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Nuclear Missile Defense is far from a perfect solution

This successful nuclear missile defense test doesn’t mean the US is safe from nuclear attacks, Washington Examiner by Tom Rogan |  The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is watching its computer screens carefully, with fingers crossed.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, the agency successfully tested its Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile midcourse missile-defense system. The test involved an interceptor ”kill vehicle” destroying a pretend ICBM plus warhead nuclear missile in outer space. In this case, over the Pacific Ocean.

That’s a fancy way of saying the system can stop a nuclear missile from hitting its target after the nuke has been fired.

It’s a big moment. Previous tests have had mixed success, and the Pentagon will be very relieved this one succeeded. Still, when it comes to missile defense tests, the devil is in the data. Specialists will be nervously trawling over the data to see how well the interceptor performed. They know the threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missile program is growing rapidly. To justify their vast budget ($8.2 billion in the 2017 fiscal year), the agency is under huge pressure to deliver results.

That said, Tuesday’s success was expected. For one, the interceptor’s ”exo-atmospheric kill vehicle” (the interceptor element that slams into the enemy missile) employed today is new. As missile expert Laura Grego, explains, this particular kill vehicle has advanced thrusters that allow for very fine-tuned adjustments just before impact. Dealing with missiles flying through space at thousands of miles an hour, kill-vehicle calculations must be precise.

Nevertheless, we need to be careful here. Missile defense is far from a perfect solution.

For a start, interceptor systems remain in their infancy. They have not been tested against the high-end countermeasure technologies with which world powers equip their nuclear missiles. That speaks to a broader issue here. Remember, this test was not simply about the U.S. military’s technology-mission requirements. It was also a public relations opportunity, one the Pentagon needed to pass.

Put simply, we are years away from having interceptors that would offer credible deterrence against advanced Russian ICBMs.

But that’s just one issue. Another challenge? Relative numbers. At present, the U.S. has 36 interceptors on the West Coast. Yet the Russians have thousands of nuclear warheads, and the Chinese have hundreds. Even then, with North Korea likely possessing more than 10 nuclear weapons already, its rapidly advancing missile capabilities are a major threat. Once North Korea acquires the ability to build one ICBM plus warhead capability, it will rapidly be able to build many more……..


June 2, 2017 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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