February 21, 2008

Satellite hit but was the toxic fuel tank?

When you have hundreds of ballistic missiles at your deposal as Putin and Hu have, it does not take Einstein to figure out that a missile defense system is easily surmounted in a real conflict.

The Pentagon tells us that it has destroyed its malfunctioning spy satellite with an interceptor missile; an SM-3 missile fired from the USS Lake Erie in the Pacific.

Said the statement, "A network of land, air, sea and space-based sensors confirms that the U.S. military intercepted a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite which was in its final orbits before entering the earth's atmosphere," adding, "Confirmation that the fuel tank has been fragmented should be available within 24 hours,".

This raises a question of vast military consequence; here we have the Pentagon stating that it will not know for 24 hours whether the toxic fuel tank was ruptured. Under these circumstances we can accept this, after all, it is only a satellite. Fast forward to real combat, would military decision makers have 24 hours available to confirm whether a target was hit? The clear answer is no, in fact, there would only be minutes to spare at best; minutes to decide whether to launch a new salvo in the event of failure.

This in turn raises further questions, missile interceptors are very costly highly advanced articles, just how many defense interceptors of the SM-3 mixture does the U.S. have at its disposal, 50, perhaps 100? We know that Raytheon won a $1 billion contract for 75 Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) missiles for the United States earlier this month at that price, resources must surely be limited in the event of conflict.

So when the Russians, who at best will have some 400-500 nuclear warheads by 2020, or the Chinese with perhaps 600 missiles at present, remonstrate about U.S. missile defenses how serious can we take them. When you have hundreds of ballistic missiles at your deposal as Putin and Hu have, it does not take Einstein to figure out that a missile defense system is easily surmounted in a real conflict.

As Richard Fernandez wrote at Pajamas, “The real motives for shooting down NROL-21 are probably simple: to validate the performance of an ABM system against a realistic target. As Wired notes, “the SM-3 missile that’s supposed to do the job is at the heart of the most successful component of the American missile-defense program; unlike other, less reliable interceptors, the SM-3 has hit its targets in 11 of its last 13 tests.” Here’s a chance to see if it works for real.”

Let us hope this attempt results in nothing short of unqualified success, nonetheless, although missile defense systems remain an imperative, let us hope they get more affordable.

Comments welcome


Karen said...

The latest press conference from the Pentagon indicates success. There is some video being shown now that looks good. It may be another day before all the debris is counted. And, everyone is still waiting for where the debris lands.

The best part of this excercise, to me, is to show the enemies of the U.S. that the system works and maybe they should pay attention to that fact.

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

First - remember when the Chicoms took out a satelite? I t was stationary while our sytem was a moving target.

Second - the evaluation time for this is most likely because it was a first live test and they are combing the data in great detail because it was a test. In an actual combat situation the data would be instant I am sure.

Third - Reagan would be proud....Star Wars works!

Aurora said...

Otto, while I'm glad the U.S. technology has succeeded, I also get the point of your post. At a cost of millions of dollars per interceptor, the U.S. could not spare enough to fight the barrage that Russia could dish out.
This is a really sobering scenario you lay out. We are really vulnerable in this world when you think about it, especially when we are as surrounded by hostile nations as we are.
And we can't exactly send the manufacturing contracts out to China to decrease the costs, can we?

American Interests.blog said...

Karen: You raise a good point, it was a good demostration of might on the part of the U.S.

Lib Lie Conserv Truth: Thanks for citing Reagan, in the context of the post, it's incomplete without a reference to him.

aurora: Exactly, there are some areas where favored nation status does not apply, this is one manufacturing contract that stays in the U.S.

I see what you mean about "sobering scenario", sometimes however, I need to comply with one the primary goals of this blog, "intended to ... highlight threats to..."

Tapline said...

Otto, Nothing changes....Outstanding post. I am hiding my head in the sand lately,,,we are so naive. It is my understanding Clinton helped in Kosevo because he thaught there was a genicide, Now the muslims that we protected have an proclaimed its Independance from Kosevo. A Nation we helped to establish and was one of the first nations to recognize it as such.
We can still fire a missle and hit a target and we want everyone to know it.....Still shaking my head. I ramble.....stay well.....

MK said...

You have a valid point, they are obviously not enough. We make do with them in the hope that the Russians and the Chinese won't launch their 600 nukes because they are too scared, Sam will send a 1000 back at them, not to mention very few Americans would be buying the bricka-brack they make for cheap labor, there by ruining the Chinese for the rest of their lives.

What too many of us don't seem to get is that Mutually Assured Destruction will be out the window when your opponent craves martyrdom.

American Interests.blog said...

Tap: Perhaps we all ramble? Keep your head high!

mk: Well said ... "MAD" now there's a term I haven't heard for a while...

Debbie said...

The 24 hours lag in knowing if we were successful is very curious. Aurora mentioned this in her post and I linked to in in one of mine.

China and Russia both have no friendly intentions when it comes to the US. Outsourcing for parts and production of American military and self defense is just CRAZY.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth