The missile defense testing record

March 18, 2009

The THAAD system was tested successfully again yesterday.  That extends missile defense’s near-perfect testing record since the system was deployed in December 2002.  This seems like a good occasion to update the testing chronology:

The land- and air-based systems have a perfect record since December 2002.  The four failures during that time are all of the Aegis/SM-3 system (against nine successes).

(Previous post.  More background here.)

UPDATE: Another successful Aegis/SM-3 test on July 31, 2009.

The missile defense testing record

November 29, 2008

Last June I collated the missile defense testing record from MDA press releases. In light of my last post, I thought I would update the record with tests since June. There have been four tests during that time:

  • June 25, 2008: THAAD test successful.
  • November 19, 2008: Japanese Aegis/SM-3 test unsuccessful.
  • November 1, 2008: Aegis/SM-3 dual target test mixed (one target intercepted, one not).
  • September 17, 2007: THAAD test aborted (target missile failed).

There have been no intercept tests of the best known missile-defense system, the GBMD (ground-based midcourse defense), during that time. November was a tough month for the Aegis/SM-3 system, making only one of three attempted intercepts. If we set aside the aborted THAAD test, the Aegis/SM-3 is the only system to fail since missile defense was deployed in December 2002.

UPDATE (12/6): Another test of the GBMD system yesterday was a qualified success.  The system intercepted the target, but the test was intended to include countermeasures that failed to deploy, so it wasn’t as difficult as intended.

The missile defense testing record

June 17, 2008

Two months ago, I linked to a chronology of missile defense tests at the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance web site. Unfortunately, that link went stale, so I decided to assemble a chronology of my own by correlating dates from the MDAA with press releases at the Missile Defense Agency. Since the first missile defense system was ordered deployed in December 2002, there have been 23 tests reported by the MDA:

For those keeping score, that’s 23 successes and 2 failures. Both failures were for the Aegis/SM-3; one in 2006 when an interceptor failed to fire, the other back in 2003 when an interceptor missed its target.

GMBD (pdf) (ground-based midcourse defense) is the best-known, long-range system, designed to destroy missiles at a distance. THAAD (pdf) (terminal high-altitude area defense) is a portable ground-based system. Aegis/SM-2 and SM-3 (pdf) are sea-based systems (using two different missiles). NCADE (pdf) (net-centric air defense element) is an air-based system, designed to destroy missiles during their boost phase. PAC-3 (pdf) (Patriot advanced capability) is an evolution of the Patriot system, designed for short-range interceptions.

ASIDE: The MDAA says there have been four more PAC-3 tests (all successful) than the MDA has reported. (The MDA stopped issuing press releases related to the PAC-3 system after its successful test in September 2005.) If we count those, the record goes to 27-2.

UPDATE (11/29): I update the record through November 2008 here.

Missile defense works

December 10, 2012

The big liberal argument against missile defense has always been that missile defense doesn’t work. Even with all the successful tests of our missile defense system, the critics have always said that the tests were not realistic. That was an easy argument to make; you can never have a fully realistic test unless someone is launching hostile missiles at you.

And that’s exactly what happened in Israel last month. Hamas launched countless missiles against Israel, and Israel’s new Iron Dome system shot nearly all of them down.

Giving away missile defense

May 31, 2011

Last month, Republican lawmakers wrote to President Obama asking him to promise not to give away our missile defense technology to the Russians — which obviously would help the Russians develop countermeasures. The White House refused to answer.

POSTSCRIPT: The subject of the linked article is a veiled threat by Dmitry Medvedev, but it was sufficiently veiled that I don’t understand it.

Administration lied about missile defense negotiations

December 2, 2010

The Washington Times reports:

The Obama administration, despite public denials, held secret talks with Russia aimed at reaching a ballistic missile defense agreement that Moscow ultimately rejected in May, according to an internal State Department report. . .

The four-page document circulated on Capitol Hill stated that administration officials held four meetings with the Russians and last spring presented a draft Ballistic Missile Defense Cooperation Agreement (BMDCA) to Russian negotiators.

The internal report contradicts congressional testimony by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in June denying a missile defense deal was in the works.

New Iranian missile can reach Europe

September 28, 2009

AP reports:

Iran tested its most advanced missiles Monday to cap two days of war games, raising more international concern and stronger pressure to quickly come clean on the newly revealed nuclear site Tehran was secretly constructing.

State television said the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which controls Iran’s missile program, successfully tested upgraded versions of the medium-range Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles. Both can carry warheads and reach up to 1,200 miles, putting Israel, U.S. military bases in the Middle East, and parts of Europe within striking distance.

The president’s decision to scrap missile defense in Europe, ostensibly because Iran isn’t working on long-range missiles, looks even more idiotic now.

Israel tests Iron Dome

March 27, 2009

Fox News reports:

Israel’s Defense Ministry says it has successfully tested a high-tech system designed to intercept incoming rockets.

A ministry statement says the Iron Dome system successfully dealt with incoming rockets of the types fired by Palestinian and Lebanese militants in tests this week, terming the test a “milestone.”

The statement stopped short of saying the system shot rockets down with an interceptor missile. Defense officials said Friday the system will likely be ready by the 2010 target date for deployment.

Popular Mechanics on missile defense

November 29, 2008

Popular Mechanics has an interesting article on the technology of missile defense. It takes a somewhat skeptical tone, which I suppose is fair, but what isn’t fair is their misrepresentation of the testing record:

Which leaves a vital question: Does the system work? That’s a matter of fierce debate, and the success rate of tests is mixed. Since 1999, the MDA’s strategic defense system has passed seven out of 12 hit-to-kill tests. But in the six years since President George W. Bush pushed for deployment to counter North Korean missiles, only two of the ground-based interceptor tests have been successful.

There have been exactly two GBMD intercept tests during that time (2006 and 2007 (pdfs)), so the fact that “only two” were successful isn’t exactly a mixed record. One might criticize them for lack of testing, but that’s an entirely different critique. (Full-fledged intercept tests are very expensive, so they run a lot more tracking tests (pdf) and so forth.)

(Via Instapundit.)

POSTSCRIPT: Popular Mechanics links a Time article that argues the Obama administration will continue the program.  I sure hope so.

Obama urged to keep missile defense

November 13, 2008

General Obering is trying to persuade Obama to follow through with missile defense in Europe:

The Air Force general who runs the Pentagon’s missile defense projects said that American interests would be “severely hurt” if President-elect Obama decided to halt plans developed by the Bush administration to install missile interceptors in Eastern Europe.

Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told a group of reporters Wednesday that he is awaiting word from Obama’s transition team on their interest in receiving briefings.

During the campaign, Obama was not explicit about his intentions with regard to missile defense. . . Obama has said it would be prudent to “explore the possibility of deploying missile defense systems in Europe,” in light of what he called active efforts by Iran to develop ballistic missiles as well as nuclear weapons.

(Via Instapundit.)

I’d be surprised if Obama okays the European deployment. It’s true that at times he was vague about whether he would, but I think that was election-season equivocation. In the general election, the anti-war left had no additional support to give him. (Earlier, before the nomination was locked up, he was strident in opposition to missile defense.)

My guess (or perhaps I should say my most realistic hope) is that Obama will cut the baby in two: keep the North American missile defense system that’s already deployed, but abandon a European shield. Shutting down a working system would be a truly rash step, beyond (hopefully) what President Obama would do. If he did, and it ever were needed, history would not be kind to him.

Whether ongoing research will continue I cannot hazard a guess. Obama has said we will “work with NATO allies to develop anti-missile technologies,” whatever that means.

But the wild card is whether Obama will meet with Obering:

Obama expressed some skepticism about the technical capability of U.S. missile defenses. . . Obering, who is leaving his post next week after more than four years in charge, said in the interview that his office has pulled together information for a presentation to the Obama team, if asked.

“What we have discovered is that a lot of the folks that have not been in this administration seem to be dated, in terms of the program,” he said. “They are kind of calibrated back in the 2000 time frame and we have come a hell of a long way since 2000. Our primary objective is going to be just, frankly, educating them on what we have accomplished, what we have been able to do and why we have confidence in what we are doing.”

If he gets the chance to make the case, he can point to a very successful testing record since the system was deployed in 2002. Perhaps that will sway the President. Conversely, if Obama won’t even listen, that’s a bad sign.

Laser gunship tested

August 31, 2008

Extremely cool. I agree with Glenn Reynolds that the deniability aspect doesn’t make much sense, but it would be just as awesome used overtly:

According to the developers, the accuracy of this weapon is little short of supernatural. They claim that the pinpoint precision can make it lethal or non-lethal at will. For example, they say it can either destroy a vehicle completely, or just damage the tires to immobilize it. The illustration shows a theoretical 26-second engagement in which the beam deftly destroys “32 tires, 11 Antennae, 3 Missile Launchers, 11 EO devices, 4 Mortars, 5 Machine Guns” — while avoiding harming a truckload of refugees and the soldiers guarding them. It reminds me of how the Lone Ranger could always shoot the gun out an opponent’s hand without injuring them; if that could really be done from an aircraft circling overhead, it would certainly be an impressive feat.

This precision should make the ATL a highly effective anti-personnel weapon, able to target (or “assassinate,” depending on your politics) a specific individual in a group with sniper-like precision.

NATO endorses missile shield

April 3, 2008

NATO leaders agreed to extend our missile defense system to cover Europe by installing a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland.

Missile defense is now official policy not only of the United States, but of NATO as well. Hopefully this will make it hard for the Democrats to shut down a system that is already installed and working. Honestly, I don’t understand why they continue to oppose it. The system is built and has passed 28 of 29 tests since it was deployed. Reagan, their nemesis, has passed away. It simply goes beyond reason now.

BONUS: An interesting video on the state-of-the-art in missile defense. (Via Instapundit.) It’s half an hour long, but well worth it if you’re interested in missile defense. (Bear with it, they do eventually point the camera at the screen.)

UPDATE (6/17): Sigh, the testing record link is stale now. I assemble my own chronology here. With my conservative methodology, I calculated a 23-2 record.

Iron Beam

March 1, 2014

Years ago, liberals made an ideological commitment to the idea that missile defense was impossible. It’s easy to understand how: Reagan was for it, and liberals were against everything he was for. Why they’ve never been able to shed that position in the ensuing decades is truly a puzzler. Despite all the things modern technology has accomplished (including successes in missile defense!), missile defense is the one thing that liberals believe is impossible.

But while America’s implementation of missile defense has been desultory, Israel hasn’t had the luxury of being able to accommodate its defense nay-sayers. They have implemented a system, and it works. Their Iron Dome system shoots down incoming rockets from Gaza, allowing their citizens to live normal lives while under constant attack.

But it’s expensive, so the Israelis have developed a cheaper solution:

At $100,000 a pop, missile interception isn’t cheap. And that’s why Israel is investigating lasers. Last week Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd, the company behind the Iron Dome, unveiled its new Iron Beam system, a less expensive and more versatile laser-based addition to Israel’s defensive arsenal. The Iron Beam, which could be deployed as early as 2015, will reportedly vaporize short-range rockets, mortars, and even drones using high-kilowatt lasers.

“It’s exactly like what you see in Star Wars,” Amit Zimmer, a company spokesperson, told the Associated Press. “You see the lasers go up so quickly, like a flash, and the target is finished.”

I’ll be watching this with interest. The liberals have been very clear that shooting down missiles with lasers is impossible.

Worst. Idea. Ever.

May 16, 2013

The Obama administration wants to give technical information on our missile defense to the Russians?!

This isn’t stupid. Stupid doesn’t begin to cover it. Treason is more apt.

The left has always opposed missile defense. Why, I’m not quite sure. They like to say it’s because missile defense can’t work, which they might actually believe but isn’t true. But here you have something quite different. Here you have Obama taking steps to make sure it doesn’t work.

He doesn’t want us to have a missile defense! For heaven’s sake, why?


December 2, 2010

The content of the latest Wikileaks treason dump is mostly unsurprising. The main damage will be done not by the content of the document dump, but by world leaders’ unwillingness to speak frankly in the future since they know we cannot keep a secret.

Still, the dump does contain some interesting revelations:

  1. During its 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah smuggled weapons in ambulances marked by the Red Crescent.
  2. When President Obama said he needed concessions from Israel to get Arab states to agree to action against Iran’s nuclear program, that was a lie. The Arab states wanted Iran stopped, and Israel had nothing to do with it.
  3. Germany urged the Obama administration to tighten the screws on Israel. (One might have thought that Germany, with its history, would have felt it better to stay out of it.)
  4. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, and his government lied in saying that they had not discussed basing missile defense on Turkish soil. (ASIDE: A high-ranking Turkish politician, nonplussed by this and other revelations, accused Israel of being behind Wikileaks somehow. The anti-Semitism is never buried very deep with these guys.)

Iran could have ICBMs in five years

April 20, 2010

Fox News reports:

“With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States by 2015,” says a new 12 page unclassified report prepared by the Department of Defense on the Iran Military Threat.

Meanwhile, we have no strategy for dealing with Iran.

Israel interecepts Iranian weapon shipment

November 4, 2009

Fox News reports:

Israeli defense officials say a ship the navy confiscated on Wednesday in waters off Cyprus was carrying more than 60 tons of weapons.

They say the cargo included missiles, antitank weapons and mortars. The officials said the weapons were coming from Iran and were bound for Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

UPDATE: This video gives a sense of the size of this shipment.

Medvedev unconciliatory

November 12, 2008

Fox News reports:

Barack Obama had been president-elect for all of one day last week when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called him out, reminding many of vice president-to-be Joe Biden’s warning that America’s enemies would test the new president with an international crisis within six months.

In his first state-of-the-nation address, Medvedev threatened to move short-range missiles to Russia’s borders with NATO countries to counter America’s plan to build a missile defense shield in Poland.

Medvedev didn’t congratulate Obama or mention him by name in his nationally televised 85-minute address, during which he blamed Washington for the war in Georgia and the world financial crisis and suggested it was up to Washington to mend badly damaged ties.

“It was a really unfortunate time to make this type of statement, just when Obama was elected,” said Dimitri K. Simes, president of The Nixon Center and author of “After the Collapse: Russia Seeks Its Place as a Great Power.”

“It was a poor way to communicate the interest Russia has in the new beginning of the United States,” Simes said.

A poor way? To the contrary, I think Medvedev conveyed precisely the interest Russia has in the new American administration. Those who think that Russia (and Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, etc.) are opposed not to America, but merely to President Bush, are going to find themselves greatly disappointed.

Russia rattles the saber

July 9, 2008

The Kremlin ratchets up its rhetoric against deployment of a missile defense system in Europe (the one the American left says can’t work):

Russia will be forced to make a military response if the U.S.-Czech missile defense agreement is ratified, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. . . Russia says the system would severely undermine European security balances by weakening Russia’s missile capacity.

If the agreement is ratified, “we will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods,” the Foreign Ministry statement said. It did not give specifics of what the response would entail. . .

The U.S. has pushed the plan as necessary to prevent missile attacks by rogue nations, pointing to Iran as a particular concern. But Russia dismisses the likelihood of such threats.

Speaking of which, in other news:

Iran’s state television says its Revolutionary Guards have tested nine new long- and medium-range missiles in war games that officials say are in response to U.S. and Israeli threats.

Unproven technology works again

July 7, 2008

Israel has succesfully tested another missile defense system.  The “Iron Dome” system is intended to intercept the rockets that are fired frequently into Israel from Gaza and Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon.  It has also been reported that the system is effective against mortar fire.

(Via Instapundit.)

Obama’s disarmament plan

June 18, 2008

IBD doesn’t like Obama’s plan to disarm America:

In a 132-word videotaped pledge (still viewable on YouTube), Obama agreed to hollow out the U.S. military by slashing both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The scope of his planned defense cuts, combined with his angry tone, is breathtaking. He sounds as if the military is the enemy, not the bad guys it’s fighting. Here is a transcript:

“I’m the only major candidate who opposed this war from the beginning; and as president, I will end it.

“Second, I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems.

“I will institute an independent defense priorities board to ensure that the Quadrennial Review is not used to justify unnecessary defense spending.

“Third, I will set a goal for a world without nuclear weapons. To seek that goal, I will not develop nuclear weapons; I will seek a global ban on the production of fissile material; and I will negotiate with Russia to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert, and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenal.”

Video here, and his tone is indeed striking. (Via LGF.)

POSTSCRIPT: What exactly would it take for missile defense to be “proven”? Not a deployed system with 23 of 25 tests successful, obviously. I guess the only way to prove it is to shoot down an enemy missile in action. That’s the one proof we’ll never be able to get, if Obama has his way.

Obama’s plan to disarm the US

June 8, 2008

IBD doesn’t like it.  (Via LGF, which has the video.)  The Democrats haven’t run anyone this hostile to defense in years.

POSTSCRIPT: Missile defense is just one part of Obama’s diatribe, but I have to ask:  He calls missile defense “unproven” despite dozens of successful tests.  What would it take for such a system to be proven?  Can anything “prove” the system other than intercepting a real missile in flight?  That’s the one proof that Obama wants to make sure we can never have!