RE: metaTHAAD was: Son of Star Wars

Billy Brown (
Thu, 14 Oct 1999 12:31:05 -0500

Robert J. Bradbury wrote:
> 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. Now, in theory, I will admit that this
> *may* be possible. A very cheap bullet can stop a much more expensive
> person. In theory, a small smart defensive weapon should be less
> expensive than an intercontinental weapon that is much larger and
> requires expensive radioactive material handling to put together.
> However, my comments are based on historical anaylsis of the
> cold war MAD approaches and previous efforts to develop anti-ballistic
> missle systems. Perhaps the costs in the equation have shifted
> enough to require a re-examination.

There are two elements of this problem that are relatively fixed in difficulty: detecting and tracking an incoming missile, and guiding your anti-missile to a successful intercept. Both of these problems were daunting in the sixties, which is why early ABM systems were not cost effective. These days they are much easier, so ABM systems are becoming feasible. In another decade they will be fairly insignificant problems, thanks to continuing improvements in computers, sensors and telecomminications.

At that point the problem collapses to a contest of agility between reentry vehicles and missile-killing devices. Since a pound of ABM is much cheaper than a pound of reentry vehicle (because you don't have to pay for a bigger ICBM to deliver it), this situation will tend to favor the defense. When you factor in the near-term prospects for directed energy weapons, the future looks pretty dim for the ICBM.

Of course, there are lots of ther ways to deliver a bomb. However, most of the militarily usefull methods (cruise missiles, stealth bombers, etc) require considerably more advanced technology than ICBMs, and they are all vulnerable to interception by various other defenses.

The days of MAD are numbered...

Billy Brown, MCSE+I