with another bullet, and given the American test results so far, it's hardly surprising that American scientists are calling for a rethink.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: To the Bush Administration, it's the solution to one of its greatest long term security problems; a massive protective missile defence shield, stretching out across the region. This is how it would work:

The enemy launches a nuclear attack on Washington, sending an intercontinental ballistic missile into space. Within half an hour it will have re-entered the atmosphere, and wiped out the National Capital.

But instead, an early warning radar would locate the missile and track it. A military base on a tiny pacific atoll would be notified, and within minutes America would be sending its own missile back up into space to destroy the incoming enemy missile.

President Bush wants the defence shield to be operational by 2004. A conservative estimate of the likely cost of a layered missile defence system is just over 1 trillion dollars. Demonstration test are underway, with less than positive results. Many are asking, why bother?

TED POSTOL: There's no science here at all. This is just made up by people in political positions.

ALISON CALDWELL: Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Policy at MIT, Ted Postol is an ardent critic of the proposed National Missile Defence System. He says the idea is fundamentally flawed.

TED POSTOL: The United States has been unable to demonstrate that it can tell even the simplest of decoys from warheads. The testing has pretty much verified that they can't tell the difference, which basically means that the missile defence system that the United States is currently deploying has no chance of working against any real adversary.

ALISON CALDWELL: When they say to us technologies are developing at such a rate in the United States that this will be a legitimate form of potential defence against any threat, is that overoptimistic?

TED POSTOL: Well, I would say it's a scientifically uninformed claim. What the missile defence system that the United States is currently deploying tries to do is tell decoys from warheads by basically looking at them through an infrared telescope that is part of the kill vehicle that actually tries to make an intercept.

So this is the equivalent of... since you're looking at it through, essentially what one would call optics, even if it's infrared optics, you're basically trying to see with eyes what's inside a bunch of objects in front of you.

So this is the equivalent of looking at suitcases in an airport, and based on your visual inspection alone, determining whether or not there's a bomb inside the suitcase. The shape of the suitcase and its colour and the material on the surface have nothing to do whether or not there's a bomb in the suitcase, so there's no hope of visually inspecting the suitcase and learning about what's inside it.

Now, if you have better instruments, let's say you have binoculars or telescopes or microscopes or blue-coloured glasses or red-coloured glasses, I still have the same fundamental limitation. I'm seeing the surface of the object, and what I see has nothing to do with what's inside of it.

ALISON CALDWELL: So what were the reports, what were the results, say, of the last test series that

lchic - 12:55am Nov 8, 2003 EST (# 16826 of 16832)
ultimately TRUTH outs : TRUTH has to be morally forcing : build on TRUTH it's a strong foundation

Australia : increase in military spending : equipment upgrades

lchic - 01:02am Nov 8, 2003 EST (# 16827 of 16832)
ultimately TRUTH outs : TRUTH has to be morally forcing : build on TRUTH it's a strong foundation

DOH! | Murdoch's Fox News channel threatened to sue the makers of The Simpsons because of program parodied the channel's right-wing political stance.

.... The Murdoch group took particular offence to those which lampooned the channel's anti-Democrat stance, with headlines like "Do Democrats Cause Cancer?"

MARK GROENING: Fox fought against it and said that they would sue. (laughs) They would sue the show and we just, we called their bluff because we didn't think Rupert Murdoch would pay for Fox to sue itself.

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