President Bush demanded that the military build him a missile defense system by next fall.But Philip Coyle, the former head of the Pentagon's Operational Test and Evaluation office, says in the current Arms Contol Today that the anti-missile system Bush is getting is "simply not up to the job."
The ground-based midcourse defense system, as it is now called, has not shown that it can hit anything other than missiles whose trajectory and targets have been preprogrammed by missile defense contractors to eliminate the surprise or uncertainty of battle. Nor has it proven that it can hit a tumbling target, perform at night, or find ways to counter the decoys and countermeasures that a real enemy would use to throw a defense off track. Tests so far have all been conducted at unrealistically low speeds and altitudes, and it is not clear that the system will be able to track and identify the warhead it is supposed to destroy.A key concept in the missile defense plan is to catch the rockets before they take off. But in a July study, the American Physical Society said that couldn't be done with current or near-term American anti-missile technology.