Talk about good timing. "A sea-based missile defense test flight will take place today off Kauai amid reports North Korea may be prepping to test-fire a long-range missile over the Pacific," the Honolulu Advertiser notes. "The Kauai test is part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Program and had been scheduled for months."The test is for "for short- and medium-range ballistic missile intercepts," the Advertiser reports -- not intercontinental missiles, like the so-called Taepodong-2 that's got everybody's panties in a bunch. "It involves the Pearl Harbor-based cruiser Lake Erie, one of three such ships capable of shooting down ballistic missiles. A target will be launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, and the cruiser Shiloh out of San Diego will detect and track the target with its SPY-1B radar and fire an SM-3 missile to intercept it."Too bad the timing for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system -- the interceptors actually designed to shoot down ICBMs -- isn't as good. As Victoria notes over at Wonk HQ:
The radar system that is needed to help detect missile launches, the sea-based X-Band Radar (SBX), is still floating around and undergoing tests outside of Hawaii nowhere near its home port of Adak, Alaska. The satellite network being built to track missiles once theyre launched the Space-Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) isnt planning its initial launch of two test satellites until next year, with the goal of getting the system up and running somewhere around 2012.Not that there's even going to be a missile to shoot down, I'm guessing. If the North Koreans really were fueling up a rocket with liquid fuel over the weekend, they probably would have launched the thing already -- that fuel is super corrosive, and starts to eat through metal after a couple of days. Plus, anyone notice how the Norks are stomping their feet for new talks, all of a sudden?UPDATE 12:27 PM: The whole missile brouhaha has put us "right where [Kim Jong-il] wants us," says Chuck Downs in today's WSJ.
Pyongyang has created an opportunity to break out of the negotiating deadlock that has stymied the regime for years, dissolve the international consensus on how to deal with the regime's illicit smuggling and counterfeiting activities, and change politics in South Korea and the U.S. And perhaps most importantly, if Kim Jong Il plays his cards right, he will prove to his inner circle that he is the genius he claims to be, renewing his hold on power at a time when he was facing his most severe challenges.(Big ups: Barnett)UPDATE 12:43 PM: Vic and I will be on the "The World" this afternoon, to talk this whole mess over. And so will Sharon, to rap about Imaginary Weapons.UPDATE 1:05 PM: Wanna know how hard it is to knock down an ICBM mid-flight? Read this Situational Awareness run-down.UPDATE 06/22/06 11:55 AM: The test has been postponed until today. Meanwhile, the L.A. Times calls out "a little-noticed study by the Government Accountability Office issued in March."
[It] found that program officials were so concerned with potential flaws in the first nine interceptors now in operation that they considered taking them out of their silos and returning them to the manufacturer for "disassembly and remanufacture.""Quality control procedures may not have been rigorous enough to ensure that unreliable parts, or parts that were inappropriate for space applications, would be removed from the manufacturing process," the report says.