Navy’s missile defense tests successfully once again

AEGIS Weapon System Successful In Ballistic Missile Tracking Exercise

I’m totally in favor of national missile defense. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Right? Right?

Anyway, while the big land-based program suffers massive cost overruns and non-failure failures on the launch pad, the Navy’s program seems to be progressing steadily:

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Weapon System has successfully detected and tracked an unarmed U.S. Air Force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Aegis detected the missile when it rose above the horizon and immediately began BMD tracking operations. Lockheed Martin develops the Aegis BMD Weapon System for the U.S. Navy and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and also serves as the Combat System Engineering Agent.

I say if we’re going to keep shovelling money into the program we ought to send a little more the Navy’s way. Or maybe convert some of the decommissioned cruisers and destroyers to the BMD standard and drag them up onto shore to act as the land-based component.

What? It would be stupid to use grounded ships for missile defense, you say?

Well, we’re currently planning to use beached whales, Murdoc says.


  1. Well at least it’s working for the USN. I just read about test for the land based systema and they changed the criteria for sucess. It kinda seemed like they lowered the bar. At least one of em is working. And yes it is importent to keep funding this.

  2. Correct me if I am wrong, but the Navy’s ballistic missile defense is a theater defence whereas the land-based one is more of a strategic defense, right? i.e. for the Navy system to be able to defend the US there would have to be Navy ships with radar and missiles stationed in every major city, since it can only intercept missiles which are headed pretty much straight for it. I believe it intercepts the missile after it has already re-entered the atmosphere. The land-based interceptor intercepts the missile in space (hence the bigger missiles, extra complexity, bigger radars, etc.) and is able to defend a whole swath of the continent from a single location. You probably want both of these, then you get two attempts at shooting down each missile. Comparing them directly is a little unfair I think. Having said that, giving the Navy enough money to ensure their system is perfected and placed in as many useful locations as possible would seem like a good idea. I just don’t think that would negate the need for the land-based system. Nuclear missile defense certainly makes sense when you’re worried about your Iran/North Korea who has a handful of long range missiles and is unstable/crazy enough not to be dissuaded by assured destruction. I sure hope the US is planning on defending its allies like South Korea and Japan too though, otherwise that leaves a gaping opportunity for Nuclear blackmail.

  3. Sigh…. You have to love the government. They manage to have multiple programs trying to do the same thing, yet none of them actually work. At this rate it would cheaper for us to buy every pearson in North Korea a Mercedes. That said, from everything I have seen, we have more then enough ability to track the weapons – it is the interceptor that we are failing. Now ABL is having vibration issues and who knows if it will ever fly. But what if we mount it on a frieghter. You would eleminate alot of the vibration issues, cooling issues, and technology issues of trying to cram it into a plane. Yes weather would be an issue, but that can be mitigate. Back up focused EMP bursts is one possiblity.

  4. James, you posted at the same time as me. See above for why I don’t think they’re quite the same thing. Additionally: * The Navy Aegis/Standard Missile system is a modified SAM system, like the Patriot. Hence, it’s easier and cheaper to build (already partially developed), but also more limited. The reason the Patriot wasn’t the world’s best ABM system was because that wasn’t what it was initially designed for (although I believe it’s a credible one, now that it’s fully developed and tested). * A further issue arises if you’re dealing with MIRVs. The Navy system almost certainly has to intercept each individual warhead, since it does its interception in the last few seconds of flight, well after the MIRVs have seperated from the bus. I’m not sure about the land-based interceptor but it may be able to hit the bus before the MIRVs are deployed, meaning you need a lot less missiles per incoming missile. * Naval missile systems are typically easier than land-based ones, since the ocean is pretty much nice and flat and fairly predictable. Land doesn’t move much but it has lots of frilly bits, Arguing that these two systems are the ‘same’ is kind of like arguing that naval aviation is just a duplicate of land-based aircraft and therefore redundant…

  5. Nicholas – I’ll restrain myself on commenting on the Naval avation. [See Strategy Page The Hornet is such a great fighter… Anyway – With respect to the Navy ballistic missile. The Navy dilibertly down plays its capability to avoid getting into antiballistic treaty arguements. The navy gets away with it by pointing the range limitations of the Aegis. That said, if you link the Aegis ships to the wider radar nets and space based tracking systems the Navy interceptors could down ballistic missiles. If war came, I doubt that the Navy would turn off its digital downlinks so that its ships could not take advantage of the Cobra Dane Radar. Exoatmopheric interceptor missiles are are waste of money. First off, IR & Radar tracking will not detect false missile. (You would need a gamma ray or neutron spectrometer to do that – as far as I know – no one has invented one of those that can be used a tracking device.) It is infinitly easy to create counter measures. Now when the missile reenters – a lot of the problems go away. IR detectors are very effective, as is Radar. With respect to in atmosphere missile. Now you are talking patriot, Standard SM-3, Arrow … and so on. The use of missiles to down missiles is inheritly a waste of time and money. You major engineering challenges – ie murphy’s law in spades. Given the rapid advance of laser and microwave technology. IMO opinion we should intergrate our detection systems and develope dedicated Anti-missile ships. This would reduce costs as the dedicated ships would be less then a full cost warship. Electromagnetic weapons don’t have steep interception vetors and problems with hypersonic manuvering.

  6. Well, I hope there is plenty of research continuing into laser and other energy weapons.. but in my opinion, until there can be tests showing that they work, I take it all with a grain of salt (including all this talk about rail guns and such). There was that 747 fitted with the giant chemical laser for boost-phase intercept but it had to be flying somewhere nearish to the launch site at the time of launch to perform the intercept – a bit of a problem. What you’re talking about sounds like STAR WARS all over again. Wasn’t that just a giant, fanciful waste of money? Or was there really something in it – could any of the projects have worked? Yes, missile interception in space is a very difficult problem, but at least it’s a problem that we KNOW we have the tools to solve. If we can put people on the moon we can put tungsten pellets in the path of an incoming warhead. The kinks in the system just need to be ironed out, like any other big project. I’m not convinced it’s impossible to detect decoys using a reasonable level of technology. I’m sure most of that research is classified, but I bet there’s some way to do it. Regardless, you could simply have multiple interception vehicles per launch vehicle – fighting fire with fire, in a sense. Having said that, I have pretty much no faith in the Military-Industrial Complex any more.. having given us the F-18E as you point out, among other stupidities. Whatever happened to competition for military contracts, prototypes, and contractual obligations???

  7. On working models of lasers. You can check out Global Security for a basic view of the tactical lasers . The state of the art in lasers right now – as weapons is limited. The lasers are large and have a lot of bulky equipments, storage.. .and so. So they are not tactical weapons. (Though the new solid-state lasers are have become small enough to be used in the F-35. Basically they are vehicle mounted weapons. ) That said, the use of lasers, or more importantly microwave and other high end EM beam tech would make an excellent site defense tech. With respect starware IMO that actually was a very successful program. The parts that could of worked? The brilliant pebbles looked promising, as did the neutral beam program. Not that it would work – if for no other reason then it would take NASA about 400 years to put up the necessary gear. Basically it was a great idea on paper and how possibilities in the lab, but died when someone asked – ‘Great idea – so how do we deploy it?’ The star wars program- did lead to some really nice sensor tech, and spurred the development of massively parallel computers, and scared the hell out the Russians. I think if you look, you’ll see lots of spin off techs from the program. As for missile vs missile as a tech we know how to do. I would argue that it is a tech that we don’t know how to do. We have been funding anti-missile tech for the past 30 years and still do not have a reliable system for shooting down missiles. The key limitation has always been the guidance system and missile control. As for tungsten pellets – we do that once, and so ends our low orbit space program. The hell that would be caused by high density pellets flying around at 18000 miles an hour.