Left of Center: By Yukkione: Shooting missles from the sky: THAAD
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Time : 10:31 PM

Today I read an piece written by Jason Gibbs of the Las Cruces Sun-News about a recent missile intercept test at the White Sands missile range. (Story here) Essentially the test of the THAAD system was designed to use powerful radar and super accurate targeting to make one missile strike an incoming “enemy” missile that carried a simulated WMD payload. The purpose of which is to destroy it high enough above the ground, and with enough force to eliminate both the missile and any chance that the payload could affect targets on the ground. Our anti missile systems are based on our ability to calculate an arching trajectory from an enemy launch pad or ship to a target on American or ally soil. Once the path of the incoming missile is triangulated and plotted, interceptor missiles are sent to actually strike them out of the sky at a safe distance from us. Now of course, calculating all the variables for an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile is difficult beyond belief, but we have actually been having some level of success doing so. Unlike the Patriot anti missile system deployed in the gulf region... Some of the THAAD intercepts actually happened. This is great right? Makes us so much safer right? Well worth the billions (probably trillions) we have poured into “Star Wars” since the Reagan era? Hmm, Well maybe not... there is a kink in the fabric, a fray in the line, a fly in the ointment... You see the Russians, and some think the Chinese, have developed ICBM's that ZIG ZAG... thats right.. they don't fly straight like our brilliant scientists want them to. So there is no nice clean flight trajectory to triangulate. No, way to predict the path and therefore no way to intercept. Our Trillion dollar project has effectively been antiquated before it ever left the lab. All those dollars spent by politicians, military experts and scientists, who have less foresight than my seven year old playing me in a game of chess. I wrote Mr. Gibbs who wrote the original article about his thoughts on this, and he was kind enough to promptly respond. He said:
Mr. Shilliday
You make a good point. My understanding (limited, certainly) is that THAAD is one part of a larger puzzle that will eventually address the more advanced incoming missiles. I freely admit my forte is writing, and I posess very little military knowledge. But I can say without reservation the fireworks were stunning.
Wish I could offer you a more intelligent response, but the technology is truly beyond me.
I do, however, deeply appreciate you taking the time to read the article and especially appreciate the fact you took time to respond.
Best regards,
Jason Gibbs
I appreciate his candor. I understand the military often want people seeing their successes, but often offer little in the way of whole explanations. Again, thank you Jason.
What can be said of this system? Is it truly going to make us safer? Would this money being spent on systems like THAAD be better spent on things like scanning all incoming ports for nukes stashed in shipping containers.

posted by Yukkione at 10:31 PM | Permalink |

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"based on our ability to calculate an arching trajectory from an enemy launch pad"...just when you convinced me that perhaps math IS necessary! FEH!

I can understand the value in this zig zag pattern for evading a precise shoot down- but how can THEY isolate a target while also employing this "unpredictable" trajectory pattern?

It seems to me that the technology that would help them both zig zag AND hit a target would help us shoot it down. (maybe target is not important though??? Just America would suffice? Random people?)It seems that the project expenses-if not- were a poor use of billions.

Wasnt it a long shot anyway as of now? More needed to be done.
For a sporadic pattern they must be able to establish when it hits a certain apex before commencing the sporadic pattern and get it shot down before. Seems such calculations would be possible eventually. As long as they originate from something in orbit, not on earth.

That IS cool that he wrote back. I am into learning more about this gig now.

Wel the trouble with zig zagging is that it cuts down the time we have tio actually make the intercept. Sending another missle takes time for it to fly and intercept. A laser of course would be faster but lazers of the correct power need to be housed in a 747 sized plane, and even then as a chemicaly generated laser would only offer one shot currently. At any rate lets just say that zig zagging fucks up our calculations in a major way and makes the destruction of the incoming nearly impossible.

There is so much I wish I could say about this article. But I cant. Let's just say all the info isn't out there. I, and anyone up at 0530 in the morning here on the North-East side of El Paso a few days ago, that was looking to the north towards whitesands, would have seen a curious glowing vapor trail which twisted its way throught the sky like a chinese dragon in a parade. Nothing happened for a while. We (myself and the people I happened to be standing next to) thought it was over. Then a pretty blue/orange ball of light appeared in the sky, and everyone cheered.



Missile defense may eventually have substantial utility against rogue states, but our best defense today remains preemptive force. We need to turbanate nuke programs before the weapons are operational. The ambitious Arab Baathist Socialist Party in Iraq was a midterm nuke threat, but they're out of power and blowing up cars today. With regard to the other remaining member of the Axis of Evil, if Iran doesn't get their pooch (the Hez) back on the porch, Israel may end up taking out the nuclear program for us.

thaks, LoC. Don't know what to say about this, Know very little about it...but we should definitely be checking the ports.

Yes...I think the port checking is essential...the money better spent... or at least it seems. I've often wondered why we haven't managed to have some suicide bombers here in the states...you know the back pack types. I think we are in for that business in the near future. I don't go to the big mall...although I live near one.

Thanks for posting on this...and I don't think I would have been sitting out in the sand "cheering", more like holding my head in disbelief...geez- one more thing to make me chug Mylanta at 3am...and I always wonder WHAT we just don't Know about ???!( because the media whores are too busy humping Paris Hilton and other Terra Crap...)..Keep informing us and helping us find the Truth...

Let us assume for a moment that these "zig-zagging" missiles that Russia and China are developing are actually more than theoretical, and may make it off the drawing board, and be tested, and actually work. That's rather big, but let's go with it for now.

Where is the more imminent danger actually coming from? From an attack by Russia or China, or from a strike by North Korea or some other lesser state sponsor of terrorism?

Any chance that the Chinese would launch at us, their cash cow and biggest customer, is miniscule at best. If they are really developing this, it seems they have one of their closer neighbours in mind, of whom they may fear that we might supply them with Patriots. The chance that Russia might use them on us is equally small. The Russians know that if they started a war, NATO would kick into action against them at once. Whatever is in the air between Washington and Paris and Berlin now, you know the hatchet would be buried instantly.

Missile defense of some sort is still valuable as a deterrent against attacks sponsored by the likes of North Korea or Iran (a sea launch from a modified frieghter is a plausible scenario). And even if a trillion dollars has been spent on it in the last 25 years (which is doubtful), that is not an outsize investment in a country whose GDP is around $15 trillion per year, especially when you think of the damage to our economy (and the world's) that would ensue. Remember that a lot of other countries are dependent on us to one degree or another for military and economic assistance. Even Egypt gets $2 billion a year.

Missile defence is a deterrent. No one has ever launched against us. One cannot claim that a deterrent has failed when it, in fact, does deter. A deterrent fails only in the event of a successful launch against us. And at that point we'll all have other things to do than pulling on the green eyeshades.

the latest chapter in the saga of the absurdity of the arms race capsulized in this post ... nice job ...

I disagree that China would never attack their cash cow. I agree with it for NOW. As we outsource jobs and improve foreign economies dramatically, we will not be the only market for long and they will not need us, especially if our mismanaged finances creates the economic downturn predicted. We are putting far too much stock in the "can't attack us" scenario.

Right now they are also heavily invested in us- but that will be to their advantage when they pull out and watch our infrastructure crumble. If they want to.As our manufacturing plants go elsewhere- who would even supply a war effort? Our domination depends on some pretty tenuous factors remaining unchanged. Not realistic.

You think people will be filling their carts up with cheap Chinese exports forever?

Give the situation time. In twenty years we will not be the superpower we are today, and fewer people will put up with our shit.

Good thoughts, EB, but think about this, too: China simply cannot afford a major war, not now, nor for a long time to come. There is no room here for a detailed exposition of this, but it comes down to this.

Wars take money, lots of money. China's vaunted economy is based on cheap exports, but their ability to export is based on two very shaky legs: one is the undervalued yuan (their currency) which creates inflationary pressures and--even as it makes it easy to sell their goods--makes it difficult to buy materiels that they need. Think OIL here, which wars also require lots and lots of. China is already a huge oil importer, and cannot pay for the vast quantities needed for war footing with crates of toys and gimcracks. The oil guys want dollars, and China is spending all of its dollars already on other things. (Not the least of which is corruption.) Secondly, they will not be able to get loans, because China's State banks are sitting on 20-25% bad loans. This is as astounding rate, far in excess of the 3% or so that financial markets consider acceptable. Even their own people cannot loan them money thanks to low wages. To stage an invasion of Taiwan would put a probably disastrous strain on their system. In the case of war with us, it would take a matter of months before money there became a thing of the past. You may be able to pay your workers and soldiers with IOUs for a while, but you can't run your submarines and tanks on them.

This is not to discount the possibility of war with China altogether. We have to be prepared. Counter-intuitively--but historically--wars usually begin not between States at parity, but States where one is far weaker than the other. This is the exact reason why the US let the USSR close the "missile gap" in the late '60s and early '70s, and the rationale behind MAD. It may sound crazy, but hey, it worked. The USSR died not with a bang but with a whimper.

Yes- it would take a long discussion to argue this and neither of us feel so inclined. I disagree on Taiwan as well. And with their ratings.

And...with the conclusions based on the yuan- undervalued- YES- but by whom??? By THEM. And everyone knows it and knows it hurts us and nobody does anything about it, even recently when there was pressure to call them on it.

Why is it that we cant even stand up to them on that small matter?

They are not as troubled as you describe, and if they were so destitute they would certainly not be looking to invest in technology initiatives and Boeing aircraft.

Now I am not saying they will just provoke conflict, and certainly they need energy now as we do. But therein also lies the problem which will emerge in the future as they must support their population. They will reamin belligerent on emissions too.

When was the last time someone fired a missile at the US?

you got your 7 year old playing chess? That is great!

thanks for the update to your blog roll by the way

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