back to article Pentagon trumpets successful mock-ICBM interception test

In a show of strength aimed at ever-belligerent North Korea, America has shot down what it calls a “simulated ICBM” with an intercept missile. Following the test, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) claimed success, saying the target was struck by the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the ballistic missile …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Incredible

    You can barely see the elastic joining the interceptor to the missile

  2. redpawn Silver badge

    Safe from Simulated ICBMs

    Now all we have to do is convince North Korea to convert to simulated weapons and we will be safe, as missed intercepts only lose simulated cities. Think Missile Command.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Safe from Simulated ICBMs

      Shall we play a game?

  3. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Pirate

    let's test something against the next NORK launch

    Come on, USA, let's test something against the next NORK launch. Next time Kim Jong "Cartman" Un decides everyone needs to "Respect his AUTHORITAH!" and lobs another missile into the Sea of Japan [hoping to reach Japan I'd gather], it would be *FUN* if the USA lobbed something BACK that blew it to *ATOMS* less than halfway there.

    you never know which one is going to have a REAL NUKE on it, so might as well blow them ALL up!

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: let's test something against the next NORK launch

      Lets not poke the snoozing bear shall we.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: let's test something against the next NORK launch

      It'll really not help the US reputation if it misses, which is quite likely. Fat Boy would make a huge deal of it, even if his missile fails.

    3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: let's test something against the next NORK launch

      Do you often fantasise about the deaths of millions?

  4. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Mushroom

    What if they used a series of satellites with powerful lazers that could track and destroy the incoming ICBM's. it's the only way to ensure we protect our way of life, by nuking it from orbit

    Call it star wars!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Farnet

      FozzyBear

      By definition wouldn't that be lasering rather than Nuking?

      1. FozzyBear Silver badge
        Pint

        Too true. I was in a hurry to finish the post. The clock chimed beer- O'clock, so couldn't be arsed to edit

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      lazers -(light amplification by Zoomy emission of radiation) uses faster than light super turbo WRX light to shoot down missiles before they are launched

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Star Wars? I like it. Will there be some stirring music??

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a senior moment here

    Could you please remind me why when north korea or iran test a new toy, it is an an aggressive, provocative act, which threatens the very fabric of the world peace; when america does it, it is a peaceful demonstration of our commitment to keeping the americans, our allies, and the world safe; and when russia does it, it is aggressive posturing by an egomaniac living in the past?

    don't bother, i'll get my cane myself on the way out ...

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: a senior moment here

      @AC

      Because the U.S. doesn't go threatening to turn cities that are home to 10s of millions of people into a "sea of fire", give state-run nightly news stories against a backdrop of the U.S. Capitol in flames or talk about destroying Israel?

      Not to say that the U.S. does everything right, but since the end of WW2 we're pretty sober when it comes to the nukes.

      1. redpawn Silver badge

        Re: a senior moment here

        I'd give you two thumbs up if I could M. Hack. I like to think we leave the sea of glass talk for the wing nuts for the most part. Intentionally landing a missile in another country's water without letting them know first is generally a no no, and certainly if you are officially talking up possibly nuking them.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a senior moment here

        Because the U.S. doesn't go threatening to turn cities that are home to 10s of millions of people into a "sea of fire", give state-run nightly news stories against a backdrop of the U.S. Capitol in flames or talk about destroying Israel?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_States

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_North_Korea

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_Iran

        Feel free to form your own conclusions.

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: a senior moment here

          "Because the U.S. doesn't go threatening to turn cities that are home to 10s of millions of people into a "sea of fire""

          The point of a nuclear strike capability, indeed the only point, is to threaten just that "sea of fire". To deter you must make that threat and make it credible.

          (That is why I just cannot understand Jeremy Corbin's statement that he wants to keep the UK's deterrent but will never use it. You can't change your mind in the middle of a crisis - that is a huge negative signal to the other side.

          Having a nuclear deterrent is a political, not a military, decision. If you are running the country and don't believe the UK should have it man up and scrap it. The money released can be spent on the NHS and pensions for superannuated techs.)

      3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "give state-run nightly news stories against a backdrop of the U.S. Capitol in flames"

        Say what you like but that would be a very arresting image on any US TV news channel.

        Even if the story didn't actually relate to the Capitol being in flames.

        Or in fact was about Washington DC at all.

        You know that in news, if it bleeds, it leads.

      4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: a senior moment here

        "... but since the end of WW2 we're pretty sober when it comes to the nukes."

        Hmm, considering the antics of Curtis E. LeMay, I'd say that Dr. Strangelove was closer to the truth than I'm really comfortable with.

      5. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: a senior moment here

        "since the end of WW2 we're pretty sober when it comes to the nukes."

        Uh huh. Pretty good at not nuking people since we last nuked people. Right.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a senior moment here

        "Because the U.S. doesn't go threatening to turn cities that are home to 10s of millions of people into a "sea of fire""

        America doesn't threaten it just does it, Iraq? Shock and Awe, hearts and minds, strong and stable (I added the last one for fun and to highlight how two words with an "and" in the middle can be used to sway opinion)

        Now where did I leave those wmd's?

      7. fajensen Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: a senior moment here

        Because the U.S. doesn't go threatening to turn cities that are home to 10s of millions of people into a "sea of fire" ...

        Yess - Because threatening words, Oh My God, are really, really dangerous stuff that could maybe hurt someone's feelings and stuff - quite unlike those democratic and fairly applied sanctions, inventions and "regime changes" all over the place where someone has something The Market wants for cheap.

        So far those actions, not random rantings, have resulted in hundreds of thousands killed, millions on the run and still more eeking out some sort of life in desperate poverty until seal team 6 confuses them with Al-Qa'ida and blows up their hamlet and lifestock.

        -- And we are The Good Guys, unfairly hated, picked upon and threatened with words and bad language only for our FreeDumbs!?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: a senior moment here

          I suspect you're also one threatened by "bad words" from the current President so pretending words don't matter when it comes to foreign powers, shows some of the most blatant hypocrisy seen here.

      8. joeldillon

        Re: a senior moment here

        The US is literally the only country that has ever nuked anybody, and it's now run by Donald Trump who may be pretty sober in a factual sense what with the not drinking and all but metaphorically very much is not so.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: a senior moment here

          Team America (world police) was a fantastic documentary. You should watch it.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: a senior moment here

      Duh!

      We = The GOOD GuysTM

      They = The BAD GuysTM

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: a senior moment here

      Could you please remind me why when north korea or iran test a new toy, it is an an aggressive, provocative act, which threatens the very fabric of the world peace; when america does it, it is a peaceful demonstration of our commitment to keeping the americans, our allies, and the world safe;

      The weapon being tested in this article, is it designed to destroy masses of civilians, or is it designed to destroy weapons that are designed to destroy masses of civilians?

      What are the weapons that North Korea are testing designed to do?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a senior moment here

        What are the weapons that North Korea are testing designed to do?

        They are designed to defend the Fatherland against an attack by an overwhelming invading force. Same as the US, UK, French, Russian, Pakistani, Indian, Israeli, or Chinese missiles and nukes, as a matter of fact.

        Have you been missing your daily political education session often, comrade?

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: a senior moment here

          They are designed to defend the Fatherland against an attack by an overwhelming invading force. Same as the US, UK, French, Russian, Pakistani, Indian, Israeli, or Chinese missiles and nukes, as a matter of fact.

          But how do they do that?

          And how does that compare to what the subject of this article does?

          Simplified:

          Which one kills people and which one protects people?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: a senior moment here

            Which one kills people and which one protects people?

            Both offensive and defensive weapons can either kill people or protect people.

            Offensive weapons can protect people by deterring an enemy attack (this is the concept of strategic deterrence, which every recognized nuclear power appears to support). They can also protect people by shortening an otherwise close-matched fight (this is an idea often invoked to excuse the nuclear-weapons use by the US in the 2nd world war).

            Defensive weapons can kill people by removing or reducing the cost of retaliation after the attack, which makes a military intervention more palatable and more profitable to the attacker. The history of colonial wars of the past few centuries is full of relevant examples, so pick one.

            As far as anybody knows, neither the norks' nuclear weapons nor the US BMD system have killed anybody not directly involved in their development so far, so the score here is nil-nil.

            Let's hope it stays that way.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: a senior moment here

              Offensive weapons can protect people by deterring an enemy attack

              But how do they do that FFS???!!

              What is their direct, primary function?

              What is the immediate primary effect of their use?

              Are they a punch of a parry?

              The most likely ill effect of defensive anti-missile weapons is the escalation of technology and design of attack weapons to foil them.

  6. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Apart from having flashbacks to the 1980ies (didn't they do all that before?), I also have questions.

    1. What exactly is an "ICBM target"? Possibly something larger than a re-entry vehicle1) from a MIRV bus? Like maybe a complete nose cone or upper stage?

    2. How do we get The Bad GuysTM to put beacons in their kit that provide target acquisition and tracking data for us?

    1) Cutest alternative name for "nuclear warhead" ever.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      This is a mid-course interceptor. It's to hit the warhead in space, in mid-flight. I'd assume while it's coasting. They planned to put a site in Eastern Europe to counter Iran's missile program, but didn't in the end. Partly because the Russians cut up rough, but I suspect mostly because it wasn't working yet.

      MIRVs are really hard, and North Korea are still struggling to shrink their warhead down to one per rocket size, as well as getting the rockets to work reliably. So I doubt they're worrying about them yet - it took the UK billions, and nearly a decade, to get Cheveline in the 70s, which is similar but cheaper tech to get multiple warheads through ABM defences but isn't fully independently targetable.

      Current US strategy on missile defence is multi-layered. Obviously it's all still in various stages of development, so I doubt anyone really knows what will work, or how well.

      So you've got THAAD which is already deployed in Alaska I think, and is being deployed in South Korea as we speak. That's the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence System - aimed at hitting the incoming warhead/MIRV on final approach to the target. They're the last line of defence.

      They've then got the early shot, which is the SM3. That's a naval SAM, carried by the US Arleigh Burke destroyers and their AEGIS cruisers. Japan also use them. And they're capable of hitting satellites, and missiles in flight. The US have a deal with Japan where there are always a couple of ships in the Sea of Japan to try and shoot down incoming missiles at an early stage, where they're obviously most vulnerable, as they're going slowly and can't manoeuvre. Japan obviously also maintain patrols to do this.

      There are also apparently various electronic means of getting at rockets in the early stage of flight, and rumours the US have been actually using them to bugger up North Korean tests. I've no idea how much of that is true, wishful thinking or even possible.

      Then you've got these mid-course ones.

      There's also someting I can't remember the name of but is basically a land based AEGIS system. It's cheaper, and already proven to work using SM3 - but obviously not on a ship. And the US are talking about putting one of these bases in Romania, to replace the mid-course missiles that would have gone to Poland. But that was to counter the Iranian threat, which is much reduced, as a nice nuclear deal has been signed. It also annoys the Russians on principle, so may or may not happen. But would seem to make sense in South Korea.

      However putting that near China might really annoy them, given they've already complained about THAAD - even though that's aimed at blocking warheads, and not Chinese missiles in flight.

      Russia has many missiles, so shouldn't be too worried about ABM weapson taking out a small percentage. But China only operates a few hundred warheads, as it has a similar limited nuclear posture to the UK and France. We aren't aiming for global destruction, just to take out your top 10-30 cities.

      1. Mike Richards

        It looked like the Minuteman's engine was still burning because it was leaving a trail of exhaust, so presumably there was still a fairly chunky target.

        Interesting summary - the threat of upsetting China is one that I really hope keeps the sane heads in the Pentagon awake. Not so much because of a risk of war with the US, but because China building up its arsenal is going to cause an arms race in the region with its historic rival, India which has already demonstrated impressive missile-building skills. And if India has more nukes, that means regional basket case Pakistan has got to build more...

        So while we wait for the world to turn a pleasant shade of Maralinga Orange - have an upvote.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          I think that upsetting China is deliberate.

          There's already an arms race in the region, because China has been on a huge military build-up for the last ten years. They're trying to create a genuine blue-water navy, though that's still years away, as they've been going quite slowly on the aircraft carrier development. But they have built a pretty huge amphibious capacity. For a country that's not got a blue-water navy, or much history of overseas deployment, that's basically a sword aimed directly at Taiwan. They're also massively militarising the South China Sea in competition with every other nation there (and much closer) for the oil resources.

          I think that the US policy is to upset China enough to get them to reign in North Korea (which everyone believes China has some power to do), without upsetting them so much as to get them really pissed off. The Chinese have got to understand that the US, South Korea and Japan have legitimate concerns about North Korea, but they've been unwilling to do much about if of late. That does seem to have been changing in the last couple of years though.

          Because the other bit that you missed out is the consequences of allowing North Korea to have a fully capable ICBM force. At present Japan and South Korea both operate civilian nuclear programs, and have advanced industry, but both are happy to shelter under the US nuclear umbrella. That may change. Trump can't look any more reliable to them as an ally than he does to Europe. They've been happy to accept China's nuclear forces, because China has kept them limited and acted mostly predictably. They may not choose to accept North Korea having that power over them. China would definitely not be happy with a nuclear armed Japan - and might wish to increase its nuclear resources.

          So as you can see, doing nothing may be just as bad as doing something. Hence the complicated diplomatic fun-and-games.

          This is the same situation with allowing Iran to get nuclear capability. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are quite unlikely to be happy about that. The Saudis have lots of cash, and can almost certainly get access to Pakistan's nuclear program. After all, Pakistan have already sold nuclear info to Libya, North Korea, Iraq, Syria and possibly others.

          As I understand it, Pakistan got their nuclear helping hand from China, to help counterbalance India. And then promptly sold it to North Korea for help with missiles. As you say, arms-races are bad.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      re-entry vehicle1)

      1) Cutest alternative name for "nuclear warhead" ever.

      It is cute, but I must admit that I've always preferred the term "bucket of instant sunshine"

  7. Captain DaFt

    "Pentagon trumpets successful mock-ICBM interception test"

    About time! I'm fed up to *here* with those blasted ICBMs constant mocking!

  8. lglethal Silver badge
    Boffin

    Next steps...

    "As Martin Pfieffer, who Tweets as @NuclearAnthro, put it: “Now do it with one flying faster, carrying chaff, and of unknown launch & trajectory.”"

    These interceptors are really not designed to take out anything with counter measures, which is why they wont work against Russian ICBM's (or probably the Chinese's as well). They will work against the Nork Rockets though, since they are not believed to have developed anything along those lines.

    The next test if you wanted to prove the system is to tell the Interceptor Crews sometime in the next month we will Launch 1-3 ICBM's at you. And give them no more details. Then launch those Rockets randomly from unreported locations and see how it goes. If the Interceptor works then, you have a working system. If not, go back to the drawing board...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Next steps...

      Developing ICBM's with countermeasures seems such an overkill when you can use a 40 foot shipping container as your delivery mechanism.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Next steps...

        Shipping containers aren't a very reliable method. And take lots of advanced prep. So they're a good covert first-strike option, but of limited use as a second strike deterrent.

        Particularly as North Korea isn't plugged into the global shipping network, and their ships get monitored, as they're often carrying weapons to places people might not want weapons sold to. So they might have to ship their container via land through China, which might annoy the Chinese government somewhat...

        At times of high tension, that threat massively diminishes, as none of North Korea's ships are going to be going anywhere un-watched.

        You could of course pre-position one in a third country, but that requires giving a lot of control of a precious national resource (a warhead) to an independent group you can no longer shoot. And has a high risk of getting discovered.

        Whereas a working ICBM on a train or truck that can be hidden gives second strike capability, even if the regime has been destroyed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Next steps...

          It doesn't need to be in the container to ship it out of North Korea. The container is only needed for delivering it to the target country and that makes things so much simpler. I do agree that it needs to have been shipped well before any posturing or actual hostilities take place.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Next steps...

            You could of course just surface one of your submarines in New York/San Francisco harbour and set the nuke off. Bit hard on the crew, admittedly.

            But any delivery mechanism where you have to drive/sail the thing to its target creates many problems and uncertainties. Especially when you're a rogue state, that doesn't have normal access to global shipping routes, and so who's stuff is at high risk of getting inspected/found.

            Plus you've got massive command and control problems. Once the warhead leaves its borders, the regime essentially has lost direct control of it. And paranoid family dictatorships aren't known for their high trust in subordinates.

            Plus, where would they keep the thing in the meantime?

            The North Korean airforce aren't expecting their planes to survive long enough to deliver these nukes, and I suspect the navy fare little better. So ICBMs are the most reliable means to work on. And North Korea has had a decent missile program for a while - it was missile tech that the Norks swapped with Pakistan to get their nuclear tech after all. So it's a natural fit. Plus it's also the scariest option, as well as making the regime look more poweful inside its borders. And propoganda is at least as important as reality, to a regime that only survives on fear and brainwashing.

      2. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

        Re: Next steps...

        what if your target is not anywhere close to a seaport?

        And if your intent is NOT "first strike"?

        Or you want to send more than one at a given area?

        Like using passenger jets as bombs, its a trick that only works once. And the claims of "it was an accident" are impossible to make even for the biggest apologists.

      3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Coat

        Developing ICBM's countermeasures seems such an overkill when you can use a 40 foot container

        I never use anything else.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely if Israel has a successful missile shield then developing one for larger rockets that stay in the air a lot longer before hitting their target is easy?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      The problem with ICMB interception isn't really target aquisition or tracking. It's pure and simple speed. A typical short range missile might be moving at mach 2 or 3 at best. An ICBM re-entry vehicle is moving at a balmy mach 14 or faster depending on trajectory. A timing error of 1 millisecond at mach 3 is about 1 m of position error. At Mach 14 that's closer to 5m. The difference between getting within blast radius and a mis. And every second you spend trying to get a good targeting solution means the target has moved nearly 5 km closer!

      1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Coat

        An ICBM re-entry vehicle is moving at a balmy mach 14 or faster...

        Balmy? Don't you mean "bomby"?

        Mine's the one with the lead lining.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Surely if Israel has a successful missile shield then developing one for larger rockets that stay in the air a lot longer before hitting their target is easy?

      The Israeli system is moderately effective against (relatively) slow, low altitude ground to ground missiles. ICBM's travel much faster, much higher, and can still be reasonably effective if they explode at quite high altitude. So they need to be intercepted outside of, or in the very upper atmosphere - and there's still the likelihood of radioactive debris even if the ICBM warhead doesn't fire. To intercept in the upper atmosphere you need to track the ICBM in near-space, and hit an incoming warhead travelling at several thousand miles per hour. Note also that the ballistic missile may be large, but the re-entry vehicle with the warhead will be quite small.

      And the other thing is that the Israeli Iron Dome system is far from 100% effective. Against a conventional missile threat that doesn't matter, whereas an anti-ICBM defence that doesn't have the highest level of reliability is of dubious value. Of course, sometimes it doesn't matter if the technology is a bit crap - Reagan's Star Wars system pushed the Soviet Union into an arms race that bankrupted it (or rather brought that even forward). If Fat Boy Kim (and any other despots who make up what we might call the Turd World) can be persuaded that the US does have an ICBM defence, it may discourage them from going down that route - although I'm not convinced.

      1. Vinyl-Junkie
        Mushroom

        Re: Against a conventional missile threat that doesn't matter

        I think that opinion depends on where you happen to be standing when the reliability dips below 100%!

      2. Sanguma

        If Fat Boy Kim (yada yada yada) can be persuaded that the US does have an ICBM defence

        They might conclude that it''s been designed by the love child of Rube Goldberg and Heath Robinson. The cheapest way of getting rid of the North Korean missile and nuclear threat might be to sell them - on the black market, natch - the US SDI aka Star Wars, lock stock and barrel. We could also sell them the White House, Capitol Hill, and the Electoral College, then tax them for their upkeep ... throwing in Westminster and 10 Downing St as an added inducement.

        No, if you want to stop a North Korean missile threat, talk them into selling satellite launch services on the open market in return for valuable foreign exchange. Id give the regime fifteen years to survive after opening up, then it'd fall over on its own.

  10. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    Boost phase intercept,.... by rocket? I thought the ship based LaWS, or was it the Airborne laser that was filling that niche?

    Or is this just baby steps and pretty useless. Boost phase is one thing, it's a large vehicle and predictable, but smaller non-ballistic MIRVs are something else. This is why the Soviet Galosh system uses (/ used, does it still work?) small nukes to take the required accuracy out of the equation, a 10kt nuke doesn't need pinpoint accuracy.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      This isn't boost phase. I think it's coast phase. So hitting the warhead in space. Boost phase is covered by ship-based SM3s. Plus I guess the airborne laser, but didn't they kill that program? And supposedly some electronic warfare as well - which it's alleged may already have been used to bugger-up some Nork tests.

      THAAD then deals with the incoming warheads near the target.

      I guess the hope being that if you have enough programs, some of them might work, and hopefully the ones you miss are the ones that don't work - given North Korea's production and quality control issues.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        It looks like it's still producing thrust at the 1'07" mark though, and there didn't appear to be any stage separation? Hard to say, it's not a great video.

        I guess you are right about the layering of the programs, NK hopefully can't produce a sufficient volume to get past every layer.

  11. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Was it a test missile from a UK submarine that went west instead of east again?

    1. fajensen Silver badge
      Joke

      Was it a test missile from a UK submarine that went west instead of east again?

      Well, TRIDENT being a smart weapon system, it easily figured the direction of the major threats against it's existence and acted on the information. The next evolution cycle, it will learn to read schematics and how to disable the fail-safes that stopped it's ancestors treat handling directives.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        It was heading for Florida, not the White House. Although I guess it could have been going for Mar-a-Lago.

  12. Sanguma

    Just for the record ...

    IIRC, the eighties was when the Gypper was blustering about the Budgetary Defense Initiative - oops. the Strategic Defense Initiative - and how it would make the world safe for democracy etc, yada yada yada - come on, folks, you can google, you can fill in the details ... firing rockets against rockets, lasers against rockets, brilliant pebbles against rockets, etc ....

    IIRC, that was the decade when Iraq, aided and abetted by the United States, invaded Iran. During that war, an Iranian Air airliner climbed to get above a USS Vincenne in the Persian Gulf. The USS Vincenne, which had the most up-to-date radar of that time, interpreted the airliner's climb as a much smaller jet strike fighter diving to attack.

    Now, quite aside from the fact that the Gypper had ranted and raved against the Soviet's shooting down an airliner a few years prior, and ignoring the fact that the USS Vincenne got the equivalent of a medal for mass murder, and forgetting that a whole lot of Iranians are understandably sore about this abuse of power, I am sure the Soviet's were taking note of just how accurate the best current US military radar was, and if it could mistake a climbing jet airliner for a diving jet strike fighter, then it would have equal success in differentiating a single civilian satellite launch from a mass military missile launch. I am sure the same questions were asked - quietly - in the august halls of the ESA. I am sure the French were delighted at the prospect that they would need to beg Washington for permission to launch their own satellites. Ask the next Frenchman you meet. He'll tell you that craven obedience to lunatic US politicians is the dearest wish of his heart ...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Just for the record ...

      The USS Vincennes, or at least part of its task group, was under attack from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy at the time of the missile strike on the airliner. Not that they handled the incident well, as they completely fucked up at all levels. But Iran don't get to play the innocent victim, given they were attacking a foreign navy's ships in international waters at the time - which meant that navy had every reason to also expect an incoming air attack.

      A bit like Ukraine were criticised for continuing to allow an open air transport corridor over a battlespace where combat was happening involving SAMs (admittedly as far as Ukraine knew only low altitiude ones) - Iran perhaps shouldn't have been flying civilian airliners over areas where it was also attacking ships armed with surface to air missiles, and worried about air attack.

      To be fair to Iran, I don't recall their airforce ever got involved in attacking neutral shipping in the Gulf. So it was quite possibly a bit of freelancing by the Revolutionary Guards, who're a law unto themselves, so quite hard to plan for, even for Iran. But what we have here is a fuck-up.

      1. Sanguma

        Re: Just for the record ...

        A few extra points:

        The US aided and abetted Iraq in nearly all phases of that war, including selling Saddam materials for chemical weapons. So I doubt the claim that any ship of the US Navy within the Persian Gulf during that war was "neutral shipping" would hold up in any court of law thus seized of the question.

        The RAF had a similar problem with its radar during the early stages of the Battle of Britain - the Battle of Barking Creek, when Spitfires were vectored onto some patrolling Hurricanes. The RAF never handed the Spitfire pilots medals; they reviewed the their procedures and instituted IFF. That the US Navy never apparently did anything of the sort indicates something wrong with the US Navy.

        Lastly, but most importantly: the radar was then the very best the US Navy could deploy. It was supposed to be able to tell the difference between aircraft of different sizes, and different directions. That is what a modern radar system is supposed to be designed for. The Gypper was intending to set up intercept systems with considerably less hands-on control and correction - correct that: NO HANDS-ON CONTROL - and considerably greater complexity in a considerably harsher environment, and expected it to work flawlessly?

        Apparently having shit for brain gets one elected in some parts of the world.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Just for the record ...

          The Iraqi chemical weapons program was native. Organophosphates and mustard gas really aren't that hard to make. As I remember it from the UN reports a lot of the kit was actually German, but as you're basically making insecticide it's all dual-use stuff. And Iraq was only under weapons sales sanctions in the 1980s.

          As it happens Iraq's sarin production was pretty poor anyway, so they had to rely on mustard a lot more, as that's even easier to make and store. A lot of the chemicals the UN destroyed in the 90s was contaminated, and they struggled to get munitions to deliver it well. Unfortunately for the Iranians, they had a tendency to send their troops into combat badly trained, and even more badly equipped. So they still suffered mass casualties.

          As it happens, the US didn't sell much military equipment to Iraq at all. They bought that from The Soviet Union, China and France. That's why they used Russian artillery, Russian tanks, Russian and Chinese personal weapons, Russian helicopters, Russian missiles, Russian radars and a mix of French and Russian combat aircraft. Apparently Britain sold them non-lethal military kit, as for example I believe we sold them all our desert camouflage clothing, on the assumption the British army wouldn't be fighting outside Europe very much. Oops.

    2. thx1138v2

      Re: Just for the record ...

      SDI never had to actually work. The USSR couldn't counter it and attempting to do so would have destroyed their already failing economy. That was the value of SDI.

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: Just for the record ...

        It did.

  13. Christoph Silver badge

    Sensors on the target sent back “target acquisition and tracking data” to command

    You what? They managed to hit a target that was shouting "HERE I AM, COME AND GET ME!"?

    1. collinsl

      General, it says here that you taped electric hotplates to the surface of the vehicle to help your heat-seeking missile find its target, and that the surface temperature of the vehicle was so high it could have fried an egg at twenty feet!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Self-defense?

    Given what we know about the person currently with their finger on the Red Button for America's nukes, being able to shoot down our own missiles when we know when they launched and where from might be a tad more useful than it first seems...

  15. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Star Wars Episode 2: The Return of the Boondoggle.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
      Coat

      In the spirit of old internet memes

      Star Wars 2: Electric Boondoggleoo

  16. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    Now go to the Moon

    but this time, add a thunderstorm, asteroids, and gunfire and alien intervention!

    How f*kin many achievements, prototypes, kickstarters, programs and the like are barely even tech demos under ideal circumstances but hey, we celebrate the success for "proof of concept" or even deliberately ignoring the limitations?

    if this sort of thing was so "easy" then it would have been done and "trumpeted" by other agencies/governments a long time ago. the Norks would have tried it, the Europeans would be bragging about how they have their "own missile defense system" in parallel, and China would have been playing "Skeet for Supremacy".

    Just because something is "simple" does not mean it's "easy".

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Now go to the Moon

      The Russians had a somewhat effective ABM defence around Moscow deployed in the 1970s.

      The Americans looked at nuclear-tipped Surface to Air missiles in the 1960s, designed to shoot down incoming ICBMs. They didn't ever deploy them, and I don't know if that was because they were planning to put them in Canada (and the Canadians objected), or if they just didn't work.

      But technology has improved massively since then. The Israeli Iron Dome can shoot down mortar shells in flight, which is something that would have been considered impossible thirty years ago. As well as small homemade rockets, and the bigger military ones that Iran give to Hizbollah and Hamas.

      Patriot could shoot down Scuds in the 90s, though not to much effect in defending cities. The standard US fleet SAM, the SM3 can shoot down satellites - I presume only the low-flying ones. And is designed for intercepting missiles, but slower ones than incoming ICBMs of course. But it's good at shooting ones on the way up, which is why Japan and the US deploy them off North Korea.

      The joint British/French/Italian Aster missiles seem to have similar capabilities to the SM3, which are the ones deployed on our new Type 45 destroyers. Though they're newer and still developing capabilities, so less well proven.

      We almost certainly now have the capability to intercept incoming warheads, as we've got good enough radars and communications as well as fast enough computers. Not that it'll ever be easy. But we still don't have the capability to deploy a shield that could deal with the thousands of warheads Russia has. Or even the smaller numbers the UK, France and China have. But those countries have all got small enough warheads that you can have several per missile, and MIRVs, plus decoys. So you could only shoot down some of them.

      However North Korea is still making huge warheads, probably in the order of ten tonnes a piece. You can't even drop that from a normal sized bomber. Let alone get even one on a missile. Once they get them down to one-per-missile size, it's probably decades before they could work their way up to MIRVs. So for now they're probably making a handful of warheads a year, that need to go by sea or by truck to their target. So you're only looking at the capability to shoot down a few missiles, which makes it worth trying to do.

  17. thx1138v2

    Phase I testing complete

    Phase II - capture ballistic missile in flight.

    Phase III - return to point of launch.

    Receiving one of their own would surely give everyone in the world second thoughts about launching.

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