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US Anti-Ballistic missiles over-rated

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posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 02:07 PM
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There is an inclination among the US military’s internet advocates to use the latest US systems to hypothetically cancel out all adversaries. We’ve all heard how the F-22 Raptor jet makes all other fighters obsolete, how US carriers carry more aircraft than this or that air force etc.

Well the US’ anti-ballistic missile systems would “just shoot you down” if you (anyone) ever launched a ballistic missile at US.

Now don’t get me wrong; the various anti-ballistic missile systems are great and there is no political motivation or leaning in what I am about to say.

But I think that there is a popular misconception as to how effective these systems are. I’m no expert on this topic, but a bit of common sense and perspective goes a long way.

The basic problem comes down to scale; America is a HUGE target.

The first hurdle is understanding that there are several ‘classes’ of ballistic missile that you might face. The first is Short Range/Theatre Ballistic Missiles (SRBM/TBM) like the infamous SCUD. The only plausible location for firing these at US mainland is from somewhere in Latin America because they have a comparatively short range.

Next you have Intermediate Range Ballistic missiles. These travel much further – around 4000km, and much higher (~400km) than TBMs. Korean Taep’o-Dong 1-2 fall into this category.

Lastly there are the infamous ICBMs: Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles. These are only owned by USA, Russia, UK, France and China. They travel higher, faster and further than the above types and often have multiple re-entry vehicles.

Anti-ballistic missiles
Patriot PAC-3, USA. Capable of intercepting TBMs.
Standard SM3, USA. Ship board missile capable of intercepting TBMs.
THAAD, USA. Designed specifically to intercept TBMs.
Arrow, Israel. Designed specifically to shoot down TBMs.
Aster, UK/France/Italy. Capable of intercepting TBMs.
SA-20 (S-400), CIS. Apparently has some anti-TBM capability.
SA-12 (S-300v “Giant”), CIS. Capable of intercepting TBMs.
A-35, CIS. Theoretically capable of intercepting ICBMs, uses a nuclear warhead itself….

In terms of range and altitude, here’s a basic comparison:


Note the trend here, they are all (except the A-35) anti-Theatre Ballistic Missiles. Generally they are much less effective against IRBMs because these travel much faster. An IRBM travels in a trajectory which takes it up to around 300~400km above the earth’s surface. The highest any US anti-ballistic missile can reach is 150~160km so that rules out an intercept at the top of the incoming missile’s trajectory where it is traveling slowest. Instead the intercept must take place as the missile is descending at terminal velocity, which in the case of the Taep’o-dong 2, is probably in the region of 28,000kph (17,000mph) at a decent angle of 41 degrees.

The Arrow, generally regarded as one of the better anti-ballistic missiles, travels at around Mach 9 (9,000kph) and THAAD is thought to travel at similar speeds. So against an incoming Taep’o-Dong 2 the missiles would close between 28,000~37,000kph!!!!!

The main US anti-missile system, the one credited with countering the Korean threat, is THAAD. Although pictures and literature generally depicts it as a mobile system mounted on trucks, initial deployment turns out to be as a fixed silo system based in just two locations: Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg AFB in California. Using Google-Earth I had a look at these locations. Not a lot to report from Vandenberg but at Fort Greely there appears to be some silo construction going on at the time of the satellite pass which may be related to the 40 or so THAAD silos reported to be there:


THAAD has a maximum range of about 200km, so to intercept an incoming Taep’o-dong, the missile must pass within 200km of Fort Greely (or Vandenberg) at an altitude of less than 150km. Remember that the Taep’o-dong descends at approximately 41 degrees, so it is only below 150km altitude for approximately the last 150km of its journey.

[sound of cogs turning]

Therefore, to intercept a Taep’o-dong 2, speed issues aside, the Taep’o-dong must be targeted at somewhere no more than around 270km to the THAAD site’s rear:


OK, so the THAAD has a very small “footprint” of territory each launcher can cover. Let’s see how much of US they are covering:


Conclusion
THAAD is not the brilliant answer to North Korean IRBM developments that many hope. Along with shorter ranged systems like Patriot PAC-3 it can provide defense against TBMs if deployed to locations like South Korea and Japan. But against IRBMs it is cold comfort.

It’s current deployment locations seem poorly chosen – it offers next to no coverage of likely target cities. In order to cover the whole of the west coast region you would need in the region of 50 launch sites.

THAAD – no answer to North Korea’s ambitions.


[edit on 21-6-2006 by planeman]




posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 03:27 PM
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"US Anti-Ballistic missiles over-rated"

OK, great information, detailed and thourough. And from a factual perspective, I could hardly disagree.

Now having said that:

Then who’s is better? Your premise is that the “US” Anti-Ballistic missiles are overrated. You specified the US, now tell us which non-US system is not overrated. You must have one in mind if you are singling out the overrated ones…

What? There aren’t any others in service? The USA is pioneering this tech, clearly years ahead of any other program in the sense that the US actually have fielded some, but you feel you need to create a lengthy post explaining how it’s overrated?

Please, tell us about the better ones.

Don’t make a thread telling us how over rated the US’s missile defense system is when there aren’t any others to compare it too. If you want to make a post about this BRAND SPANKING NEW technologies shortcomings or limitations in its current state, that’s one thing, but to title a thread the way you did about a fledgling program that nobody else is even close to fielding shows bias and agenda.

You know what? Ill say this:

The USA’s anti ballistic shield is the best on the entire planet. FACT. Why? Because it’s the only one on the entire planet. And until there are others, keep your political slants to yourself.



[edit on 21-6-2006 by skippytjc]



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 03:50 PM
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Are you aware there are also many other CLASSIFIED anti missile systems available to the US?

If an average joe can use Google Earth to find each of our missile defense locations, and use Google search to find widely available information about other systems, dont you think that makes it a little bit to easy for our enemies to destroy any of our defense's before they do any real damage to other parts of the USA? That is exactly why a majority of our defense systems are classified, and hidden.


Also.. how come you haven't posted anything about ABL's (Airborne Lasers) ? Ive seen a few of these in person. Actually Ive seen 4x 747's equipped with laser systems. Also the satellite radar/surveillance capabilities we have, can detect these missiles while they are taking off, or within the first few seconds of flight. It wouldn't take long to calculate the destination, and send counter measures from that information alone. Of course, if we have classified SBL's (Space Based Lasers) in action, that would be easier. Also GBL's (Ground Based Lasers) which have been effectively tested and passed with flying colors, have been around for MANY years.



The Directed Energy Directorate's Starfire Optical Range (SOR) at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, is the Air Force's research center for ground-based laser beam control technology. Scientists successfully demonstrated the first use of a high-power laser to shoot down a flying vehicle nearly 27 years ago at the SOR. For the past 17 years, scientists at this site have been working on solving the problems posed by the turbulent atmosphere on laser beam propagation.


www.afrlhorizons.com...

www.space.com...


To sum up my post...There are LOTS of countermeasures that you don't know about.

[edit on 21-6-2006 by LAES YVAN]



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 04:01 PM
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Nice post planeman. It has been my understanding that the US ABM technology is considered as still under developement. The two facilities that you speak of are still experimental in nature and not fully operational. While I believe that you are correct in the information on the areas covered by these facilities, I believe that if the system becomes operational more launch facilities will have to be built.

I am curious as to why you left out the capability of the Standard SM-3 missile that is currently deployed on some Aegis cruisers currently in the Pacific.



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 04:17 PM
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Skyippytjc,

I'm not about debating who is better, at least not with any political/patriotic tint.

But I think it's a misconception that US is pioneering anti-ballistic missile tech or that it is years ahead of anyone else. You must remember that the Russians fielded the S-300v (SA-12 Giant and Gladiator) in the eighties and that the Israeli Arrow system is relatively more operational than say THAAD. Whether THAAD is better than those, yes possibly. But it's not a contest - wars aren't fought A-TBM against A-TBM.

The heart of the misconceptions seems to be in internet communities where people are often motivated by some sort of patriotism to dramatise it all. And to an extent it may be that the US military and government are misleading the people by firstly over-stating the threat of ballistic missiles and secondly making out that THAAD et al are more effective than they are to justify the huge expense - that I don't know.



LAES YVAN,
No, I wasn't aware of these supposed top secret weapons. ABL is an interesting system with great possibilities but it is not an anti-ballistic missile missile so I didn't discuss it.

Re your four ABL 747s. Your claim supposes that Boeing was able to make at least 3 extra 747 aircraft without them going through the books so to speak, and without anyone noticing. The shortcoming of all these "we have a secret weapon anyway" is that if the US really does possess this super anti-ballistic missile weapon it wouldn't need to channel $$$$billions into THAAD et al.



Jim,
I mentioned it briefly. Info is sketchy. I am very dubious of it's claimed range and altitude, at least in terms of intercepting ballistic missiles. What can be said is that like the THAAD it is not designed to intercept IRBMs. Given a similar unbrella of cover to say THAAD, you'd have to put them very close to the shoreline to give meaningful cover to mainland US.




[edit on 21-6-2006 by planeman]



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 04:20 PM
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Originally posted by planeman
Re your four ABL 747s. Are you really sure on that one? When did Boeing make 4 whole 747 airframes in top secret?


They didn't the Air Force got them from the boneyard in Arizona.



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 04:21 PM
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Originally posted by JIMC5499
I am curious as to why you left out the capability of the Standard SM-3 missile that is currently deployed on some Aegis cruisers currently in the Pacific.


SM-3 is shown in his first graph.

I believe he then focussed on THAAD as it is generally regarded as the primary ABM missile.



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 04:32 PM
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Originally posted by Retseh
SM-3 is shown in his first graph.

I believe he then focussed on THAAD as it is generally regarded as the primary ABM missile.


I saw that graph. THAAD maybe the primary ABM but currently the SM-3 is deployed in greater numbers. I think that this needs to be taken into consideration. Anything happening in the near future there is going to be a greater chance of a SM-3 being used than anything else.



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 05:12 PM
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The SM-3 has been tested in Hawaii for the last several years using the USS Lake Eerie, based out of Pearl Harbor. Their one miss was due to a stuck valve on the missile that caused it to lose manuverability and miss. There have been several simulated tests, but all the live tests with the exception of the miss have been successful.



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 05:50 PM
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Yes, but what is its range and altitude coverage for intercepting a ballistic missile and what types of ballistic missile did the targets simulate?



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 06:02 PM
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The tests up to now have been single warhead, with no decoys. The next tests to go starting this year are supposed to have decoys deployed.

Here's good reading on the program.

www.globalsecurity.org...



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 07:08 PM
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Originally posted by JIMC5499

Originally posted by planeman
Re your four ABL 747s. Are you really sure on that one? When did Boeing make 4 whole 747 airframes in top secret?


They didn't the Air Force got them from the boneyard in Arizona.


Actually, they're brand new 0 hour 747-400F airframes, and they're not being built in secret. The first one is just having the laser installed and is going to be doing test flights this year, including firing the laser.



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 10:50 PM
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Originally posted by planeman
Yes, but what is its range and altitude coverage for intercepting a ballistic missile and what types of ballistic missile did the targets simulate?


Range is around 275 nautical miles.

Great post as usual planeman. Good information, and I agree the current ABM system is overrated, but I am impressed with the long term idea assuming it ever gets implimented.

That 1 X-Band radar system is still in testing off the coast of Hawaii, not in Alaska where it is intended to be. I do believe the platform based X-Band radar system at sea is the best approach, so in that regard I think the US is on the right track. As you point out though, it is all about the interceptor.

Personally I see the SM-3 as the best long term option, but today as a very limited capability. The current version lacks a warhead to take out a real ICBM, but would be effective against short and medium range ballistic missiles. The other problem with the SM-3 is altitude, with a range of only 275 nautical miles, I believe the altitude ceiling is something like 30 miles, meaning it is only effective during the launch or terminal phases of flight.



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 10:59 PM
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Actually it should be in Alaska by now if the repairs were finished. They were heading to Alaska when they sprang a leak in one of the secondary systems, so they went back to Pearl to repair it in the shipyard there.



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 11:39 PM
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Originally posted by Zaphod58
Actually it should be in Alaska by now if the repairs were finished. They were heading to Alaska when they sprang a leak in one of the secondary systems, so they went back to Pearl to repair it in the shipyard there.


I don't think so. Arms Control Wonk reported yesterday it was still in Hawaii.



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 11:41 PM
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They must not have fixed it yet then. They were actually on the way to Adak when it broke and they had to turn back to Hawaii.



posted on Jun, 22 2006 @ 02:27 AM
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one quik point , that due to laziness is reasier to phrase as a question than look up myself :

can THAAD anf SM-3 track and engage a missile during its asscent stage ?? if you have a known beligerant and can get ABM stytems in position -- you dont have to defend every inch of your home terretory - you can prevent your enemy firing out of his -- or at least try too .

to take NK as the "obvious " example . could you "flood " ROK , Japan and the international waters bordering NK with land and ship based systems ?

if you have advanced warning where its coming from , and time to deploy -- you can take the defence to thier door -- with the added advantage that the debris fallls back on the launcing nation



posted on Jun, 22 2006 @ 09:25 AM
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Planeman I think your assertion that US ABM systems are "over-rated" is premature and in this case wrong. Let’s look at North Korea for a moment; they have one major missile facility, which means they can only launch one missile at any given time. The Taep’o-Dong 2 is ground launched and is liquid fueled which means that in any launch attempt the US will be able to detect it and have days if not weeks to deploy mobile ABM systems such as AEGIS ships and to active EW radars and satellites. In any hostile scenario North Korea will only be able to fire one missile at the US before we destroy their missile site and effectively put an end to any plans they have. Besides, you only covered some US ABM systems, THAAD, PAC-2/3, SM-3, GBI, ABL and MEADS are all planned to provide different capabilities, no single systems by itself is meant to stop all the threats.

One more thing Planeman, you have mistaken Ground Based Interceptor silos at Ft. Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg AFB, California as THAAD launch sites. The THAAD missile is fired from a mobile canister launcher, not from a silo.

BTW the US has deployed two AEGIS ships equiped with SM-3/SM-2IV in the Sea of Japan.

[edit on 22-6-2006 by WestPoint23]



posted on Jun, 22 2006 @ 09:27 AM
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Originally posted by ignorant_ape
one quik point , that due to laziness is reasier to phrase as a question than look up myself :

can THAAD anf SM-3 track and engage a missile during its asscent stage ?? if you have a known beligerant and can get ABM stytems in position -- you dont have to defend every inch of your home terretory - you can prevent your enemy firing out of his -- or at least try too .

to take NK as the "obvious " example . could you "flood " ROK , Japan and the international waters bordering NK with land and ship based systems ?

if you have advanced warning where its coming from , and time to deploy -- you can take the defence to thier door -- with the added advantage that the debris fallls back on the launcing nation


Good question. The answer is, technically, yes. But there is a practical problem - range. You have to be within about 200~300km of the launch site which even in a compariatively small country like North Korea isn't easy. If you sat a THAAD right on the DMZ (where it'd be vulnerable to artillery etc) then it could cover some potential launch sites but not the far north of North Korea. Similarly you could put a AEGIS ship with SM-3 either side of the North Korean coast - again closer than you'd like - and stand an Ok chance. Whether either of those options is practical is another thing.

Some basic guesswork; we know Taep'o-dong 1's 1st stage burns for 95 seconds in which time it ascends to 39.5km altitude and is 19.5km down range. 170 seconds later it is at an altitude of 200km and 405km down range (second stage end point). So it's clearly going quite slow - at least in relative terms - it's not going to get beyond the 150km altitude threshold until about 150 seconds after launch:

If you positioned the THAAD unbrella directly on the line of fire, you could get a decent chance of intercept from about 280km away because it'd still pass through the outer edges of your engagement envelope.

This scaled map shows the approximate coverage three THAAD batteries, positioned right on the border would given ASSUMING the missile was launched due south.

Although you can cover most of North Korea the Musudan-ri missile test range is NOT covered(!). And remember that it is unrealistic to position the THAADs that close to the border.

I haven't factored in Standard SM-2 because I still haven't seen any credible figures to estimate the engagement envelope in terms of range and altitude against ballistic missiles.



posted on Jun, 22 2006 @ 09:34 AM
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Westpoint, saw your post after I posted...


The THAAD is considered Terminal phase defense and is not the system that is being designed and put in place to defend against North Korea type threats to the continental US. The range is to short and was never designed for it.

The Ground Based Midcourse Defense System (GMD) is the system that is being designed and tested for those threats. It is in place at the locations you mentioned. Granted there have been issues with testing the system, but it's been a very aggresive schedule and problems are expected with any weapon system this complex, and it has had several successful intercepts.


Here is some info to clear things up....thanks!
www.mda.mil...='GroundBased%20Midcourse%20Defense
en.wikipedia.org...
en.wikipedia.org...
www.missilethreat.com...

[edit on 22-6-2006 by Blackfire78]

[edit on 22-6-2006 by Blackfire78]



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