On 10/14/99, at 3:14 AM, Robert J. Bradbury wrote:
>Well Spike, if we have gotten to the point where we can build very fast
>and very cheap anti-missle missles then I will be in favor of that.
>You would have to sit me down and show me quite concretely however
>that such devices would cost less than the offensive weapons they
>are attempting to destroy.
Back when my father was active in military technology development for the US and the Israelis, he was part of an ad hoc group within military circles that sought cheap, effective solutions to defense problems. As opposed to the status quo -- ineffective, gold-plated solutions. Unfortunately, I've seen no signs that the group has more than marginal success.
A great example is drone aircraft. Either autonomous or remotely pilotted. In the '70's, he built a prototype for the Israelis in our living room. Balsa, plywood, a lawnmower engine, camera, and a radio transmitter. He could make a good profit selling them at $5000. They carried a payload of 150 lb.
There are dozens of clever uses for such a vehicle. You can launch it almost anywhere, including a speedboat. Send waves of them out at the beginning of a battle, carrying 150 lb of explosives. Whenever you see anything that costs more than the plane, crash into it. And almost everything in a battlefield costs more than $5000.
When the US military adopted drone aircraft, they added so many requirements that the cost rose to $500,000 for the cheapest model. They're still useful but not nearly as much so. And they're still loath to use them, because they're not sexy. There's no pilot with a leather jacket and a white scarf.
There's a long cover story on this in Tuesday's _Wall Street Journal_ entitled "Why the Pentagon Is Often Slow to Pursue Promising Weapons: Resistance and Neglect Kept Drones From Soaring, Despite Their Advantages." It's on-line, at http://www.wsj.com , but you have to be a subscriber.
So, yes, I believe affordable, effective ballistic missile defense is *technically* possible. But I doubt that the Pentagon and the defense industry could deploy a working system for less than $1 trillion.
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