Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

U.S. missile defense system unreliable in tests

Jun. 15, 2014 - 05:07PM   |  
  • Filed Under

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. — The U.S. missile defense system can’t be relied on to hit its targets even in scripted tests a decade after it was declared operational and despite $40 billion spent, according to a newspaper’s investigation.

The Los Angeles Times found that officials overstated the reliability of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD.

The missile shield system was supposed to protect Americans from attacks by “rogue states” like North Korea and Iran, but it has failed in half of the tests conducted to determine its ability to intercept a mock enemy warhead. In fact, despite years of vows to fix technical shortcomings, the system’s performance has grown worse since testing began in 1999.

Dean A. Wilkening, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, has called the system’s test record abysmal.

He served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that issued a 2011 report on missile defense and said at a May 28 policy conference in Washington, D.C., that GMD was a “prototype system” that “performed less well than people had hoped” and “one shouldn’t be too surprised that it does tend to fail more than you’d like.”

Philip E. Coyle III, who was the Pentagon’s director of operational testing and evaluation from 1994 to 2001 and oversaw several early test flights, said that even successful tests should be viewed skeptically because conditions are staged.

“The tests are scripted for success,” Coyle said. “What’s amazing to me is that they still fail.”

Another test is scheduled at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base later this month. The system has 30 interceptors including four at Vandenberg and 26 at Fort Greely in Alaska.

Instead of rigorously testing the system, it was rushed into the field in 2002 under President George W. Bush. The Obama administration now supports expanding it by deploying 14 new interceptors at Fort Greely by late 2017.

A Missile Defense Agency spokesman said in a statement the agency was working to improve its reliability. The agency’s director Vice Adm. James D. Syring told a Senate subcommittee last week that the underlying problems in two recent flight-test failures had been identified and already fixed or would be fixed by year’s end.

Boeing spokesman Dexter Q. Henson said the company “remains confident in the system’s ability to defeat potential adversaries.”

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.


This Week's Air Force Times

This Week's Air Force Times

Top 5 bases
Recreation, low-cost housing make these stations stand out

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
Woman who cried rape
(3 replies)
   Last Post: TJMAC77SP
        May 3, 2014 1:32 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
Cliven Bundy
(45 replies)
   Last Post: Chief_KO
        Apr 26, 2014 9:49 AM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook