A British Tornado shot down early in the invasion last spring by a US Patriot missile battery suffered from a malfunctioning Identification-Friend-or-Foe (IFF) transmitter, according to the British government. There were other factors, as well, but this is a bit of a break for the Patriot missile.
MO noted last April that the Patriot PAC-3 had been rushed through testing. The tests skipped are the same tests that National Missile Defense systems may skip in order to go operational on time.
What could possibly go wrong?
I wrote in another post
Again, this is similar to what some in the administration and the Pentagon want to to with the National Missile Defense program. Unless the threat of ICBM attack is high (exactly like it isn’t right now) this would be a BAD IDEA. Shooting down military fighters in the Persian Gulf is bad enough, but what happens if the NMD accidentally shoots down an airliner (or a space shuttle, for that matter) near US territory? I suggest that extra testing rather than less testing is the right approach with this thing, especially if software is the main issue. The hardware can be manufactured, or even put in place, so that when the computers are ready to go the system can go online. But we can’t screw this one up.
The possibility of shooting down a space shuttle has diminished greatly, but only because the space shuttle may not fly again. I’m all for National Missile Defense, and I have no (few, anyway) qualms about spending big money to research it and develop it. But we need to do it right.
It’s too bad about the British aircrew of the Tornado shot down last spring, but it is a bit of a relief to know what the cause was and that it’s something that should be easily correctable.