Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bloomberg News debunks another slight exaggeration by the Commander in Chief:

North Korean Missile Attack Probably Couldn't Be Intercepted

After North Korea unsuccessfully tested a long-range missile last week, President George W. Bush said that the U.S. would have had "a reasonable chance of shooting it down. At least, that's what the military commanders told me.''

Former senior Defense Department officials don't share that assessment. "I would not have confidence,'' said Thomas Christie, who served from mid-2001 to early 2005 as the Pentagon's top testing official. Christie, in an interview, put the likelihood of success at less than 20 percent.

After spending $95 billion -- and amid plans to spend at least $48 billion more -- the program to develop a reliable defense against missiles is years behind schedule and has yet to prove it can intercept a rocket coming from an unknown location.

The ground-based system designed to protect the nation from rogue states such as North Korea "has no demonstrated capability to defend the United States against enemy attack under realistic conditions,'' said Philip Coyle, an official with the Center for Defense Information in Washington, who held Christie's post from 1996 until 2001.

... The system's last successful test was in October 2002 against a target whose general location was known beforehand. Subsequent tests failed.

..."We don't know if it is going to work,'' Steve Hildreth, a missile-defense expert for the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, said in an interview. "We just don't have the data to have much confidence in the ground-based system's capability to shoot down things like a Taepodong-2,'' the long-range missile North Korea tested July 5 that might be able to reach Alaska....

Earlier this week, a number of blogs on the right were crowing about this story, from the Las Cruces Sun-News:

...Hundreds of miles above southern New Mexico, it was a picture-perfect impact between two missiles.

...The pre-dawn art show was the result of the third of five tests planned at White Sands Missile Range to determine the effectiveness of THAAD -- Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile. And military officials said the test went better than they could have hoped.

"This was phenomenal," said U.S. Army Col. Charles Driessnack, the project manager for the Missile Defense Agency's THAAD program. "It performed as expected."

The test demonstrated the THAAD's ability to "completely destroy that warhead so that no chemical or nuclear residue would contaminate areas" below the explosion, Driessnack said....

Lovely, but there are a couple of problems: (1) this system isn't designed for long-range missiles and (2) the test, as is so often the case, was rigged. This is from

The ... system will complement the Patriot in providing last-ditch defense against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

... The Missile Defense Agency's long-range ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California that were put on alert to shoot down North Korean missiles haven't hit a test target since 2002....

The Hera target in today's THAAD test used no decoys and did not simulate debris....

Well, you know, maybe Kim Jong-il won't use debris or decoys when and if he launches a real missile at us. Maybe he'll let us win.

(Via Democratic Underground and Memeorandum.)

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