US missile defense system not doing so well


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Congressional Research Service Skepticism On BMD Grows

by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Feb 08, 2007

The U.S. armed forces have demonstrated no learning curve in their development 
of kinetic energy interceptors to destroy incoming ballistic missiles, an 
updated congressional report claims. The report is entitled "Kinetic Energy Kill
for Ballistic Missile Defense: A Status Overview." It was written by Steven A 
Hildreth, a specialist in national defense in the Foreign Affairs, Defense and 
Trade Division of the Congressional Research Service, and an updated version of 
his report was released on Jan. 5.

"U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) programs have focused primarily on 
developing kinetic energy interceptors to destroy attacking ballistic missiles 
... over 30 years," Hildreth wrote. Yet, "... The data on the U.S. flight test 
effort to develop a national missile defense (NMD) system remains mixed and 

"There is no recognizable pattern to explain this record nor is there conclusive
evidence of a learning curve over more than two decades of developmental 
testing," he wrote. "In addition, the test scenarios are considered by some not 
to be operational tests and could be more realistic in nature; they see these 
tests as more of a laboratory or developmental effort.

"Analysis of flight test data shows that the U.S. effort to develop, test, and 
deploy effective BMD systems based on this concept has produced mixed and 
ambiguous results," Hildreth wrote. Even " The actual performance in war-time of
one kinetic-energy system currently deployed by the United States (i.e., the 
Patriot PAC-3) is similarly ambiguous," he wrote.

"Further, it is not yet possible to assess the operational effectiveness the 
other deployed system (i.e., the National Defense System) against long-range 
ballistic missile threats," he wrote.

The current Ground Missile Defense program "began flight testing in 2002," 
Hildreth wrote. "Since that time six flight tests have taken place. Five of 
these flight tests were planned intercept attempts, with three resulting in 
failure to intercept."

"Officials concluded that about 80 percent of the program's 40 or so primary 
intercept flight test objectives were met; all the secondary objectives were met
fully or partially," he wrote. "In 2004, the GMD undertook a new configuration 
with a different booster and interceptor. It flew a successful integration 
flight test (non-intercept test) in early 2004 with all primary and secondary 
objectives met."

"This system was deployed in Alaska and California in 2004 and declared 
operational after eight missiles were placed in silos. Subsequently, two planned
intercept flight tests in December 2004 and February 2005 failed to launch," the
report continued.

Therefore, "The currently deployed system thus remains to be tested successfully
against targets it might be expected to intercept," Hildreth concluded.

"In September 2006, a successful flight test exercise of the GMD system too 
place. Although not a primary CRS-4 objective of the data collection test, an 
intercept of the target warhead was achieved," he wrote.

"There do not appear to be any recognizable patterns that emerge to account for 
the mostly unsuccessful history of the effort. Nor is there conclusive evidence 
of a learning curve, such as increased success over time relative to the first 
tests of the concept 20 years ago," the CRS report said.

"Program supporters can point to limited evidence that, under controlled 
conditions, there is reason to support the contention that kinetic energy 
interceptor technology for use against long-range ballistic missiles holds 
promise," Hildreth acknowledged.

However, "Critics of the flight test effort to date, whether they support 
missile defense or not in general, can raise questions about the success rate 
and the realism of the testing effort, given a generation of U.S. investment in 
its development," he continued.

"Can kinetic energy interceptor technologies for use against long-range 
ballistic missiles be developed successfully and deployed as an effective part 
of the U.S. military posture?" Hildreth asked. "The answer appears to be 
ambiguous at this juncture."

"Can the now deployed NMD system protect the United States from long-range 
ballistic missile attacks? Currently, there is insufficient empirical data to 
support a clear answer," he concluded.

The release of the updated version of Hildreth's report appears timed to catch 
the eye of the new Democratic masters of the recently-elected 110th Congress.

The first three Republican-controlled Congresses of President George W. Bush's 
time in office uncritically voted through the enormous appropriations he 
requested for the crash development of BMD systems to protect the United States 
against individual or small numbers of intercontinental ballistic missiles 
launched by so-called "rogue" states. However, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the new
chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, has said he will scrutinize the 
BMD budget far more closely to make sure that it is focused and spent on 
relevant and effective programs.

A major new debate on the effectiveness of BMD and on future strategies in its 
budget priorities is about to start. Hildreth's report should be seen as one of 
the opening shots in that struggle.

Source: United Press International
Related Links
Military Space News at
Learn about laser weapon technology at
Learn about missile defense at
All about missiles at
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

Escaping the Matrix website
cyberjournal website     
Community Democracy Framework:
subscribe cyberjournal list        mailto:•••@••.•••
Posting archives