08:52 14 Apr 2003

According to this Reuters report, CENTCOM says that the F/A-18C off the USS Kitty Hawk shot down near Al Basrah on April 3rd was “probably” shot down by a US Patriot missile battery. The pilot was killed. This would be the second confirmed Allied plane shot down by the Patriot since the shooting started in Iraq three weeks ago. The other was a British Tornado in the early days of the fighting.

What remains to be seen is which version of the Patriot was responsible for the accident. There are two versions of the Patriot in the Gulf, the PAC-2 (state of the art) and the PAC-3 (cutting edge). As I posted earlier, the PAC-3 was rushed into service by bypassing most of its operational testing phase.

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.