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U.S. Completes Largest Missile Defense Flight Test in History

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 28 comments

We typically only hear about missile launches that are designed to demonstrate a certain attack capability over certain ranges.

Missile launches designed to defend against hostile missiles are rarely published. However, the government's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) whose purpose is to defend the U.S. against missile attacks recently published information about what the organization says was the "largest missile defense flight test in history."

The test involved the MDA, U.S. Army soldiers from the 94th and 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, U.S. Navy sailors on the USS FITZGERALD and airmen from the 613th Air and Space Operations Center as well as five ballistic missile and cruise missile targets. According to a blog post, the defense system took out five ballistic missile and cruise missile targets simultaneously. The MDA stated that its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system "successfully intercepted its first Medium Range Ballistic target in history, and PATRIOT Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) near simultaneously destroyed a Short Range Ballistic Missile and a low flying cruise missile target over water." Key to the successful test was an "integrated air and ballistic missile defense architecture used multiple sensors and missile defense systems."

The demonstration was conducted at the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll/Reagan Test Site, Hickam Air Force Base, as well as surrounding areas in the western Pacific, the MDA said. Since 2001, the MDA aid that it had 56 successful hit-to-kill intercepts in 71 flight test attempts.


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  • -8 Hide
    thecolorblue , October 30, 2012 3:56 AM
    "Missile launches designed to defend against hostile missiles are rarely published..."

    and yet here is a published event... the biggest ever performed... timed just days before the election. American politics are a world-wide embarrassment.

  • -7 Hide
    tomfreak , October 30, 2012 4:12 AM
    way to go man...to waste moar tax money in the current economy situation. Its totally logical to launch missiles improve job employment.
  • 8 Hide
    freggo , October 30, 2012 4:18 AM
    That's all very nice, but as 9/11 demonstrated... the bad guys do not always use multi-million dollar ICBMs or Cruise Missiles.
  • Display all 28 comments.
  • 4 Hide
    joytech22 , October 30, 2012 4:18 AM
    Quote:
    it had 56 successful hit-to-kill intercepts in 71 flight test attempts.


    I don't know about you, but that's a lot that made it through/
  • 2 Hide
    bigpinkdragon286 , October 30, 2012 4:25 AM
    Gas prices in my area are conveniently coming down, almost daily, as we approach the final time to vote. Surely just a coincidence.
  • 7 Hide
    peanut_bully , October 30, 2012 4:33 AM
    joytech22I don't know about you, but that's a lot that made it through/


    Well, they are called miss-iles, not hit-iles :-)

    Seriously though, 56 out of 71 is actually not bad. Other systems have hit ratios of well under 50%.

    Tomfreakway to go man...to waste moar tax money in the current economy situation. Its totally logical to launch missiles improve job employment.


    I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, the military manpower could be used to curb the effects of Sandy (medical/food aid, debris clearing, anti-looting)... but politics will always prevail over logic. But then, the USDF is so huge I'm probably barking up the wrong tree.
  • 0 Hide
    Draven35 , October 30, 2012 6:14 AM
    I think most of you are either the same guys, or the kids of the guys, that where whooping and hollering about how this stuff wasn't going to work at all 30 years ago.
  • -1 Hide
    zodiacfml , October 30, 2012 7:12 AM
    there's a purpose to publish it....maybe not to the enemy but the public.
  • 4 Hide
    velozz , October 30, 2012 7:36 AM
    freggoThat's all very nice, but as 9/11 demonstrated... the bad guys do not always use multi-million dollar ICBMs or Cruise Missiles.


    There is a huge difference between an attack on 1 building/landmark/block and something that cold potentially wipe the entire New York City/Newark NJ area off the face of the map....there is really no comparision to 9/11 and a ICBM aimed at the same area, and im sure residents of that area would be very grateful of a system like this one tested if god forbid the need for it ever arose.
  • 6 Hide
    palladin9479 , October 30, 2012 7:45 AM
    ABMS's (Anti Ballistic Missile Systems) work on the logistical and psychological level not so much on the military level. If I'm an angry bad guy with 300 nukes, that is 300 potential targets (assuming 1 device per target allocation) I can hit. Now you use this ABMS and have a kill ratio of 78.87%. That means 78.87% of the time the target I'm aiming at will not be hit by my device, now I don't get to control which targets do and don't get hit. The higher priority targets could be spared and I might only get lower priority targets which in turn allows the defender an opportunity to counter-attack me, and since I just blew all my missiles I no longer have the option to respond to their counter-strike. Instead what I do is send multiple missiles per target so that at least one gets through and I can ensure high priority targets on hit.

    At a 21.13% loss rate I'd have to send five per target instead of one per target, so instead of hitting 300 targets I could only hit 60. 240 things aren't even going to be targeted. Now can I, as an attacker be assured that I completely take out your defensive and retaliatory capability by only 60 targets when I originally had a list of 300? Probably not as there is a better the good chance you (the defender) will be able to retaliate against me. And chances are that some of your devices survived while I have burned all mine. You (the defender who is counter attacking) don't even need to bother targeting my now-empty silos and instead will target infrastructure and other vital assets. I wouldn't want to take that chance as no matter what happens I end up broken. So instead of launching, I make a grand speech where I vilify you, call you names and accuse you of imperialism and other generally bad things. I make sure my speech is broadcast to as many people as I can.

    That's pretty much how defensive measures work. They don't even need to be that effective to have an effect. It's no fun ruling a nuclear wasteland, especially if your one of the ash's.
  • -5 Hide
    palladin9479 , October 30, 2012 8:16 AM
    Quote:
    There is a huge difference between an attack on 1 building/landmark/block and something that cold potentially wipe the entire New York City/Newark NJ area off the face of the map....there is really no comparision to 9/11 and a ICBM aimed at the same area, and im sure residents of that area would be very grateful of a system like this one tested if god forbid the need for it ever arose.



    Umm no, that's not how they work. First rule of nuclear warfare, The TV / Movies are ALWAYS WRONG. They like to create dramatic effects that are wholly unrealistic, usually because the script writers have no idea how nukes actually work.

    The primary source of damage from a nuke is the pressure wave created shortly after the blast. The flash and gamma radiation are dramatic but ultimately don't do much damage. The power from a nuke must obey the inverse square law, the further from the blast origin the weaker the effect by a power of 2. The power from a nuke is radiated equally in all directions, you can treat it as a perfect sphere. The most of the upper hemisphere (45~48% of blast power) goes up into the atmosphere and only poses a threat to the local avian population. The lower hemisphere (again 45~48%) goes into digging a big crater in the ground (ground burst) or flattening things directly under the blast (low air burst). Your left with 5~10% of the power being radiated outward to do destruction to things outside the fireball (100~800m depending on size of nuke). Due to all these things small tactical nukes are more efficient then large multi-megaton nukes. The most common ones are 50~100kt with 1mt being incredibly rare. Also you tend to target "things" with nukes not cities. You target runways (airport builds are easy to replace with temporary ones), rail yards, military bases, bunkers, command compounds, power plants, telecommunications facilities and such. You hit these things to remove their capability from the enemy and to reduce / remove their ability to respond.

    Now for actual effectiveness, Hiroshima / Nagisaki experienced large loss's due to the Japanese using bambo and straw as their primary building materials for housing. Those materials provide nearly no protection against the light / gamma radiation or the pressure wave that follows. Today's primary building material inside city's is concrete, something that is very good at deflecting and channeling that pressure wave and is completely impervious to the light / gamma radiation. Targeting a nuke into the middle of a city would just make a really big fireworks display and terrorize the population. Actual damage itself would be limited though everyone in that city would probably have serious psychological issues from such an attack so close. Wooden houses on the other hand are quite vulnerable to the blast wave and would be knocked down unless they were far from the blast center.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , October 30, 2012 9:51 AM
    i always wonder, what makes 'enemy' load a nuclear bomb on a commerial plane and fly to the states? say if one day japan decided to take revenge on US, can they load a nuclear bomb on the a japanese airline and fly over here?
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , October 30, 2012 9:54 AM
    Fucking Human Animals, we do not deserve to be here, bring on that asteroid!
  • 0 Hide
    Draven35 , October 30, 2012 10:00 AM
    all depends on the size of the nuke, a B61 is 340 kilotons... 22x larger than Little Boy and 16x larger than Fat Man. The nukes used in WW2 are barely larger than what was considered to be a tactical nuke in the 80s, about the same size as a cruise missile warhead... i.e. small.
  • 1 Hide
    tenshin111 , October 30, 2012 10:12 AM
    palladin9479Umm no, that's not how they work. First rule of nuclear warfare, The TV / Movies are ALWAYS WRONG. They like to create dramatic effects that are wholly unrealistic, usually because the script writers have no idea how nukes actually work.The primary source of damage from a nuke is the pressure wave created shortly after the blast. The flash and gamma radiation are dramatic but ultimately don't do much damage. The power from a nuke must obey the inverse square law, the further from the blast origin the weaker the effect by a power of 2. The power from a nuke is radiated equally in all directions, you can treat it as a perfect sphere. The most of the upper hemisphere (45~48% of blast power) goes up into the atmosphere and only poses a threat to the local avian population. The lower hemisphere (again 45~48%) goes into digging a big crater in the ground (ground burst) or flattening things directly under the blast (low air burst). Your left with 5~10% of the power being radiated outward to do destruction to things outside the fireball (100~800m depending on size of nuke). Due to all these things small tactical nukes are more efficient then large multi-megaton nukes. The most common ones are 50~100kt with 1mt being incredibly rare. Also you tend to target "things" with nukes not cities. You target runways (airport builds are easy to replace with temporary ones), rail yards, military bases, bunkers, command compounds, power plants, telecommunications facilities and such. You hit these things to remove their capability from the enemy and to reduce / remove their ability to respond.Now for actual effectiveness, Hiroshima / Nagisaki experienced large loss's due to the Japanese using bambo and straw as their primary building materials for housing. Those materials provide nearly no protection against the light / gamma radiation or the pressure wave that follows. Today's primary building material inside city's is concrete, something that is very good at deflecting and channeling that pressure wave and is completely impervious to the light / gamma radiation. Targeting a nuke into the middle of a city would just make a really big fireworks display and terrorize the population. Actual damage itself would be limited though everyone in that city would probably have serious psychological issues from such an attack so close. Wooden houses on the other hand are quite vulnerable to the blast wave and would be knocked down unless they were far from the blast center.


    I don't have time to elaborate on the topic as I'm at work now but you're quite wrong here.

    First of all, large cities and population centres are as valid targets for strategic weapons (ICBMs) as other (military) infrastructure. Just read a little about cold war era nuclear doctrines of USSR and USA.

    Secondly, ICBMs targeted at population centres do not fall to the ground and explode like bombs - they get detonated (or to be more precise - the multiple nuclear warheads they carry) at some altitude so that the blast and radiation waves have higher spread and are way more devastating than from a simple bomb drop.

    As far as effectiveness goes - do not forget that Hiroshima/Nagasaki were quite primitive nuclear bombs. Modern nuclear weapons (strategic ones) use thermonuclear warheads which are more devastating.

    Basically, if you don't get killed in the blast (heat) wave or the initial radiation burst you will die within days or weeks mostly due to radioactive fallout which will cover large areas around the main explosion centre. This is especially true in urban areas where the irradiated dust/debris from destroyed buildings will be thrown up high in the air.
  • -1 Hide
    southernshark , October 30, 2012 11:30 AM
    Over a trillion dollars... maybe multiple trillions, has been pumped into this idea since the 1980s, maybe even going back further into the 1970s (on Black Book). I can't say its been worth it. Being able to defeat a missile in a test is one thing, being able to shoot down a randomly fired missile which you aren't prepared for is entirely different. Being able to shoot down an ICBM... still isn't possible.

    With the same money we could have cut higher education costs significantly. We could have even paid for every American to go school who wanted to studied engineering and physics (with qualifications). Which one would really have made us more prepared?

    I'm no limp wristed liberal, but money needs to be spent wisely rather than just spent.

    Although I'm not suggesting we cancel this program. After spending this much money on it, I suppose we are committed to it. In for a penny... in for a pound... so to speak.
  • -1 Hide
    southernshark , October 30, 2012 11:35 AM
    velozzThere is a huge difference between an attack on 1 building/landmark/block and something that cold potentially wipe the entire New York City/Newark NJ area off the face of the map....there is really no comparision to 9/11 and a ICBM aimed at the same area, and im sure residents of that area would be very grateful of a system like this one tested if god forbid the need for it ever arose.



    We still can't shoot down an ICBM. These were medium range, short range and cruise missiles. ICBMs move a lot faster and can not be shot down once they have reached a certain height. Which means that if you ever were to shoot one down, you would have to have a missile defense system near the launch site. Which means that missiles fired from subs or from land areas in central Asia (Russia/China/India/Pakistan) would be outside of our ability to shoot down. That's why Regan wanted to put defensive batteries in space, which is about the only place you have a reasonable shot of shooting down an ICBM. But the costs are staggering, and the political pressure against it is immense. And the missile batteries themselves could be taken out with an EMP or other weapon system.
  • 1 Hide
    Draven35 , October 30, 2012 11:52 AM
    Actually, ICBMs are *easier* to shoot down at least til the MIRVs separate from the bus. And the launchers to shoot down ICBMs are mobile... they are called ships.

    see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIM-161_Standard_Missile_3

    Also, most military systems are hardened against EMP. Many of these systems, if the EMP is big enough to seriously mess it up, the nuke that created it is going to be causing more problems than the EMP.
  • 2 Hide
    showcase0712 , October 30, 2012 1:22 PM
    "Since 2001, the MDA aid that it had 56 successful hit-to-kill intercepts in 71 flight test attempts."

    I'm sure the MDA wasn't quite as successful back in 2001... they just performed a 100% hit ratio in this test published. so considering that older systems were probably missing a lot, and we now have an average hit ratio over this 11 year span of 78% says a lot. they've come a very long ways. thats like starting out playing bf3 with a 1:1 kill ratio and now you're averaging 4:1 over the course of your gaming. technically you have a higher current kill ratio and are getting better but the poor performance starting out is averaging it down. their average will never be 100% unless they start a new timeframe from now.
  • 0 Hide
    TeraMedia , October 30, 2012 2:35 PM
    The question I'm wondering is, Who was this publication for? @zodiacfml thinks it's for the public, but as seems to be reflected by many of the posts above, the publication has been received by the public with distrust, frustration, skepticism, and a general sense of money wasted. That's not something that government officials want to do in an election year (unless the MDA dislikes Obama and wants him out of office).

    So why are we seeing this particular publication?
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