comsc US Politics | AMERICAblog News: NYT claims "Star Wars" is 100 percent effective at shooting down ICBMs
Join Email List | About us | AMERICAblog Gay
Elections | Economic Crisis | Jobs | TSA | Limbaugh | Fun Stuff

NYT claims "Star Wars" is 100 percent effective at shooting down ICBMs

| Reddit | Tumblr | Digg | FARK

I'm confused about something in the NYT. In an article supposedly debunking (I'm not so sure it's debunked) Newt Gingrich's concern about an electromagnetic pulse (likely from a nuclear device detonated over an American city) taking out much of the US electronic infrastructure (which also means our electrical grid), the following three paragraphs pop up.  The grafs seem to conclude that Star Wars works (and the NYT reporter seems to editorially accept the premise in between the lines of what he writes):

But it is to the risk of an EMP attack that Mr. Gingrich has repeatedly returned. And while the message may play well to hawkish audiences, who might warm to the candidate’s suggestion that the United States engage in pre-emptive military strikes against Iran and North Korea, many nuclear experts dismiss the threat. America’s current missile defense system would thwart such an attack, these experts say, and the nations in question are at the kindergarten stage of developing nuclear arms.

The Missile Defense Agency, an arm of the Pentagon that maintains an arsenal of ground-based interceptors ready to fly into space and smash enemy warheads, says that defeating such an attack would be as straightforward as any other defense of the continental United States.

“It doesn’t matter if the target is Chicago or 100 miles over Nebraska,” said Richard Lehner, an agency spokesman. “For the interceptor, it’s the same thing.” He called the potential damage from a nuclear electromagnetic pulse attack “pretty theoretical.”

This sounds like one of the Star Wars programs. And I don't recall us ever being able to, with 100% certainty, shoot down incoming ICMBs. Here's what I found at Wikipedia, which describes the system mentioned in the article:
The U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD; previously known as National Missile Defense – NMD) system has recently reached initial operational capability. Instead of using an explosive charge, it launches a kinetic projectile. The George W. Bush administration accelerated development and deployment of a system proposed in 1998 by the Clinton administration. The system is a dual purpose test and interception facility in Alaska, and in 2006 was operational with a few interceptor missiles. The Alaska site provides more protection against North Korean missiles or accidental launches from Russia or China, but is likely less effective against missiles launched from the Middle East. President Bush referenced the 9/11 attacks and the proliferation of ballistic missiles as reasons for missile defense. The current GMD system has the more limited goal of shielding against a limited attack by a rogue state.
Okay, the Pentagon quote in the NYT seems to be in response to Gingrich talking about rogue states attacking the US, and, per Wikipedia, that seems to be the "goal" of this program, but does it work 100% of the time?  That's not just the clear implication of what the Pentagon official said, it's seems to be the clear conclusion the NYT reporter has reached in this story.

Anyone else up on this?

blog comments powered by Disqus