Re: SDI was Re: Expanding the "United States of America"

From: Chris Hibbert (
Date: Sun Jul 15 2001 - 10:47:34 MDT

Spike Jones wrote:
> wrote:
> > At this point it is still mostly a massive costly boondoggle in
> > the making.
> The SJ Mercury News would certainly agree with you.

You say this as if it's a strike against my arguments. Is that what you mean?

> > The research done by Dave Redell of CPSR on the
> > (in)feasibility of building software that would achieve the necessary
> > claims of the SDI project are still the best reference on this subject...
> ...that you know of. {8-]

Care to propose an alternative? Reddell and Nelson (his co-author)
engaged in numerous debates with SDI proponents when SDI was hot twenty
years ago. If you want to see transcripts, or listen to recordings, I'm
willing to look for them.

> > Not being able to shoot a single missle out of the air in a fair trial is
> > one problem,
> Solved. The Block 2 THAAD missile is 2 for 2 now. The only 2
> firings of that version has hit both times. Of course the Merc didnt
> tell you that, and they *continue* to insist that no intercepts have
> been successful.

Not in today's paper. I didn't say a single missile could never
intercept an incoming warhead. I said that's not the hardest problem it
has to solve to be more useful than dangerous.

> You did say "fair." If the intercept is successful, the Merc can
> always report that the test was rigged. If unsuccessful, its an
> unworkable boondoggle. Tomorrow's newpaper will tell. If it
> is on the front page, we missed. If we hit, it will be buried on
> p.17, a half a paragraph reporting a rigged test.

Front page above the fold today: "Missile Test Strikes Target". I
didn't detect the significant naysaying they'd done before. You may
have a different opinion when you read it.

> > but they also have to get their software to work correctly
> > every time in the first battle, without any reasonable arena for evolving
> > it into robustness beforehand.
> Have we not done exactly this with the fleet ballistic missile?
> We randomly choose one out of the fleet and fire it, usually 2 or
> 3 times a year. The last 91 consecutive firings have been
> successful. Why is not the FBM analogous to the SDI? Could
> we not test the software repeatedly? Could we not have
> redundancy by firing several interceptors at an incoming
> missile?

Repeated tests are not the same as attempting to get three or four
different systems to cooperatively choose targets when each defensive
system can individually shoot down an individual missile a significant
fraction of the time. So far, the system isn't above %50 when there's
one incoming, with several days warning of what the approximate
trajectory will be, and a single decoy (as I read the article today.)
The FBM (if I understand what you're describing) is analogous to a
system that needs to shoot down a single incoming missile. Redundancy
leads to mutual interference in missile defense. You can't just deploy
more identical systems. They'll all have the same priorities when
choosing incoming targets.

You (and Mike) haven't responded to any of these points yet:

> in the US government, such undertakings are vastly more
> political. Getting reliable funding for any one of these for the life of
> the project is problematic. Getting funding to work on integrating the
> systems doesn't even make sense until some of the systems work.
> Mike Lorrey wrote:
> > The point of a defensive system is not to eliminate every missile that
> > gets through, it is having a system that is good enough to eliminate
> > enough missiles that any actual damage done is not worth the cost of
> > all the lost missiles.
> The point of a defensive system in a military theater is as you describe.
> The point of a population defense system against WoMD has to be to stop all
> or probably all incoming missiles. If you stop 90% of 20 missiles, the
> threat has not been countered. The technologies of the future will make it
> cheaper to deploy scores of copies of any weapon someone can test.
> Incoming missiles don't have to coordinate their actions. A coalition of
> defensive systems do have to coordinate, and this is one of the hardest
> problems if you have to be close to %100 successful to be useful.
> > Hostile powers work on developing weapons of mass destruction because
> > they are economical means of holding people hostage. Discouraging them
> > from engaging in such development simply requires making the return on
> > investment too high for reasonable use.
> A system in development that stops 20% in five years and 40% in 10 years
> and 60% in 15 years doesn't deter attacks on population. It may serve to
> deter attacks on hardened military targets promising retaliation. If we
> build hardened military targets promising retaliation, any enemies we have
> will notice that those tools can be used for offense as well as defense.
> I'd like to hear how developing a system like this promotes stability in
> the period in which it's an imperfect shield.


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