President Bush's missile defense system, to put it plainly, "doesn't work." And tests of the program "so far have been more tightly scripted than a modern political convention."That's not my opinion. It's the words of former Pentagon testing chief Phillip Coyle. In an e-mail to Defense Tech, he repeatedly rips the Bush administration over its anti-missile push, and breaks down the system's many, many problems:
On Thursday, July 22, 2004, the first ground-based missile interceptor was installed in a silo at Fort Greely, Alaska. In their press release on GMD [Ground-based Midcourse Defense] deployment, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency hailed it as "the end of an era where we have not been able to defend our country against long-range ballistic missile attacks."Is this true? Have we not been able to defend ourselves? And can this system defend us now?To each of these questions the answer is No.If North Korea began assembling an intercontinental ballistic missile, huge rockets that must be launched from fixed launch facilities, highly visible to U.S. spy satellites, our military would blow it up on the ground immediately. Our military would not wait to see if they could intercept the missile when it was going thousands of miles per hour in space. We would blow up the whole ICBM launch facility with the same weapons that we have seen work so effectively in Iraq and Afghanistan, satellite and laser guided bombs and missiles. With those weapons, we already have a missile defense.But what if we didn't see North Korea preparing an ICBM? Suppose the launch surprised us? Would our missile defenses protect us then? The answer is still No. This is because if we didn't see it, our missile defenses wouldn't work either, since they depend on our seeing it first with satellites too.Not that our missile defenses have demonstrated realistic operational capability with existing satellites; they haven't. And the intended, future satellite systems, the Space-Based Infra-Red System-High [SBIRS] and the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, are years behind schedule and billions over budget. The intended X-band radar systems for missile defense also are delayed and missing. With these major elements missing, the system being deployed has no demonstrated capability to defend against a real attack.When asked in a NATO press conference if he would deploy a missile defense system that that didn't work and that had not been adequately tested, President Bush replied, "And for those who suggest my administration will deploy a system that doesn't work are dead-wrong. Of course, we're not going to deploy a system that doesn't work. What good will that do? We'll only deploy a system that does work in order to keep the peace."Unfortunately, three years later, that's exactly what President Bush has done, deployed a system that doesn't work and hasn't been adequately tested.All of the MDA flight intercept tests so far have been more tightly scripted than a modern political convention.In these tests, the target launch time, the flight trajectory, the point of impact, what the target looks like, and the make-up of other objects in the target cluster have all been known in advance to guide the interceptor. No enemy would cooperate by providing all that information in advance.And if that weren't enough, the target reentry vehicle has carried a radar beacon, showing the interceptor, "Here I am." That's not something a real enemy would do either.Considering all the artificial targeting aids in these tests, what is surprising is not that some of these tests have succeeded. What's surprising is that some have failed, including the most recent test in December 2002. Just a week later President Bush announced his decision to deploy the ground-based midcourse missile defense system in Alaska!The Missile Defense Agency says they can't test the system realistically until it has been deployed. This also is not true. The Missile Defense Agency was testing the system from Kwajalein and Vandenberg when I was in the Pentagon, well before the construction began at Fort Greely. And they could still be doing that without Fort Greely. But as soon as President Bush announced his decision to deploy the system the priority went to construction and deployment. and the bottom fell out of the test schedule.As you know there hasn't been a flight intercept test since December 2002, now 20 months ago, one week before the President made his announcement. But not because they couldn't have continued the test program as planned.And of course they won't actually use Fort Greely for missile test launches anyway because of safety concerns.And they do not test what they are actually deploying, namely a system with no X-band radar (and no radar beacon) using Cobra Dane and Aegis ships instead, no SBIRS satellites using DSP instead, and interceptors that depend on prior information.This is like deploying a new military jet fighter with no wings, no tail and no landing gear. And without testing it to see if it could work [first].THERE'S MORE: "The most dangerous thing about having this system is that someone on our side might be tempted to behave in a crisis as if it were real," says Defense Tech reader MB. "Wth our current national leadership, it's hard for me to conceive of a scenario other than accidental launch where the US having a virtual but not actual missile defense system does not increase the probability and degree of brinksmanship that political leaders might engage in."