President Trump Confident in Missile Defense: In the Grip of Dangerous Illusion, by Andrei Akulov

The US’s missile defense systems are not foolproof. From Andrei Akulov at strategic-culture.org:

President Trump Confident in Missile Defense: In the Grip of Dangerous Illusion

The US is pushing ahead with expansion of the nation’s homeland ballistic missile defense (BMD). The effort enjoys strong bipartisan support in Congress and among experts. Many allies place a high value on BMD cooperation with the United States. However, there are ample reasons to question the efficiency of US missile defenses, especially the capability to protect against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

“We have missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97% of the time,” President Donald Trump said in his interview with Fox News on October 11, adding “and if you send two of them, it’s going to get knocked down.” He was talking about the threat coming from North Korea to be repelled by the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) in Alaska and California – the $40 billion project administered by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

The US military conducted the first-ever missile defense test involving a simulated attack by an intercontinental ballistic missile in May. The ICBM-type target was fired from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands toward the waters just south of Alaska. The mission was to prepare for countering an intercontinental missile launched by North Korea. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) described the test as an “incredible accomplishment”. According to Vice Admiral Jim Syring, director of the agency, “This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.” The assessment appears to be exaggerated as the test was not conducted in a realistic environment.

The next test of the GMD system is scheduled for late 2018 and, for the first time, will involve firing two interceptors against one ICBM target. It makes unsubstantiated the president’s affirmation that two interceptors are enough to knock out a North Korean missile as no such tests have been conducted so far.

The US currently deploys 36 interceptors – 32 at Fort Greely, Alaska, and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. By the end of 2017, there will be 44 deployed GBIs. A majority of the interceptors use the CE-I variant of kill vehicle that has scored only two successes in four tests. At least ten interceptors are to be equipped with the CE-II Block I vehicle, which has had two successful intercept tests in three tries.

It is generally believed that it takes at least four-five interceptors to hit the target. It means President Trump is off base saying the hit probability is 97%. Prior to the ICBM test, the GMD system had successfully hit its target in only ten of 18 tests since 1999. A success rate is about 56%, not 97%. But even 56% is almost certainly an overstatement, given the less-than-realistic nature of the tests.

To continue reading: President Trump Confident in Missile Defense: In the Grip of Dangerous Illusion

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One response to “President Trump Confident in Missile Defense: In the Grip of Dangerous Illusion, by Andrei Akulov

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