07 December 2008

Another Perspective on the Missile Test

From Foreign Policy Watch
Diplomatic strategy, international news, and thoughtful political analysis

December 6, 2008
Failure to Launch: "Successful" Missile Defense Test

Much of the criticism of the test trials of the US ground-based missile defense system has focused on the fact that the Pentagon's tests have almost always been carried out under highly scripted scenarios. Most notoriously, most instances have involved the launching of interceptors when the time of launch and flight trajectory of the target missile were known in advance. The trials also frequently do not realistically involve missiles equipped with decoys that would otherwise work to deceive interceptors and tracking radars in flight. Neither of these comforts are conditions that would prevail in the event of an actual attack.

Yesterday, the Missile Defense Agency conducted its most recent test, this time involving decoys. At least, that was the plan. While the test was dubbed a "success," there was only one problem: the countermeasures failed to deploy.

Military officials said the test showed for the first time that various radars and defense systems could be used together.

However, the success of the test was tempered by the failure of the dummy target to deploy planned "countermeasures" -- devices designed to try to throw off the interceptor. As a result, officials could not tell whether the system can distinguish between a warhead and decoys that probably would accompany an actual attack.

Needless to say, any state willing to launch an offensive ballistic missile attack against the US is going to (1) launch more than one missile and (2) be certain that its countermeasures are able to successfully evade intercept attempts by US missile defense systems.


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