[Paleopsych] J. Andrew Rogers: Death by terrorism

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Tue Aug 30 21:46:56 UTC 2005

From: "J. Andrew Rogers" <andrew at ceruleansystems.com>
Date: Sat, 13 Aug 2005 15:34:37 -0700
To: FoRK <fork at xent.com>
Subject: Re: [FoRK] Death by terrorism
User-Agent: Microsoft-Entourage/

On 8/12/05 2:09 PM, "Ian Andrew Bell (FoRK)" <fork at ianbell.com> wrote:
> Heh.  I guess if I were a terrorist I would have to ask myself why
> I'd need to use a SCUD vs. just stuffing a ship full of explosives
> and sailing up the Hudson River... what's the incremental benefit?

Yup.  A lot of the proposed countermeasures are absurd and reek of pork. There 
are several cases of high price tag countermeasures with no realistic utility. 
An old shipping vessel can be purchased for less than US$1M, and packing it to 
the gills with Chinese bulk explosive (the Chinese export thousands of tons of 
explosives around the world) would be cheap and completely legal.

Another fine example of this is the proposed man-portable surface-to-air 
missile countermeasures they've talked about installing on all commercial 
passenger jets for some crazy amount of money.  Old and readily available 
MANPADs like the SA-7 are nearly useless against commercial passenger jets (way 
outside the design spec for a weapon that was marginal even in its day), 
rendering countermeasures largely pointless.  Modern and very difficult to come 
by MANPADs are nearly impervious to the types of countermeasures they are 
discussing, but they are not going to be installing state-of-the-art classified 
SAM counter-battery and active intercept technology on commercial jets, again 
rendering such proposals pointless.

They would be better off using that money for direct intelligence operations.

> And just because I did a standoff attack doesn't mean I'm going to get away 
> with it.  Obviously someone will figure out where it came from before I can 
> steam away, and there will be launch rails, fueling tools, and all kinds of 
> other evidence.

They would probably have point-of-origin pegged within seconds of launch and 
before it lands.  There is a legion of satellites orbiting for precisely this 
purpose, never mind ground-based radar.  Like you, I find the notion absurd.

> And Patriots might be good at knocking down missiles, but not so good at 
> destroying them.  The rain of SCUD debris on Tel Aviv after a successful 
> Patriot intercept was exactly as dangerous as the successful impact and 
> detonation of a SCUD itself.  And the Patriot had a pretty awful success rate 
> in the Gulf War (I) to boot.

The Patriot was an anti-aircraft system, but by good fortune of being 
over-engineered for its intended use, had modest capability at intercepting 
ballistic missiles.  As you point out, it proved to be almost worthless because 
ballistic missiles are harder targets than aircraft and will happily continue 
on their course even if jostled a bit by a SAM.

After that war, they re-did the software and warhead to have much more efficacy 
against ballistic missiles, but it is still just an over-engineered 
anti-aircraft system.

> This will hopefully die on the vine, just as the whole National Missile 
> Defense pipe dream appears to be withering slowly.

Missile Defense is completely viable, but they have had a lot of teething 
problems with one of the fundamentally new technology platforms they were 
counting on that has delayed deployment by quite some time.  Since many 
unrelated weapon systems are relying on this same technology and they have made 
a lot of progress in getting it working reliably, it is just a matter of time 
before they deploy comprehensive anti-missile systems that range from tactical 
all the way up to strategic.  We've been hearing less about it because it has 
been working better.  In the near future, there will be no distinction between 
surface anti-aircraft and ABM weapon systems; they will all be hyperkinetic 
"hit a bullet with a bullet" technologies -- technology convergence.

I do not think many people understand what is currently unreliable about ABM 
technology.  It is NOT the ability to "hit a bullet with a bullet", as the 
discrimination and guidance system works almost flawlessly and has been 
deployed in other weapon systems for a number of years now -- guidance and 
discrimination packages are heavily re-used once perfected. Contrary to some 
speculation to the contrary, this particular package is almost impervious to 
countermeasures, decoys, and spoofing.  Very capable weapons like the new 
generation AIM-9X Sidewinder use a cut-down variation on the same guidance and 
discrimination package.

The technology problem has been a brand new rocket platform, that is supposed 
to eventually replace most existing rocket motors platforms in use by the US 
military.  The Army was the first to bite the bullet and commit to these new 
rocket motors for all their new systems, and have had a number of problems as a 
result.  The Navy was more conservative and has deployed the same ABM guidance 
package on their old proven rocket platform and it has worked perfectly for 
them, though without the advantages the new rocket motors offer.

The specific problem is that the new hyperkinetic motor platform generates 
extremely high acceleration and peak velocity that is pushing the engineering 
envelope right up against the limits of materials science and requiring the use 
of the most advanced exotic fabrication and materials the US knows how to 
produce.  It has spectacular range, closing speed, and terminal performance if 
you can keep the bloody thing together in flight, and because it moves so fast, 
you can count on a kinetic energy kill. All in a very compact package.  There 
is footage on the web of small hyperkinetic rocket based weapon tests being 
used against armor at a couple miles range.  They make normal missiles look 
like they are standing still -- it is something to see.

Most of the other missile defense deployments that have been going on are 
stopgaps until they can get the rocket motor platform to function reliably 
under all environments.  Once they figure out the engineering loose-ends, ABM 
capable weapons will become prolific in the US arsenal.  It might not be a 
national missile defense as originally envisioned, but that technology will 
create a de facto national missile defense.  Once they get the bugs worked out.

J. Andrew Rogers

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