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back to article Star Wars missile intercept fails for fifth year running

A test of the fledgling US missile defense system, dubbed Star Wars, has had yet another setback after an interception missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California failed to find its target over the Pacific. "Although a primary objective was the intercept of a long-range ballistic missile target launched from …

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Use the force

Turn off the targetting computer and trust your instincts

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Re: Use the force

Simples, just 'leak' a design for an innertial guidance system to the norks which has a transponder built in and suddenly the system stands a chance of working. Alternatively we can continue to spend beeelllions more on it in the hope it will work.

I agree that this would be very important if it were to work, but there must be some limit on the spending, at least where you go lets wait 5-10 years and see if technology improves enough to make it more likely to work. It's a decent idea, it was sensible to try, but shouldn't we be seeing better results by now?

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Holmes

Re: Use the force

"It's a decent idea, it was sensible to try, but shouldn't we be seeing better results by now?"

Why do you assume you're being told the truth? The programme isn't deployed at a scale that would defend against a nukefest with any sizeable nuclear fleet where peace is maintained by mutual deterrence, so its value is as a defensive asset against Norks, Iranians and any similar rogues. If the rogues believe the Star Wars systems work, then logically they would look at alternative weapons delivery methods that are less vulnerable, and therefore leave the US more exposed. But if they think the system doesn't work when it does, and stick to developing relatively expensive and complex ICBM vehicles, then should push come to shove and an unprovoked attack is launched, there's a chance to blat the incoming.

Given the US experience that exists with anti-missile systems, I'd be very surprised if the results were as bad as are reported.

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Re: Use the force

Like the 'Israeli' missile shield? To be fair they seem to be using the opposite tacticans suggesting it works better than in does.

You could be right, I certainly don't trust all I'm told. However I believe the Russians would be watching the tests and could potentially cry foul.

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Recourse

The past failures prove that the only possible recourse is to continue to deploy the non-functional system.

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>> another 14 interceptor rockets are being sent to Alaska,

>> at an additional cost of $1bn to the US taxpayer. ®

I'm sure Alaska would rather have the money.

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re: I'm sure Alaska would rather have the money.

Being Alaska they would rather have spent $10Bn on a giant shotgun

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I hate to quote Einstein but it is appropiate at this venture & perhaps those who are controlling them oney ought to take note;

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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Headmaster

Quoting Einstein...

If that were true I'd be insane for correcting this every time I see it, rather than just foolishly optimistic ... but here goes.

Firstly, there's no evidence that Einstein ever said this (best evidence is Rita Mae Brown paraphrasing a NA text which contain the much justifiable Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.. (The line is on p 25/68, end of fourth paragraph). Secondly, without the crucial emphasis on repeating mistakes, the quote makes little sense and could almost be seen as self evidently false: you could argue that significant ability in almost anything difficult - kung fu, piano, running, software development - can only be achieved through a huge amount of repetition.

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Yag
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"doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

It's basically how most government works.

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DJO
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Headmaster

Re: Quoting Einstein...

I think the essence of the phrase goes back a lot further, all the way to Seneca (1AD - 65AD) "Errare humanum est, Perseverare diabolicum" To err is human, to persist in it, is diabolical. "Diabolical" in this context is more akin to the contemporary "Insanity", the devil connotation to the word came a lot later.

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Never failed....

This system has never failed to stop an actual incoming nuclear missile! It's 100% successful.

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Happy

Re: Never failed....

"This system has never failed to stop an actual incoming nuclear missile! It's 100% successful.

Have you ever considered a career in the civil service?

I think we really need a "Sir Humphrey" icon for that sort of outstanding use of language.

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Thumb Up

Re: Never failed....

Not only that but it has supplied beeelions of dollars to poor defense contractors. So job done

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jai
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Re: Never failed....

+1 for the Sir Humphrey icon request!!

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Re: Never failed....

+1,000,000 for the Sir Humphrey icon.

Do I actually get 1,000,000 votes? I do? Why, thank you!

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Re: Never failed....

much like my magic rock

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DJO
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Boffin

Re: Never failed....

This system has never failed to stop an actual incoming nuclear missile! It's 100% successful.

However it has also failed to stop any incoming nuclear missiles so it also has a 0% success rate; wave or particle, you decide.

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Successful when the target has a transponder?

Then they should divert the funds to improve the targeting to spies to persuade/trick potential enemies into including transponders on their missiles. Problem solved.

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Re: Successful when the target has a transponder?

Or they could sell missiles to current unstable regimes so that after the revolution when the new rulers try and use them - we will know where they are.

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Meh

5 Years? Try 5 *decades*

Early attempts would be Nike X and Nike Zeus (1960s)

When that did not work they called it Watchguard and the missile Spartan and Sprint.

In the 80s it was Strategic Defense (the catch-all term for this sort of thing) Initiative AKA "Star Wars" which got the Prez his Ronnie the Raygun nickname.

In the late 90s & oughties it was Global Protection Against Limited Strikes IE "Rogue states.". Proving the old adage that "There's always an enemy, you just need to know where to look for them."

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Re: 5 Years? Try 5 *decades*

'Early attempts would be Nike X and Nike Zeus (1960s)'

Clearly deploying shoes against ICBMs is doomed to fail. Perhaps Doc Martins would have been worth a stab though.

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Boffin

Re: 5 Years? Try 5 *decades*

"... which got the Prez his Ronnie the Raygun nickname."

Minor quibble -- Ronald Reagan had that name applied to him long before "star wars" -- you can hear it being used on the Woodstock movie. It may have been a one-off comment instead of a true nickname, but it still preceded SDI.

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Re: 5 Years? Try 5 *decades*

These did have nuclear warheads though.

A simple engineering solution to failing to get the bang close enough - is to simply make the bang bigger

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The problem

The most worrying thing for me about this is that if they ever get it working properly, they will be itching to try it out for real and might (Will?) be inclined to try and provoke a missile war for the purpose.

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Re: The problem

Unlikely, it is an added later of deterrence, primarily for psychological value. The only reason we hear about the failure(s) is because someone else has a competing system and they're trying really hard to get it sold.

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They solved the targeting problem in the '60s with the Nike Hercules missile system.

If you can't hit the target precisely; just explode a 30kt nuclear warhead on the trajectory - that should take care of it !

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Mushroom

Exactly - use a bigger fly swatter...

Nike Hercules WORKED - no need to be that accurate when you hit the incoming nuke with a wave of saturating neutrons and enough explosive force to probaly turn it to pebbles.

Of course, in the event of a Soviet strike, we would be launching basically all of the Nike Hercules that we had, creating a curtain of death around the borders of the US, and hoping that not too much of the resulting radioactivity landed on our cities and farmland. BUT - this was the era of Hermann Kahn's "On Thermonuclear War" - and thinking like this was very real and very hotly debated.

In the end, we decided that setting off a few dozen 30kt nukes around our own cities was a bad idea. So Ronald Reagan decided that we would do it "smarter", and developed Star Wars using beams, brilliant pebbles, etc. But no nukes.

Star Wars was a dud, never really working as planned due to targetting issues that STILL persist, decades later. And I doubt that I will see it work in my lifetime.

But the old Nike Hercules idea might be JUST the ticket for lone North Korean nukes. I think most people living on the West Coast would prefer a single 30kt blast over the Pacific to a 500kt blast with LA or San Fran as ground zero. The politics are hard to sell, but from a simple logical perspective (Kahn all over again), it would be better to have a workable defense system that you never want to use except as a measure of last resort, to what we have now - a multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

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Joke

The BASTARDS!!!

How dare they attack us with missiles without transponders! It's not fair!!!!

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Re: The BASTARDS!!!

Agreed it is cowardly tactics like this that keep the rest of us from having nice things.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The BASTARDS!!!

Perhaps they need use google instead of apple maps to find the targets?

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Reminds me of The Producers

Clearly there's good money to be made from failure

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Can't they have a word with the Israelis?

Their Iron Dome seems to work pretty well.

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Boffin

Re: Can't they have a word with the Israelis?

Iron dome works on short-range missiles. ICBMs approach much faster so are much more difficult to hit.

And besides, AFAIK Iron dome is partly US technology

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Re: Can't they have a word with the Israelis?

"Their Iron Dome seems to work pretty well."

Against flying home-made pipe-bombs...

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Re: Can't they have a word with the Israelis?

Iron Dome works about as well as the Patriot anti-missile system. The press only talks about the successes.

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Re: Can't they have a word with the Israelis?

Actually the Iron Dome system was meant to have worked remarkably well with very few missiles getting through and hitting human occupied areas. The system is clever enough that on detecting an incoming missile it will calcualte where it will land and if that's waste land, desert, the sea, etc, then it will leave it be and save the missile for the next potential target.

As others have said, it is only a defence against short range missiles (though theoretically also agaisnt SCUD type) and is part of a three tier solution. Middle tier will be the replaement for patriot (which had only about a 50% success rate during the Gulf War), and the third tier a theoretical defence agaisnt ICBMs.

Iron Dome is Israeli tech, not a joint project, however I do understand they are looking to sell it to the US.

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Trollface

Wrong author

Get Page on this article to give it the requisite pro-US MIC spin.

Missiles will be reported exploding mid-flight like it was the 4th of July!

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"The reliability of our missile defense system is being brought into question"

The reliability of your missile defense system has never been properly evaluated in the first place, and is obviously made of complete porkies at the moment.

Which is not a problem, really, since nobody is going to lob any missiles at you in the forseeable future.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "The reliability of our missile defense system is being brought into question"

"Which is not a problem, really, since nobody is going to lob any missiles at you in the forseeable future."

There's confidence if ever I've seen it. Military history is peppered with quotes along the lines of "they'd never dare attack us here", often shortly followed by "they're mad, the crazy f*****s are attacking us!!!".

The late Iain M Banks illustrated military deterrence policy nicely in Surface Detail. It's not necessary to actually have a invincible military force all the time. All you need is the industrial capacity to produce one on demand, and make damn sure that everyone knows it. There's the minor issue of relying on the other guys not being insane (in case they just press that button anyway), but otherwise it's all good.

So with this missile interceptor system its more of a question about how it is perceived by the bad guys.

  • Does it work? No.
  • Might it work? Maybe.
  • If they absolutely went for it and put all their resources and talent into it, could the US make it work? Well, I wouldn't bet against it.
The trick is to not get caught with your pants down and discover that the bad guys have actually got their capability before your counter is ready.

We've been here before. The US pulled the same trick with the Soviet Union in the 1980s, threatening to develop a system (at vast expense) that would render the entire USSR missile arsenal pointless, so the cold war calmed right down.

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Amazing the number of songs titled 'Here I Am'

> there have been some successful intercepts using the Star Wars system – notably when the target missile carries a transponder to guide the kill vehicle

I cannot believe I read this. Perhaps they ought next to find out if the system is actually capable of winning at Whack-a-Mole (simulated, natch).

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john wayne

Why dont they just launch all there missiles at the same time like they do with there guns...... even stevie wonder couldnt miss then.

Spray and pray they call it........worked wonders in Baghdad.

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Mushroom

GREAT IDEA, just poorly executed (so far)

Orright, the deployment of a system that simply doesn't work is asinine, and they should have to repay the money with interest. Grrr.

However, we should definitely keep working on anti-ballistic-missile tech. It gets a lot of mockery now because it hasn't worked out... YET. But seriously! Who would not want to be able to shoot down an incoming missile/warhead? Anyone? Just because it hasn't panned out yet does not mean it's a loser. That aviation thing was pretty crude for a long time (wood and cloth!) and now we have routine jet passenger service.

Pursue the technology. Wait to deploy until it works.

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Trollface

There's yer problem right there

Yer throwing money at the problem in the form of missiles. What you need to do is throw actual money in the form of dense clouds of dense coin. Several million gold coins blasted from a super shotgun should do it, and not require infeasible technology. Cheaper to boot.

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last known radar location - next radar location = speed of incoming

speed of intercept -> pridicted path of incoming

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Facepalm

Wow I cant believe no-one thought of that...

Oh my god, all those engineers and boffins working on this, and they never thought of that. You should totally take control of the project because the people running it are obviously too stupid to realise its as simple as that...

*rolleyes*

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OCP

Who cares if it works? Think of the spares and maintenance contracts for years to come

Dick Jones, VP Omni Consumer Products

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Re: OCP

redo the math and send the predicted GPS path location, and just use heat seek when in 5 miles radius or some other guidence system, and all is better then the physics of a id software game

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Go

Re: OCP

Heat seeking doesnt work on ICBM. In fact most guidance systems dont because you dont have a heat signature (an ICBM uses all its fuel in the first few minutes and then "cruises" to its target), you have a low radar signature (the cross section of an ICBM is relatively small), the ICBM is travelling very fast, and its not transmitting on other frequencies. So shooting down an ICBM is pretty difficult stuff.

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Mushroom

"With USA making increasingly bellicose noises"

... ain't it amazing how El Reg's tireless warmongling propaganda can with one toggle be converted into the truth?

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