Mike Hanks’remarks below on missile defense systems in eastern Europe will surely prove controversial with many of The Rag Blog’s readers. Let the rumble begin. Please note the “comments” link at the end of the article.
‘It is important to understand that the missiles proposed for deployment in Poland do not pose a threat.’
By William Michael Hanks / The Rag Blog / November 7, 2008
I hope I’ll be forgiven for making presentments, assertions and forwarding opinions without the usual citing of precedent, quoting significant sources, and utilizing much in the way of irrefutable argument – it’s late.
With that optimism, I’m forwarding the following thoughts in the way of being self-evident. I am prepared to sustain the hazards of such a course and, if pressed, to offer proof of whatever I may opine, but for now …
We are approaching the first test of solidarity in the new administration. The challenges that President Obama will face upon assuming office will be, to state the obvious, almost overwhelming. One of the dynamics that will create unity (power) or disunity (weakness) is the expectations of his constituency. Let’s look at a current issue.
One of the crises already being seen is in regard to the deployment of missile defense systems in Poland. The leadership in Russia has stated, in response to defensive systems, that offensive missile systems will be deployed which directly threaten Europe. Much of the progressive community has opposed the Missile Defense System known as “Star Wars”. These thoughts are presented to open a dialog among those who may hold that position.
It is important to understand that the missiles proposed for deployment in Poland do not pose a threat. They don’t even carry explosives. They are completely ballistic in the sense that they are designed to simply collide with an incoming missile and break it up prior to reaching its target.
Why would this pose such a risk to any one? Why would the Russian administration be so exercised over that? Are they concerned that one of these lumps of steel might drop on a little old lady crossing the street? No, it is because the threat posed by gigatons of nuclear weapons owned by Russia is rendered less harmful and therefore the coercive power of the Russian war machine is greatly reduced.
Most of the discussion I have heard in the past two days seems to assume that placing missiles in Poland threatens Russia in some way. As if those missiles could be used to destroy Russian cities or military installations. And then the old cold war mentality sets in which might suggest we should not deploy those missiles because it would be provocative – and we’d get what we deserved when Russia deploys their missiles.
That is not the case. The systems are not equivalent. The defensive missiles proposed for Poland make the world a safer place. If this system is widely deployed the threat of nuclear holocaust could be reduced to near zero. Why would that worry Russian leadership? Because if you have a gun to the world’s head you don’t want it putting on a bullet proof helmet. Rendering nuclear weapons useless is a good start in eliminating them.
This is a good discussion to start because the “hit to kill” defensive missile fiction is really about keeping the military industrial contracts intact and providing a feel-good political defense system for the citizenry. The deep-content documentary group, FRONTLINE, produced a very good piece, “Missile Wars,” broadcast on PBS about these “theater” missile defense technologies. Remember how the world cheered during the first gulf war when American Patriot missiles “shot down” Saddam’s Scud missiles over Israel and Saudi Arabia? The only problem is that despite the US Army’s claim that they shot down 45 of the 47 Scuds launched from Iraq, the Pentagon eventually admitted that the Patriot system was a total bust. The bright flashes in the night sky were not Patriot Defense missiles striking Scuds . . . they were off-target Patriot missiles simply exploding. The defense contract manufacturer still maintained all but two Scuds were hit. And Dick Cheney continued to insist that weapons of mass destruction were still hidden in Iraq long after the whole country had been searched and nothing was found. Follow the money. In 2002-2003 the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) continued to have problems and development was delayed by the Pentagon. The US Navy finally canceled its sea-going version because of cost and schedule overruns, not to mention the repeated failure of “operational tests” of the new and improved Patriot. Simply put, the expensive toys still couldn’t hit an incoming target. Regan’s “Star War” defensive missile program merely opened the DOD’s deep pockets to military contractors . . .and after spending billions and billions of our tax dollars all that resulted were repeated nationally broadcast filmed examples of the gee-whiz defense missiles not even hitting the target . . . and this was a soft-ball test with training wheels, with everyone knowing where the “attacking” missile was coming from and when it was launched. Most Americans didn’t bat an eye at Regan’s fanciful, unscientific dream that we could build such a system. But politicians with defense contractors in their states jumped on this missile manna, like swarming locusts. Eisenhower’s “Military Industrial Complex” warning went out the window one more time. Now, to wind this up . . . research these terms:
THAAD (Theatre High Altitude Air Defense) NTW (Navy Theater Wide) and ABL (Airborne Laser) and you will find that none of these programs are reliably functioning systems today. “End of the decade” and other vague statements typify status update reports. So the question to ask in this forum is what do we propose to put in Poland other than prickly threats? What is Russia really saying with their counter-threats and where would any threatening incoming missiles be coming from? Your turn.
My comment on the article itself, is I agree with the writer 100% – so very glad he took the time to write it.
My 2nd comment is for the 1st comment; having worked as a sub-contractor and supplier on this very project, the writer of the comment is also 100% correct.
I remember being involved in the test phase; the project director actually chuckled in one meeting as he said, “Well, we just exploded another $42,000,000 without hitting a god damned thing!”
Part of the ‘fire-works’ were also produced by ‘decoys’ that were inflated; this company has worked (very very low profile and top secret) for years with our military. It was formed by a number of engineers who came from countries hostile to the United States.
The ‘inflatables’ (as they called them) carried only whatever firepower and explosives were needed to create a ‘scene’ and/or a ‘decoy’. They were launched from a plane in some cases; from carriers in other cases, and were able to go non-detected by radar; had an unmanned guidance system, and could create the illusion of being a plane that had just been ‘hit mid-air’, or a ‘bomb’ that had exploded – or a missile that had intercepted another ‘missile’.
Talk about blockbuster effects like we see in the movies…a lot of what we saw in Desert Storm was nothing more than smoke, mirrors, and spoof (but of course it justified that war and cost the tax payers millions and millions of dollars and they forked it over without complaint).
As to what is really going on is with the crappy economy in both Russia as well as the United States; a global recession, nothing beats recession like ramping up and creating jobs to build ‘weapons of war’.
Got to keep the wars happening – real or near-real; just plain fake if necessary, because this world seems to be quite unable to figure out how to create a sound economy based on peaceful relations and addressing the quality of life for the living instead of benefiting from the loss of life through war; disease, cancer – obesity, and all the costs of treating an ill, greedy, and disruptive angry society.
Thank you for your contributions to this discussion. Some important criticisms of defensive missile development are brought up in these comments and, according to everything I have been able to verify, seem to be quite true. The system has a dismal record of mismanagement, failure, and cost overruns. However, I persist in my belief that this project is worth doing. The original post addressed the specific deployment in Poland, but the discussion has widened to include the question of whether this is a program that we even need to be pursuing. I believe that it is for the following reasons.
There are five strategically-important areas that benefit in measurable ways if we are successful in developing the technology required to identify, target, and intercept fast moving objects in near space. The first is that it enables us to move beyond the cold war detente of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). MAD, while working to deter an initial nuclear strike, gave us “duck and cover” classrooms, backyard bomb shelters, and the constant specter of an ash-filled mutant-ridden post apocalyptic world. A successful missile defense system would change the ground rules and be the first step in leaving that insane relic of global terrorism behind. If we are no longer threatened by nuclear weapons we don’t need quite so many of them ourselves. In fact it is not hard to imagine that they would eventually become obsolete.
The second benefit to the successful deployment of the defensive missile system is its contribution to a much more robust set of working technologies in space. The neighborhood of mankind has, in our lifetime, expanded from a nation-centered world, to a global community, and now, as we routinely maintain an orbiting space station, and send spacecraft to mars and the outer planets, the solar system itself. The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) in an example of an ancillary technology, which aims at quickly identifying, objects in near Earth space. This technology is based on “client” entities of which the missile defense system would eventually be one of the most eminent. The missile defense system would provide a stimulus to this and many other critical technologies required for operating safely in space.
The third measurable benefit to a well-managed missile defense development and manufacturing program would be the creation of jobs for Americans – jobs that could not be outsourced or moved offshore. These jobs would range from positions for scientists, researchers, engineers, technicians, skilled craftsmen, and laborers. And they would be working on military system that doesn’t blow up. The future of work in America must include high-tech jobs to distinguish our competitive advantage in a global economy. Work on the missile defense system would advance that goal.
The fourth area of benefit would be to begin a shift in the kinds of weapon systems that we supply to the world. In World War II we became the armory of the free world. We exported huge stockpiles of weapons ranging from small arms to advanced fighters, bombers, and destructive missile systems. This would be the first major system that was not designed to destroy armies, cities and military installations – it is designed to protect them. There could be other technologies that we could develop for the world, a new world, free of the threat of mass destruction. The missile defense system, because of its radically shifted paradigm, could lead the way to a new and less violent approach to world conflict.
The fifth benefit that accrues to the successful development of the missile defense system is that it promises to be a hugely profitable export. The balance of trade issues caused by our consumer driven economy and the outsourcing of consumer goods is on the verge of causing irreparable damage to our balance of trade with other countries. There is already an offer made by the United Arab Emirates to purchase the system for deployment there. It is estimated that, if approved, it would be a $7 billion sale. That one sale would cover most of the projected costs of the program. It wouldn’t take many of these sales to reconcile the books and balance the huge sums we are sending to the oil-producing states.
These are just some of the benefits of the development, manufacture, and deployment of the missile defense system. Of course the problems with management of the project must be overcome but success will bring great benefits. I am reminded of President Kennedy’s address proposing the voyages to the moon at Rice University.
President Kennedy: “I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us. But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun … and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.”
Many of the same criticisms that are being made of defensive missile technology today were leveled at the manned space program.
The following resources are offered for those who may be interested in fast tracking some research on the subject.
Sincerely, William Michael Hanks
Supplemental material and references:
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system evolved from the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). A description of that may be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Defense_Initiative#Timeline
“The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a proposal by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD).
Though it was never fully developed or deployed, the research and technologies of SDI paved the way for some anti-ballistic missile systems of today. The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was set up in 1984 within the United States Department of Defense to oversee the Strategic Defense Initiative. It gained the popular name Star Wars after the 1977 film by George Lucas. Under the administration of President Bill Clinton in 1993, its name was changed to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and its emphasis was shifted from national missile defense to theater missile defense; from global to regional coverage. BMDO was renamed to the Missile Defense Agency in 2002.”
The current missile defense program is Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).
THAAD Program History from Directory of U. S. Rockets and Missiles: http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/app4/thaad.html
“The THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense – originally “Theater High Altitude Area Defense”, renamed in Feb. 2004) missile defense system was first proposed in 1987, and in 1990 the formal request for proposals was submitted to the industry. In September 1992, the U.S. Army selected Lockheed Martin as prime contractor for THAAD development, and the first THAAD flight test occurred in April 1995.
A THAAD battery consists of about nine launch trucks with ten missiles each, two mobile tactical operations centers, and the Ground-Based Radar (GBR). The GBR is employed for surveillance at ranges of up to 1000 km (600 miles), target identification and target tracking. Targeting information is uploaded to the missile immediately before launch and continuously updated during the flight. The THAAD missile is powered by a single stage solid-propellant rocket motor with thrust vectoring. After burnout, the booster is separated from the kill vehicle (KV), which continues to the interception point. For exo-atmospheric manoeuvering, the KV is equipped with a Boeing-developed liquid DACS (Divert and Attitude Control System). In the terminal intercept phase, the KV is guided by an InSb staring FPA (Focal Plane Array) infrared seeker, whose window is protected in the initial flight phase by a clamshell protection shroud. The KV has no explosive warhead and destroys the target by direct impact. The THAAD can intercept ballistic missile targets at altitudes up to 150 km (93 miles) at a range of more than 200 km (125 miles).
Between 21 April 1995 and 2 August 1999, a total of 11 THAAD flight tests occurred. The initial tests validated propulsion and seeker systems, and the first actual intercept was attempted in the 4th flight on 13 December 1995. However, the test failed and the first successful interception (a Hera ballistic target) actually did not occur before the 10th flight on 10 June 1999! The reasons for the preceding six failures were various, and included failures in the propulsion system, stage separation, seeker soft- and hardware, and the kill vehicle’s DACS. The 11th test was also successful, but the system’s bad test record of course significantly delayed the program.
In late 1999, it was decided to enter the EMD (Engineering and Manufacturing Development) phase of the THAAD program, and the EMD contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin in June 2000. The first EMD flight test occurred on 22 November 2005, and tested missile launch, flight control, and KV separation and control, but did not involve an actual target. In January 2007, Lockheed Martin received the first production contract for THAAD, covering 48 missiles, six launchers and two fire control and communications units. The U.S. Army plans to procure more than 1400 THAAD missiles, which will eventually form the upper-tier complement to the Patriot PAC-3 in the Army’s TBMD (Theater Ballistic Missile Defense) system.”
A chart of the failure/sucess rate may be seen at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminal_High_Altitude_Area_Defense
DEM-VAL Test Program: 7 tests termed failure, 4 tests termed sucess.
* THAAD First Successful Intercept, June 10th 1999
* THAAD Second Successful Intercept, August 2nd 1999
Engineering-Manufacturing Development (EMD) Test Program
* Successful THAAD Interceptor Launch Achieved, 22 November 2005
* Successful THAAD Integrated System Flight Test, 11 May 2006
* Successful THAAD Intercept Flight, 12 July 2006
* THAAD Equipment Arrives in Hawaii, October 18, 2006
* Successful THAAD “High Endo-Atmospheric” Intercept Test, January 27, 2007
* Successful THAAD Radar Target Tracking Test, March 8, 2007
* Successful THAAD “Mid Endo-Atmopsheric” Intercept, April 6, 2007
* THAAD Radar Supports Successful Aegis BMD Intercept, June 22, 2007
* Successful THAAD Interceptor Low-Altitude “Fly-Out” Test, June 27, 2007
Synergistic Sciences and Technologies
There are other areas of technological capabilities that relate to the Strategic Defense Initiative. One of these is the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS).
“The Space Base Infrared System (SBIRS) program is a global satellite system designed to meet the United States’ infrared space surveillance requirements over the next 20 to 30 years. It will provide an improved capability over the existing Defense Support Program (DSP). The system addresses critical warfighter requirements in the areas of missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence, and battlespace characterization. SBIRS is a program designed to satisfy user requirements on a cost effective basis by using existing technologies and methods.”
For the complete report: Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Overview from Global Security.Org http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/library/report/1999/nssrm/initiatives/sbirsh.htm
The Center for Defense Information published an article critical of the management of the Missile Defence Agency: http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=4393&from_page=../index.cfm
“New Pentagon Report Slams Missile Defense Agency” was first published by the Huffington Post on Oct. 21, 2008; the original is available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joe-cirincione/new-pentagon-report-slams_b_136388.html, and the text is reproduced below.
“New Pentagon Report Slams Missile Defense Agency”
by Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, and Victoria Samson, Senior Analyst at the Center for Defense Information
A new Pentagon study says we need to take the current missile defense program back to the garage for some serious repairs. The report should help the next president redirect funds from this $13 billion a year boondoggle to weapons we need, and get the program back on track.
The study, done for the Pentagon by the Institute of Defense Analyses and headed by the respected retired General Larry Welch, says that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA)’s rush to deploy something, anything, has come at the expense of research and careful development of weapons that work. It questioned the MDA’s ability to maintain and operate the weapons coming out of its shop and recommended that most of the programs be handed over to the military as quickly as possible, demoting MDA back to the research and coordinating body it was before President Bush.
From Wikipedia: “Development was budgeted at over USD$700 million for 2004, and full deployment is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars.”
The United Arab Emirates has requested the purchase of a new U.S. missile defense system developed by Lockheed Martin Corp, a deal that could be worth $7 billion, if approved
Wikipedia Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminal_High_Altitude_Area_Defense
Army Project Page: http://www.army-technology.com/projects/thaad/
Missile Defense Agency Program Images Library: http://www.mda.mil/mdalink/html/thaad1.html