‘Nothing larger than a football’

Though I’ve long been a fan of the Navy’s anti-missile system, I’m pleased and relieved that this worked.

USS Lake Erie (CG 70)

USS Lake Erie (CG 70)
under way in 1993.

And I’m always a fan of Navy says missile smashed wayward satellite headlines. If the Navy had missed, do you think the headline would have been Navy says missile missed wayward satellite, or Navy missile missed wayward satellite. It seems like people only “say” things when it’s good. As if the press is exercising some skepticism and waiting to see. If it’s bad news they pile on.

Anyway, there’s this:

The elaborate intercept may trigger worries from some international leaders, who could see it as a thinly disguised attempt to test an anti-satellite weapon — one that could take out other nation’s orbiting communications and spy spacecraft.

Within hours of the reported success, China said it was on the alert for possible harmful fallout from the shootdown and urged Washington to promptly release data on the action.

To which Mudoc says “China, STFU.”

They’re “on the alert” for debris that will re-enter the atmosphere from a very highly publicized test against an identified target with a valid reason to be shot down. Seems that they’ve forgotten their own unannounced test which left debris in orbit for everyone to play with for years to come.

And the Rooskies, of course, are onboard the concerned bandwagon as well. Someone asked me if I wasn’t worried about provoking the Russians with this test. Well, the Rooskies call our plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe an offensive threat, but call their own threats to target Ukraine, Poland, and the Czech Republic with nuclear missiles a defensive strategy.

I simply dismiss the complaints of China and Russia on this as windbag political rhetoric. Completely worthless.

Of course, lots of folks are going to worry about US saber rattling and side with the Commies. (Yes, I know the Rooskies aren’t Commies any more. They’re our friends again. Wink. Wink.)

This poor guy obviously wrote his story before last night’s satellite intercept: U.S. anti-missile plan is hopelessly flawed

He’s worried that we’re “sticking a finger in [Putin’s] eye” with missile defense, mostly because it doesn’t work. He bases his claim on first-hand knowledge:

I have a bit of personal experience with anti-missile missiles, in Israel during the first Gulf War. The United States deployed a Patriot anti-missile battery just outside Tel Aviv, to counter Saddam Hussein’s Scud attacks. One night, I stood on a hotel balcony to watch as a Scud arced in from the east, trailing fire in its wake. Below me, a Patriot launched with a roar.

Moments later, the two missiles met high above the city, and the Patriot exploded, destroying the Scud, just as it was supposed to. But then the fiery debris from both missiles — including the Scud warhead — rained down on Tel Aviv and destroyed two homes. What did the Patriot accomplish?

He then says that the Airborne Laser system is far better than missile interceptors, then goes on to explain why that won’t work either. Though it’s tough to argue that he’s too far off base with his criticisms of the ABL, I find it interesting that his attitude is based on experience with early-gen Patriots in 1991 and a program that has already been all but canceled. If he argued against the spotty record and high cost of the land-based system, I could buy some of what he’s selling.

Missile defense is not an offensive weapon. Shooting down satellites can be, though, and this was a legitimate demonstration that our anti-missile system has the potential to do just that, at least for low-orbiting sats. Want to argue that having the capability to shoot down satellites is bad? Go ahead, though I disagree.

And don’t argue that it won’t work, which has been a major part of the anti-anti-missile defense argument for over 20 years.

Well done, guys.

UPDATE: In the comments, responding to the fact that potential enemies are unhappy with our test:

Well, that’s a sure sign you’re on the right track in my book.

UPDATE 2: Hah.


  1. I’ve been in favor of BMD ever since I first read about it. Developing defensive capability to counter your enemies (avowed or otherwise) offensive capability is just common sense. Sometimes that defensive capability has a secondary offensive role (Mordoc/s observation that knocking out THEIR satellites is an offensive manuver–though it does not directly threaten their population or economic infrastructure), but that’s the nature of weaponry and capabilities. They don’t like it? Well, that’s a sure sign you’re on the right track in my book. And, who cares if your enemies/competitors, or whiny liberals don’t like it and say it’s provacative. The last group would like all of us to be unable to defend ourselves against land borne predators, intent on robbing or killing us too. BMD (especially the kind not having antisatellite capability) IS a a prudent defensive measure, and you can be sure our geo political rivals, no matter how much they bitch about our capability, either have, or are working on their own. I also note we wisely zapped the bird much lower in orbit than the Chinese did with their bird, ensuring that all/most of the little fragments will burn up on reentry, not orbit the planet as hazardous space junk (like a certain unnamed comms sat from last year! LOL!) One of the MilSpec briefers I caught the the news this AM, was saying that once the ship and SM3 ha been configured for the ASAT role, they weren’t any good for anything else until reconfigured again. If true, I’d say my (and others) observation that we took advantage of the satellite reentry to test new hard & software was pretty close to the mark.

  2. Missile defense is easy. It is a hell of a lot easier to hit something the size of an airplane on a ballistic trajectory than it is to hit an airplane that’s maneuvering autonomously. Satellites are both highly visible and easily targeted since they have a very limited maneuver capability. This is specifically why we should have never abandoned the SR-71 and why the U-2 is still flying. Surveilance is a good application for UAVs.

  3. Missile defense and anti-sat work really should be combined. Now I have said my share of anti-rail gun on Navy ship thoughts. That said, rail guns would make excellent anti-sat weapons and point defense weapons vs incoming warheads. Park rail guns next to the nuke plants for power and you have a great basis for some real defense.

  4. The elaborate intercept may trigger worries from some international leaders’ To anyone ‘worried’ about this, I say, GOOD! Worry away.