Re: Beliefs So Stupid I Had No Idea They Were Out There In The Wild.

1

Were it intended as an advert for missile defense, it was a lousy ad; it took hours and then days to even have indications that they hit it and got the fuel tank. If Goldfarb wants to attach military significance to it he'd do a better job taking a cue from the BBC, NPR, etc., and talking it up as a response to the Chinese and/or an attempt to formally set precedent for weapons in space.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:30 AM
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Is there another Michael Goldfarb? Wasn't that the name of NPR's old London correspondent?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:30 AM
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I thought they did it for the lulz.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:33 AM
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1 is right. According to Big MIT Professor, the Pentagon explanation regarding toxic fuels is sheer nonsense. As a test in the strict sense, a satellite hardly compares to a missile. But these days, weapons testing is very much a matter of geopolitical strategy, as in the Chinese missile test of last year. Signalling, game theory, etc etc.


Posted by: marichiweu | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:34 AM
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1 is right. According to Big MIT Professor, the Pentagon explanation regarding toxic fuels is sheer nonsense. As a test in the strict sense, a satellite hardly compares to a missile. But these days, weapons testing is very much a matter of geopolitical strategy, as in the Chinese missile test of last year. Signalling, game theory, etc etc.


Posted by: marichiweu | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:34 AM
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I was undder the understanding we intended it as an ad for anti-satellite defense; "we can totally shoot down your spy satellites, China."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:36 AM
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Yeah, I don't know a thing about Goldfarb; whether he's a reliable spokesperson for what Republicans are thinking, or a loon going off by himself.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:36 AM
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Clearly you don't read enough rightwing blogs. This got play both on RedState and either Ace of Spades or Captain Ed, and thus almost certainly elsewhere as well.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:43 AM
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I can't tell you how much I was hoping for a failed shoot-down, not so much to avoid this idiocy as to force headlines about the system's utter ineffectiveness.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:44 AM
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or Captain Ed

Dammit, you just made me SPROING to my feet and stand with one leg raised.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:47 AM
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JRoth is objectively pro-nuclear-holocaust.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:48 AM
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10: Are you wearing a strapless bra?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:49 AM
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Shooting down satellites is an important goal in itself, because we have billions of dollars of military hardware floating in places that can be reached by anti-ship missiles. Wikipedia says John Keegan says so.

I say this is a good reason not to go to war with near competitors with satellites and nuclear weapons. But the military, bizarrely unreceptive to the strategic advice of someone who looks up crap on the internet, continues to build F-22s like we were going to try.


Posted by: ixnaythemetier | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:52 AM
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This got play both on RedState and either Ace of Spades or Captain Ed

You have way too much time on your hands.


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:53 AM
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By the way, on the subject of militarizing space and violence-among-satellites, this really fantastic Nova program informed me that the Russians were the first country to put a gun (a "cannon") on a (manned) satellite in orbit. It was fixed, but I guess they could rotate the satellite/station itself to take out incoming American killer satellites.

Anyway, one of the original participants in the American version of the program later went on to head up a lot of the Star Wars initiatives in the Reagan administration.


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:59 AM
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either Ace of Spades or Captain Ed

They might as well be combined into one entity, Case of Speds.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:01 AM
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17

Why not all three? RedCaseOfSpeds.


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:01 AM
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18

Holy shit do you all not know what you are talking about.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:09 AM
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No RedCaseOfSpeds, moccasin?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:10 AM
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18: Dog bites man. Indeed, axiomatic.

Specifically?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:12 AM
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" Was it really supposed to be an advertisement for missile defense, under the assumption that no one reading would have any clue what they were talking about?"

Almost all pro-NMD arguments are made under the assumption that nobody has any clue what they're talking about. This is why we have already deployed a system which has never passed a vaguely realistic test, and only one completely unrealistic test.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:12 AM
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Obviously, when al Qaeda launches its giant poison-atomic-laser gun satellite from the secret base in western Pakistan, we'll be able to knock that fucker out no sweat. That's the big deal, LB.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:15 AM
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18: Elaborate? I'm always ready to be schooled.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:17 AM
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I stand by 6. They shot one down, we shoot one down.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:19 AM
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Why not all three? RedCaseOfSpeds.

RedCaseOffMeds?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:26 AM
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18: I stand by my 10.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:27 AM
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Holy shit do you all not know what you are talking about.

You must be new here.

Not that NMD isn't a fundamentally flawed idea given current tech.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:29 AM
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28

Nothing has persuaded me that #3 is wrong.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:29 AM
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29

23: riding my bike to work, but will be back in an hour or so. Far and away the hardest part of missile defense is terminal homing. You can't guide things accurately enough from the ground to hit anything in orbit, or a ballistic missile. The relevant parameters for the endgame were probably not all that different.

They also were pretty damn sure they hit the satellite instantly, there was some debate about if they hit the fuel tank. The flash was probably visible to the naked eye.

The threat to people on the ground was small, but higher than what is considered acceptable for deorbiting space debris. Compton was brought down early due to a risk probably ten times lower.

And yes, there were clearly political considerations. The USAF was probably almost as much of a target as China.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:32 AM
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29: Terminal homing may be a significant problem, but aren't countermeasures (decoys, whatever) also a significant problem, and one which is entirely absent here? Sure, it's amazing that we can get a missile into space at all. But taking this as evidence that we can shoot down missiles that are designed to evade being hit, under real world conditions, like when it's raining or when the ocean is rough, seems very overstated.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:37 AM
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OK, guys, we have an hour to rag on water moccasin. Go!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:38 AM
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Far and away the hardest part of missile defense is terminal homing.

Unless you count the enemy having multiple missiles. But yes, as long as they shoot a couple at a time, terminal homing is tricky.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:40 AM
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And the weather's good. And they don't cheat by using decoys.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:41 AM
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Yeah, I'm calling bullshit on 29. I want to see some calculations showing that it would be hard to hit a satellite in orbit.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:45 AM
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The relevant parameters for the endgame were probably not all that different.

This seems quite wrong to me. It isn't my area, but I have talked to people who work in this about what they are trying to do.

We can predict with extreme accuracy where the sattelite will be, the problem is putting a rocket there. However it's easy to put a rocket pretty close. The final adjustments, though, are a matter of dealing with course correction to a known location --- basically dealing with local inhomogeneity (in vacuum, we could do this unguided). This looks absolutely different than an unknown target trajectory, let an unknown trajectory with evasion and other non-cooperative tactics.

Hitting one of your own sats is pretty close to the dummy test run on a homing signal before. It doesn't prove much helpful --- it means they've improved the tech to do something everybody knew how to do (which is a long way from actual implementation). Unfortunately, NMD relies on things nobody knows how to do, as far as we can tell.

And yes, there were clearly political considerations.

Looks to me know NDM is almost entirely political considerations.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:45 AM
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Fox must've been all over this. My boss, who doesn't read blogs, came in my office to tell me that Star Wars worked after all and Reagan would be proud.

I pointed out that the test would be meaingful only if the enemy sent their missile in orbit around the Earth a few times, so that we could get a lock on its trajectory pretty easily.

He changed the subject.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 11:12 AM
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More than an hour; a friend got a flat. Anyway.

Yes, countermeasures are an issue. How much of an issue is hard to know. Initial tracking is done by radar, final tracking is almost certainly long-wave IR, making something that will fool both and verifying that it works is not trivial.

Knowing the trajectory of the satellite beforehand helps a bit. But you can't hide ballistic missile launches, and they fly much higher and slower than satellites. You can see them coming all the way in. The missile that hit USA 193 launched before the satellite came over the horizon.

The knowledge of locations is not good enough to do unguided intercepts. In order to hit a warhead (or the tank of the satellite), you need accuracies on the order of a meter at intercept. This means you need accuracies at the end of powered flight on the order of millimeters. No can do.

The test being delayed because of rain doesn't mean that the system doesn't work in rain. "We fired off a missile and hit the target" counts as a success for a defense system; it's more or less useless as the result of a test. The point is to know exactly what happened, especially if something goes wrong. This means telescopes with video cameras, which don't work well in the rain.

Is this the be-all and end-all of all missile defense tests? No. Is it meaningful that in a comparatively short period of time, the US was able to take an existing system, make significant changes to the configuration, and have it work the first time out? I think so; you may disagree.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 1:03 PM
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Yes, countermeasures are an issue. How much of an issue is hard to know. Initial tracking is done by radar, final tracking is almost certainly long-wave IR, making something that will fool both and verifying that it works is not trivial.

Why do you think this? long-wave IR gives you greater precision but I'm not aware of any IR detection system that can give you the sort of geometric precision to differentiate between a missle and a decoy. And of course it's easy to make objects that are opaque to both RF and IR.

The knowledge of locations is not good enough to do unguided intercepts. In order to hit a warhead (or the tank of the satellite), you need accuracies on the order of a meter at intercept. This means you need accuracies at the end of powered flight on the order of millimeters. No can do.

Isn't this sort of a strawman? Of course you can't hit either with unguided intercepts. But a feedback-based guidance system is made MUCH easier if you have a good idea weeks before hand of the general location and trajectory of the target.


Posted by: WillieStyle | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 1:25 PM
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Is it meaningful that in a comparatively short period of time, the US was able to take an existing system, make significant changes to the configuration, and have it work the first time out? I think so; you may disagree.

Guess it depends on your definition of meaningful. I don't doubt that it's an impressive technical achievement, but does it move the U.S. meaningfully toward a system that could defend against nuclear attack?

Fred Kaplan isn't impressed, anyway, and his reasoning seems pretty hard to rebut.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 1:38 PM
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Why do you think this? long-wave IR gives you greater precision but I'm not aware of any IR detection system that can give you the sort of geometric precision to differentiate between a missle and a decoy. And of course it's easy to make objects that are opaque to both RF and IR.

Radar gives you accurate range and velocity, and may also give you surface roughness, rotation, and a proxy for size. IR (especially if you have a multi-wavelength sensor) gives you temperature and a rough proxy for size. Making something that looks convincingly like a warhead to both isn't trivial, especially since it can't weigh too much or be too big without being susceptible to the MKV approach of "shoot them all".

Isn't this sort of a strawman? Of course you can't hit either with unguided intercepts. But a feedback-based guidance system is made MUCH easier if you have a good idea weeks before hand of the general location and trajectory of the target.

Soup Biscuit said it could be done in vacuum unaided, not me. Upper atmospheric variability is also such that we didn't have a good idea of the trajectory weeks beforehand on the scales that matter. Never mind over the course of the week and a half launch window.

Oh, I'll also readily concede that the "declaring NMD deployed based on a few interceptors in Alaska that will probably work" is complete BS. THAAD has been a clusterfuck from the beginning. But the NTW/LEAP/SM-3/Aegis system seems to work reasonably well, whatever you want to call it.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 1:47 PM
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Yes, countermeasures are an issue. How much of an issue is hard to know.

This seems understated. If countermeasures of any sort are a significant problem, this kind of test tells us very little about the effectiveness of the system in practice. (And while 'doesn't work in the rain' may be about observation rather than the functioning of the system, 'doesn't work when the ocean's rough' seems less likely to be.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:09 PM
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40:
I concede that temperature considerations make fooling an IR detector non-trivial. How does adding an RF detector make the problem any harder?

Soup Biscuit said it could be done in vacuum unaided, not me. Upper atmospheric variability is also such that we didn't have a good idea of the trajectory weeks beforehand on the scales that matter. Never mind over the course of the week and a half launch window.

What do you mean by scale that matters?
Even a window of hundreds of meters would make guidance much easier.

In any case, there doesn't seem to be very much disagreement on the larger issue so feel free to ignore my boring nitpicking.


Posted by: WillieStyle | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:14 PM
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Fred Kaplan isn't impressed, anyway, and his reasoning seems pretty hard to rebut.

Enh.

Japan is cooperating with us on the development of the SM-3 and plans to buy them, which is why we haven't yet put SM-3/LEAP on a ship based there.

China's military doesn't really pose a threat to our military and poses a minor one to Japan's, but their ballistic missiles certainly do post a threat to Japan and to the United States.

ICBMs are currently incredibly politically useful because they remain safe in your own territory until you want to use them, once you push the button there's nothing the other guy can do about it, and even one or two can inflict enough harm to the other country to dissuade him from messing with whatever you want to do. Putting missiles on boats negates the first advantage, cruise missiles negate the second advantage, and missile defense negates the third advantage.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:15 PM
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I concede that temperature considerations make fooling an IR detector non-trivial. How does adding an RF detector make the problem any harder?

IR looks for something with a certain "warmth". The warmth can come from the target, or it could come from something small with a heat source. If the kill vehicle sees warm objects A and B and cooler object C, while the radar sees big objects B and C, and small object A...

What do you mean by scale that matters? Even a window of hundreds of meters would make guidance much easier.

A scale more accurate than you can get from early warning satellites tracking the launch and radar tracking the targets.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:27 PM
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IR looks for something with a certain "warmth". The warmth can come from the target, or it could come from something small with a heat source. If the kill vehicle sees warm objects A and B and cooler object C, while the radar sees big objects B and C, and small object A...

IR detector arrays mountable on missles can detect size and general geometry as well.

A scale more accurate than you can get from early warning satellites tracking the launch and radar tracking the targets.

I think you misunderstood me. The fact that we had a rough idea of where the sattelite would before the test is useful. That warning satellites can give more accurate info soon before or right after launch isn't relevant. Dramatically narrowing the target window long before launch simplified the guidance problem significantly.


Posted by: WillieStyle | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:35 PM
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And yeah, a lot of this is fairly esoteric, making definitive statement requires knowledge of system specifics that no one who knows is sharing, and there are a lot of stupid people out there saying "U! S! A! U! S! A!" without knowing what they are talking about. But believing that shooting down USA 193 said something meaningful about the effectiveness of at least some parts of our missile defense effort is not incredibly stupid.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:35 PM
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IR detector arrays mountable on missles can detect size and general geometry as well.

Sure. But at a much closer range than they can detect warmth. Doesn't do you any good to realize you're looking at a decoy if it's too late to get over and hit the real target.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:38 PM
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"I concede that temperature considerations make fooling an IR detector non-trivial. "

Really? How hard can it be to make a decoy with a similar heat signature to a warhead?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:38 PM
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But believing that shooting down USA 193 said something meaningful about the effectiveness of at least some parts of our missile defense effort is not incredibly stupid.

Can we say that it's completely irrelevant to significant issues with missile defense, and as such can't be understood as a counterargument to those issues? I'll buy that what they did was difficult, and established that we have solved some problems that would have to be solved for missile defense to work. But those problems aren't what the critics of missile defense have been talking about, so viewing the success of this test as a refutation of those critics, as Goldfarb seems to, is pretty dim.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:42 PM
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that shooting down USA 193 said something meaningful about the effectiveness of at least some parts of our missile defense effort is not incredibly stupid.

What I'm saying is that it showed you could do the bits everybody figured you ought to be able to do, and had a pretty good idea how to do it.

Making functional NMD requires bits that *nobody* knows how to do, and doesn't even have very good ideas about. Unless someone has been able to come up with them while keeping the vast majority of aerospace experts in the dark.

So in that sense, it doesn't help much. It's not an argument for proof of concept of a general system. It's a really good argument for proof of concept for knocking out unprotected satellites, but that's and orders-of-magnitude easier problem than the general one.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:52 PM
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